Update on the Enigma Conference from the Enigma Steering Committee

Today, we’re suspending the USENIX Enigma conference. Though we hope it will come back, we have no immediate plans for its return. Put simply, the combination of pandemic-related changes in people’s appetite for travel and the recent spending reductions in the technology sector have significantly impacted Enigma attendance as well as its sponsorships. This is the last decision we wanted to make, but it is the decision we must make.

This decision hits us hard, and we know, based on the love that so many have expressed for Enigma, that it will hit many in our community hard, too. Enigma is not just another conference. Enigma has been, for eight years, a gathering of security and privacy experts who very intentionally built a conference with a point of view, and we think that point of view has changed the security and privacy professional landscape for the better.

The Enigma point of view is that a diverse conference, in all the ways USENIX has carefully considered in its diversity statement, makes for a better conference and stronger community. Topics that might be otherwise overlooked become, instead, the seeds of powerful new discussions, explorations, and solutions. That's why Enigma was one of the first conferences in the community to adopt a code of conduct and to make a concerted effort, every year, to build an always more representative program committee and speaker lineup. While many conferences do now consider diversity, Enigma has always proudly made it a priority in all aspects of programming.

The Enigma point of view is also that ideas are more powerful and consequential when they are well communicated. The quality of a talk matters just as much as the quality of the underlying research, analysis, or product since it inspires discussion and action. That’s why Enigma requires all talks to be practiced multiple times among a group of peers. Speakers are coached over several months before the conference date and only talks that meet Enigma's quality bar make the final program. It's also why Enigma enthusiastically follows USENIX's open access policy, with professionally produced videos shared freely mere weeks after the conference.

The Enigma point of view is also that many of the most interesting and impactful talks will come from speakers who don't already have a big platform or name. That's why Enigma eschews parallel tracks or keynote speakers. There is only one track, and there is only one category of Enigma speaker. It is common, at Enigma, for a student to present immediately before a nationally recognized legal expert, or a prominent government official, in the same category, undifferentiated.

We believe Enigma has had an outsized positive impact on our fields of security and privacy. Every Enigma speaker and attendee deserves credit for this, because Enigma wouldn't be Enigma without its community. We're particularly proud of the "hallway track," where the richness of interactions among attendees in between talks and over meals really shines.

Finally, Enigma wouldn't be Enigma without the hard work of the USENIX staff. If you've ever organized a conference, you have a sense of how difficult it is to pull off what USENIX has pulled off with Enigma over the last eight years. We, the steering committee, stand in awe of what USENIX made possible within this community and to grow this community, and we're eternally grateful for them.

Enigma, the conference, is on pause. Enigma, the point of view, is here to stay. We leave you with a few of our favorite Enigma talks. And we hope to see you, at some point in the future, at the next Enigma, whatever form it takes.