Schneier on Security

  • ISBN13: 9780470395356
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Product Description
Presenting invaluable advice from the world?s most famous computer security expert, this intensely readable collection features some of the most insightful and informative coverage of the strengths and weaknesses of computer security and the price people pay — figuratively and literally — when security fails. Discussing the issues surrounding things such as airplanes, passports, voting machines, ID cards, cameras, passwords, Internet banking, sporting events, comp… More >>

Schneier on Security

5 replies
  1. Ben Rothke says:

    There is a perception in both the private and government sector, that security, both physical and digital, is something you can buy. Witness the mammoth growth of airport security products following 9/11, and the sheer number of vendors at security conferences. With that, government officials and corporate executives often think you can simply buy products and magically get instant security by flipping on the switch. The reality is that security is not something you can buy; it is something you must ‘get’.

    Perhaps no one in the world gets security like author Bruce Schneier does. Schneier is a person who I am proud to have as a colleague [Schneier and I are both employed by the same parent company, but work in different divisions, in different parts of the country]. Schneier on Security is a collection of the best articles that Bruce has written from June 2002 to June 2008, mainly from his Crypto-Gram Newsletter, his blog, and other newspapers and magazine. The book is divided into 12 sections, covering nearly the entire range of security issues from terrorism, aviation, elections, economics, psychology, the business of security and much more.

    Two of the terms Schneier uses extensively throughout the book are intelligence and economics. From an intelligence perspective, he feels that Washington has spent far too much on hardware and other trendy security devices that create a sense of security theater. The security theater gives an aura and show of security, but in reality, has little real effect.

    The lack of intelligence is most manifest with airports, which are a perfect example of misguided security. Schneier notes that current trends in US airport security requires that people remove their shoes, due to a one-time incident with shoe-based explosive. Such an approach completely misses the point. Also, Schneier notes that the attempt to create a no-fly list, by feeding a limited set of characteristics into a computer, which is somehow expected to divine a person’s terrorist leaning, is farcical.

    Schneier therefore feels that the only way to effectively uncover terrorist plats is via intelligence and investigations, not via large-scale processing of everyone. Intelligence is an invaluable tool against terrorism, and the beauty of it is that it works regardless of what the terrorists are plotting. The bottom line according to Schneier in the book is that too much of the United State’s counterterrorism security spending is not designed to protect us from the terrorists; but instead to protect public officials from criticism when another attack occurs.

    Schneier also astutely notes that for the most part, security is not really so much of a technical issue, rather one of economics. A perfect example he gives is that of bulletproof vests. Since they are so effective, why doesn’t everyone wear them all of the time? The reason people don’t is that they do not think they are worth the cost. It is not worth the money or inconvenience, as the risk of being shot for most people is quite low. As a security consumer, people have made the calculation that not wearing a bulletproof vest is a good security trade-off. Schneier also notes that much of what is being proposed as national security is a bad security trade-off. It is not worth it and as consumers, the public is being ripped off.

    Another recurring theme throughout the book is how the Bush administration has little by little eroded the Constitution, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Schneier notes that the brilliant framework the founding fathers created by creating divisions of power (executive, legislative, judicial) with checks and balances violates a basic unwritten rule, that the government should be granted only limited powers, and for limited purposes. Since there is a certainty that government powers will be abused.

    Schneier observes that the USA PATRIOT is a perfect example of this abuse. The Constitution was designed and carefully outlines which powers each branch may exercise. While Schneier is best-known as a cryptographer and security expert, Schneier on Security also shows him to be a defender of the Constitution. In a number of essays in the book, he shows how unchecked presidential powers is bad not only for security, but for the preservation of democracy.

    In chapter 8, on the topic of the economics of security, Schneier suggests a three-step program for improving computer and network security. He notes that none of them have anything to do with technology; they all have to do with businesses, economics, and people.

    In chapter 9, on the psychology of security, Schneier writes that he tells people that if something is in the news, then they do not have to worry about it. He writes that the very definition of news is something that hardly ever happens. It’s when something is not in the news, when it is so common that it is no longer news, drunk drivers killing people, domestic violence, deaths from diabetes, etc., that is when you should start worrying. And much of the terrorist threats that the Department of Homeland Security is spending tens of billions of dollars on, are those news threats, such as shoe bombers and liquid explosives that present very little real threat to the people of the US.

    A fundamental theme of the book is that security is a trade-off. And far too many people have made the security trade-off without thinking if it is truly worth it. In essay after essay, Schenier challenges those assertions. Since 9/11, much has been given up in the name of terrorism, and that has been personal privacy and security. Schenier asks, has it been worth it?

    Schneier on Security is an exceptionally important book that is overflowing with thought-provoking articles. Schneier gets above vague adages such as the war on terror and gets to the heart of the matter. His insight details what the real threats are, and what we should really be worrying about. The irony is that what Washington does is often the exact opposite of what should be done.

    Much of the security carried out in the name of 9/11 has proven to be infective in the seven years since the attack. Schneier on Security is a manifesto of what should have been done, and what should be done. The book is eye-opening from the first page to the last. It lets you know that the next time you see grandma asked to take her shoes off by a TSA agent at the airport, why she is simply a bit player in the large security theater. And why spending tens of billions on a charade like that, makes that a tragedy of epic proportions.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Michael Chesbro says:

    Being a fan of Bruce Schneier’s other books, I looked forward to his latest work “Schneier On Security”, and certainly was not disappointed, although I found that I had read some sections of the book previously.

    “Schneier On Security” consist of a compilation of articles published by Mr. Schneier from 2002 through the summer of 2008.

    If you regularly read Crypto-Gram and Wired Magazine you will be familiar with some sections of this book. Articles published in other magazines and newspapers, and reprinted in this book, I had not previously read and enjoyed the opportunity to read them now.

    As with all of Mr. Schneier’s writings, the articles in the book are thought provoking yet at the same time easy to read.

    The book is divided into 12 chapters, followed by a large list of web-sites providing additional information and references.

    The chapters are:


    1 – Terrorism and Security

    2 – National Security Policy

    3 – Airline Travel

    4 – Privacy and Surveillance

    5 – ID Cards and Security

    6 – Election Security

    7 – Security and Disasters

    8 – Economics of Security

    9 – Psychology of Security

    10 – Business of Security

    11 – Cybercrime and Cyberwar

    12 – Computer and Information Security



    Each chapter consists of a few previously published articles related to the chapter topic.

    Well written, thought provoking, and an opportunity to get several of Mr. Schneier’s articles collected into a single volume.

    Highly Recommended.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. Winston Smith says:

    I got this book for free. I would not have paid money for it, since all of Bruce’s essays and writings in this book or all over his website & blog. Bruce is very up-front about that. At the same time, though, I can’t give Bruce a low rating because the content is very Bruce– very good. If you want a “book formatted” version of Bruce’s writings, here you go, but I would suggest picking up his _Beyond Fear_ book first, then subscribe to either his blog or mailing list (or both). If you want more Computer Security info, look to his _Secrets and Lies_ book first.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. Vincent Poirier says:

    Schneier’s security mantras are:

    Security is a trade off.

    Security is about people, not technology.

    Security is about failure, not success.

    Security is obtained by skilled intelligence gathering.

    Because Schneier presents a collection of previously published articles and blog posts he repeats himself a lot, but that’s OK as it reinforces the mantras all the more strongly.

    When he writes of airport security, for instance. If our name is on a no-fly list, the clerk at the check in desk will not be permit us to board our flight. Why should he? If he does and we are terrorists, he’s fired and maybe prosecuted. If he doesn’t allow us aboard despite the fact we are upstanding citizens, he is praised for doing his job. Are we more secure? No. A genuine terrorist will probably avoid using a name on a no-fly list. And who manages this list? Can we check if our name is on it? No, we can’t. If we do find out we are on the list, e.g. by being refused boarding for no adequate reason, can we get our name off it? No, there’s no appeal process. The no-fly list is a bad system, it effectively sentences people without due process.

    Compare this with the 1999 attempt to sneak explosives into the US from Canada. The culprit wasn’t arrested because his name or license plate number were on a watch list but because a trained border crossing agent, Diana Dean, recognized suspicious behaviour and decided to investigate further. What led to her decision cannot be quantified or turned into a procedure, her instincts were honed by years of experience.

    The applicable mantra in both cases is “Security is obtained by skilled intelligence gathering”. Read the book for illustrations of the other mantras.

    Schneier looks at other areas, including the security surrounding election systems the protection of privacy, cyberwarfare and others.

    Overall an excellent account of what security is all about illustrated with detailed examples.

    Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. AJ MURRAY says:

    The content of this book is good: interesting perspectives on everyday security problems and why the existing solutions won’t work.

    However there were two things that frustrated me about this book:

    Firstly, Schneier makes a few suggestions on how things should be done, but sometimes without elaborating his reasoning. Other times he’ll explain why existing measures don’t work but without offering anything better of his own.

    Secondly, while I appreciate that this is a collection of blog postings and past articles, some were already out of date when the book was published and many of them overlap with almost identical ideas and even copy, and this means there is quite a bit of repetition between chapters. I feel like these articles could’ve been merged and refactored into a more suitable list of edited chapters before being published as a book.

    That said, it’s still a worthwhile read.
    Rating: 3 / 5

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