Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World / Edition 1

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Many of us, especially since 9/11, have become personally concerned about issues of security, and this is no surprise. Security is near the top of government and corporate agendas around the globe. Security-related stories appear on the front page everyday. How well though, do any of us truly understand what achieving real security involves?

In Beyond Fear, Bruce Schneier invites us to take a critical look at not just the threats to our security, but the ways in which we're encouraged to think about security by law enforcement agencies, businesses of all shapes and sizes, and our national governments and militaries. Schneier believes we all can and should be better security consumers, and that the trade-offs we make in the name of security - in terms of cash outlays, taxes, inconvenience, and diminished freedoms - should be part of an ongoing negotiation in our personal, professional, and civic lives, and the subject of an open and informed national discussion.

With a well-deserved reputation for original and sometimes iconoclastic thought, Schneier has a lot to say that is provocative, counter-intuitive, and just plain good sense. He explains in detail, for example, why we need to design security systems that don't just work well, but fail well, and why secrecy on the part of government often undermines security. He also believes, for instance, that national ID cards are an exceptionally bad idea: technically unsound, and even destructive of security. And, contrary to a lot of current nay-sayers, he thinks online shopping is fundamentally safe, and that many of the new airline security measure (though by no means all) are actually quite effective. A skeptic of much that's promised by highly touted technologies like biometrics, Schneier is also a refreshingly positive, problem-solving force in the often self-dramatizing and fear-mongering world of security pundits.

Schneier helps the reader to understand the issues at stake, and how to best come to one's own conclusions, including the vast infrastructure we already have in place, and the vaster systems—some useful, others useless or worse—that we're being asked to submit to and pay for.

Bruce Schneier is the author of seven books, including Applied Cryptography (which Wired called "the one book the National Security Agency wanted never to be published") and Secrets and Lies (described in Fortune as "startlingly lively...¦[a] jewel box of little surprises you can actually use."). He is also Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Counterpane Internet Security, Inc., and publishes Crypto-Gram, one of the most widely read newsletters in the field of online security.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
How do you think about security after 9/11? You have two options. There’s Chicken Little’s approach. Or Bruce Schneier’s. You can live in fear. Or you can get Schneier’s Beyond Fear.

Schneier’s one of the world’s leading information security experts. He authored the bestsellers Applied Cryptography and Secrets and Lies, and founded Counterpane Internet Security, a leader in enterprise-class managed security. (Maybe you’ve seen him on CNN or read the great Atlantic Monthly profile of him.)

His new book brings the common sense back to security -- and drives away much of the fear. He starts with five questions to ask about any security system, whether it’s designed to protect data, humans, or both. “The questions may seem, at first, to be obvious, even trivial. [But if you]…take them seriously, you will find they will help you determine which kinds of security make sense and which don’t.”

To begin, what are you trying to protect? What’s the job of airport security? To protect one flight, or an airport, or commercial aviation, or the entire transportation system, or the nation as a whole? Each is a different problem, each may have different solutions, and if you try to solve only one of them in isolation, you could make matters worse.

Next, what risks are you trying to protect against? And how well does the security solution mitigate those risks? Often, not nearly as well as advertised.

Assuming the security system works, what other risks does it cause? (How does the number of lives saved by arming pilots compare with the number of people who’ll be killed by pilots reacting to false alarms?)

Finally, what costs and trade-offs does the system impose? Trade-offs are subjective but must be thoroughly considered. (Absolute airline security could be ensured by grounding all aircraft permanently. We won’t do that. Just as we won’t require safety measures that double the price of a car, even though 40,000 Americans die yearly in auto accidents.)

You can’t consider trade-offs without asking: whose? Why are tweezers banned from flights when cigarette lighters aren’t? Says Schneier, it’s attributable to the relative power of the tweezer and tobacco lobbies. (By the way, it’s discomfiting to read that Schneier found all the makings of an incendiary device on sale at Newark, New Jersey airport shops inside the security perimeter.)

Schneier notes that “there hasn’t been a new crime invented in millennia”: Even deliberate biological warfare can be dated to 600 B.C. Motivations and objectives don’t change; only tools, methods, and results do. Technology creates temporary security imbalances, typically favoring the attacker. More powerful systems are inevitably more complex, hence less secure. Attackers are smart enough to attack systems at their weakest links; this can be addressed through defense in depth and compartmentalization. Detection works when prevention fails -- but only if linked to response.

Simple ideas, arguably. But Schneier shows how they can be used to respond to security challenges more intelligently -- and implement solutions that might actually work. This book’s worth your time -- and your congressman’s. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

From The Critics
This book is soon going to find its way into hands of friends and relations who need to think about security. It is a great introduction to a way of thinking that is critical in a post-9/11 world. It should be required reading for members of Congress before any more security laws are passed based only on the need to do something instead of rational thought.
From the Publisher
"Does arming pilots make flying safer? Computer security guru Schneier applies his analytical skills to real-world threats like terrorists, hijackers, and counterfeiters. BEYOND FEAR may come across as the dry, meticulous prose of a scientist, but that's actually Schneier's strength. Are you at risk or just afraid? Only by cutting away emotional issues to examine the facts, he says, will we reduce our risks enough to stop being scared." — Wired

"Schneier provides an interesting view of the notion of security, outlining a simple five-step process that can be applied to deliver effective and sensible security decisions. These steps are addressed in detail throughout the book, and applied to various scenarios to show how simple, yet effective they can be....Overall, this book is an entertaining read, written in layman's terms, with a diverse range of examples and anecdotes that reinforce the notion of security as a process." —Computing Reviews

"Schneier is a rare creature... Although he made his name as an alpha geek in cryptography... [he] can also speak to laypeople about the general security matters that increasingly touch all of our lives." — Business Week

"Once again Schneier proves that he is the one of few people who indeed understands security, and what is more important and more difficult, can explain complex concepts to people not specializing in security. Whatever your trade and whatever your background, go ahead and read it ..." —

"In his new book, 'Beyond Fear', Bruce Schneier — one of the world's leading authorities on security trade-offs — completes the metamorphosis from cryptographer to pragmatist that began with Secrets and Lies, published in 2000." —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387026206
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 5/4/2003
  • Edition description: 1st ed. 2003. Corr. 2nd printing 2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 635,723
  • Product dimensions: 9.26 (w) x 6.16 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier is the author of seven books, including Applied Cryptography which Wired called "the one book the National Security Agency wanted never to be published" and Secrets and Lies, described in Fortune as a "startlingly lively jewel box of little surprises you can actually use." He is also founder and Chief Technology Officer of Counterpane Internet Security, Inc., and publishes Crypto-Gram, one of the most widely read newsletters in the field of online security.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Sensible Security
1 All Security Involves Trade-offs 3
2 Security Trade-offs Are Subjective 17
3 Security Trade-offs Depend on Power and Agenda 33
Pt. 2 How Security Works
4 Systems and How They Fail 47
5 Knowing the Attackers 59
6 Attackers Never Change Their Tunes, Just Their Instruments 73
7 Technology Creates Security Imbalances 87
8 Security Is a Weakest-Link Problem 103
9 Brittleness Makes for Bad Security 119
10 Security Revolves Around People 133
11 Detection Works Where Prevention Fails 147
12 Detection Is Useless Without Response 167
13 Identification, Authentication, and Authorization 181
14 All Countermeasures Have Some Value, But No Countermeasure Is Perfect 207
15 Fighting Terrorism 233
Pt. 3 The Game of Security
16 Negotiating for Security 257
17 Security Demystified 271
Author's Note 282
Acknowledgments 283
Index 285
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2004

    Must Read to understand current security problems

    Most of the 'security measures' taken since 9/11 are nothing but 'security theater.' Mr. Schneier provides a useful outline for determining just how useful the security measures (for anything that needs security) will be. This book should be required reading for everyone who must decide what security is to be taken in just about any situation.

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