Verizon just became the third major sponsor to pull out of one of the biggest cybersecurity events of the year over coronavirus fears

jelder@businessinsider.com (Jeff Elder)
FILE- In this May 2, 2017, file photo, people walk past a Verizon store in Manhattan's midtown area, in New York. Verizon Communications Inc. reports financial earns on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Associated Press

  • Verizon has become the third major company to pull out of the RSA Conference, one of the biggest cybersecurity events of the year, over coronavirus concerns.
  • AT&T left the trade show on Thursday and IBM pulled out last Friday – 14 sponsors and exhibitors have now withdrawn.
  • The Mayor of San Francisco – which has no confirmed cases – issued a statement urging conference-goers to "set an example to prevent fear, rumors, and misinformation."
  • Telecom giants' pullout of cybersecurity trade show follows the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress conference over virus fears.
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Verizon pulled out of the RSA Conference on Friday, joining competitor AT&T and IBM as large sponsors with coronavirus concerns abandon the cybersecurity trade show that was expected to draw more than 40,000 to San Francisco next week.

"We learned today that Verizon has decided to no longer participate in RSA Conference 2020 as a Gold Sponsor," RSA said on a website it has created to provide coronavirus updates. The conference said 14 sponsors and exhibitors have now withdrawn, including six from China, seven from the US, and one from Canada. 

The conference did not immediately respond to a request for more information on companies pulling out, and Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed released a letter to RSA attendees Friday that told them "San Francisco is open for business and events are proceeding as planned. … We must set an example to prevent fear, rumors, and misinformation from guiding our actions." The letter noted that "the virus is not circulating in our community." 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health said Thursday that there are no confirmed cases of the virus in the city, noting "However, given the amount of travel between San Francisco and China, we understand a confirmed case in San Francisco is possible." A person's risk depends on travel history, spokeswoman Veronica Vien said. 

Verizon, like AT&T, was a gold sponsor of the conference, which dates back to 1991 and is one of the largest events in the industry. The 2020 RSA contract says gold sponsorship costs $160,000. IBM had a platinum sponsorship that the contract says costs $265,000. 

RSA tweeted Thursday that it was working with conference site Moscone Center "on new health and safety measures, including increased cleaning frequencies and ample hand sanitizers around RSAC. You can do your part by washing hands often for at least 20 seconds."

Earlier this week Facebook canceled a marketing summit expected to bring 5,000 people to San Francisco, where the city reports convention attendees spend an average of $567 per day. 

Mobile World Conference, which annually draws some 100,000 attendees to Barcelona in late February, called off its show earlier this month. Black Hat Asia, a Singapore cybersecurity conference that was to begin in late March, has been postponed until the fall.     

Around 2,250 people have died from the virus, which surfaced in Wuhan, a city in western China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked some infections to the United States, including in California. The US has suspended entry in the United States of foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days.

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