I know lots of people still have questions about OWASP and the AppSecEU 2018 debacle. Other than being a member, I have no formal standing in OWASP, locally or globally so nothing below represents anything official but I thought I would prepare some answers based purely on publicly available information.
What happened after the initial backlash?
The surprise announcement was followed by an angry rebuttal and a lot of outcry but after a few days things went quiet. Really quiet. The OWASP board email list has historically been relatively busy with consistent traffic. In the past 10 years, the latest traffic has restarted on that list after the holiday period is January 4th and only once has there not been a board meeting by January 14th. In 2018 there was complete board silence until January 18th when a number of OWASP leaders started querying what was going on. A formal, follow-up statement about the decision only came on January 23rd. It appears that there were some discussions being held behind the scenes culminating in a recorded conference call with OWASP board representatives and the UK and Israel OWASP leadership on January 22nd.
Why did AppSecEU get moved to the UK?
The follow-up statements seem to indicate that the root cause of the move was that recent operational challenges at the OWASP foundation, due at least in part to understaffing, meant that the foundation felt it was not in a position to provide the required support for the event. Especially given that it appears that AppSecEU 2017 and AppSecUSA 2017 did not provide the expected financial benefits.
The impression is that an AppSecEU in the UK is a safe choice whilst the foundation tries to address its internal issues.
We would like to acknowledge the effort of the organizing team, while realizing the required level of support from the foundation was not achieved.
…our major fundraising activities, the AppSec-Eu in Belfast and the AppSec-US in Orlando ending up negative on the balance and making less money then expected.
What about the supposed lack of preparedness from the OWASP Israel committee?
On the initial board call in December, a big deal was made that despite the conference only (!) being six months away, various preparations had not been made including no signed contract with the venue.
In fact, on the call on January 22nd, the new Executive Director praised the third party why the Israeli organising committee had engaged to assist with the conference logistics and more importantly stated that the foundation would cover the costs of having to withdraw from the contract which had in fact been signed with the venue.
So what is next for OWASP and Israel?
On the call on January 22nd, the board expressed strong support for a global OWASP event to take place in 2019 once the foundation had had a year to address it’s operational challenges. This seems to be how others have interpreted that as well.
Given that going forward the Executive Director is keen to start planning OWASP global events up to a year in advance, it remains to be seen over the next few months whether these actions are translated into words.
Additionally, the Israeli chapter have now released their response to the final decision and they are understandably still unhappy about the outcome but also positive about the intentions of the new board to try and repair the relationship and champion an event in Israel for 2019.
I think it is clear to everyone that the initial communication around this decision was not good enough but it is particularly disappointing that the basis for this decision (e.g. the lack of a signed contract and the “support” of the Israeli chapter in the decision) was demonstrably incorrect and that the initial communication and board discussion made out that the root cause was a lack of preparedness and ability to deliver of the Israeli chapter.
It is encouraging that this has been walked back to a certain extent however it is clear that it will take more than that to address the hurt which is felt by the Israeli chapter leadership.
The support for the Israeli chapter over Twitter and the board discussion of a global event in Israel in 2019 is also encouraging and I hope that the OWASP board will proactively reach out to the Israeli chapter leadership to make sure that this comes to fruition.
In the meantime, the Israeli security community remains strong with the only Microsoft BlueHat event outside of Redmond happening here last month, the monthly DefCon9723 meetings, devseccon in May and of course CyberWeek including BSidesTLV coming up in June.
I hope that trust can be rebuilt between the local chapter and the foundation but it looks like it will be a tricky road.