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Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World [Hardcover]

Bruce Schneier
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 4 2006 0387026207 978-0387026206 1st ed. 2003. Corr. 2nd printing 2006

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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Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World + Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
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"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." --

About the Author

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the wake of 9/11, many of us want to reinvent our ideas about security. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
The content of this book slightly overlap the content of the author previous book (Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World) but presents the material with a different angle. An angle with the perspective of a security expert that witness security measures taken by governments in reaction of the 9/11 terrorism attack and wants people to understand the absurdity of some of these measures.

It is not technical at all and does not necessitate any particular background to understand and enjoy. The author explains clearly how to make a risk assessment of something that you want to make more secure and then evaluate the cost of the security measures. Only when you have that data, you can evaluate if the added security is worth it.

These explanations are backed up with concrete examples such as evaluating the risk to make purchase with a credit card over the internet. Other examples include the absurdity of securing a lunch in a company refrigerator because the potential loss if having a lunch stolen does not justify securing it. The author also explains that even with technologies that looks very accurate such as facial recognition with an error rate of, let's say, 0.0001 % are totally ineffective when they have to control a huge number of persons like a stadium crowd because even with this accuracy, they would create an unmanageable amount of false positive alerts.

The author also elaborate about why you should question the motivation of a security provider when it is a third party and link this with how people fears can be exploited to introduce invasive, excessively expensive and inefficient security measures. I think that the goal of the author was to make people more critics about security questions and my opinion is that his goal has been successfully achieved.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Title is The Theme Jan. 5 2004
I have read a number of the Pro and Con reviews. I think it is important to take a good look at the title of the book, and use that as a guide to a buying decision. This book is not an in-depth cookbook of technical approaches to combat hackers, but rather a sensible way of looking at the issues that contribute to an aura of security, the appearance of security, and actually being secure. I really liked the whole premise, because we are such an image conscience, and sound-bite oriented society that it can become quite difficult to deliver a thought-provoking treatise on a topic that many think they know so much about.
My only negative comment would be that it got a little slow at the end, for me. Maybe I was just tired that night or something.
He cites a few excellent examples of places or instances where someone did something that they honestly felt would contribute to increased security, when the actual effect turned out to be the opposite. If I may draw a crude comparison: if you appreciated some of the observations, and perhaps even the writing style and presentation in Hammer and Champy's "Reengineering the Corporation", then you will like and appreciate this volume. The way Mr. Schneier presents information, and the way he introduces you to perceived vs. actual may strike you as being similar. (No offense meant to either author - I enjoyed both)
Happy trails.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Security or Liberty? Both! Dec 16 2003
I first read about Bruce Schneier in an eye-opening article by Charles Mann in the September, 2002 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. It seems that you don't have to make the false choice everyone is agonizing over between security and liberty. You can have both.
Schneier's book expands on the ideas in the article. Although Schneier is a technology fan and it is his livelihood, he realizes that sometimes a live security guard can provide better security than cutting-edge (but still fallible) face-recognition scanners, for instance. He explains why national ID cards are not a good idea, and how iris-scanners can be fooled.
These are ideas for security on a large scale, for airports, nuclear and other power plants, and government websites. For security on an individual or small business scale, try Art of the Steal by Frank Abagnale. But even if you don't run a government, Beyond Fear is a fascinating read about how your government is making choices (and how they SHOULD be making choices about your security and about your rights.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Comment to Richard Bejtlich Dec 15 2003
By Roger
Hello Richard,
in your review you wrote:
"A threat is a party with the capabilities and intentions to exploit a vulnerability in an asset"
"All of these terms were defined years ago by military intel and law enforcement types" and
" It's the digital security community that's obscuring the definitions"
I disagree. Information security just has slightly different jargon. That's not an uncommon source of confusion in different, but related, professional fields, and there's a particular reason why we're really not interested in the military definition of "threat".
In the information security field, "risk" and "vulnerability" have roughly the same meanings that you use. However, "threat" means something more like "a method of exploiting a vulnerability or combination of vulnerabilities to cause a loss", while what you call a "threat" is an abstraction called an opponent or adversary. When we talk about "threat analysis", we mean examining ways vulnerabilities can be combined and exploited and what kinds of losses they can cause; these analyses may then be used as inputs to a risk analysis model. In the lunch room example you cited, the threat is "casually saunter up to the fridge, glance around, take a lunch, scurry away", and would be characterised as "low cost, low skill, low risk of discovery". The threat is indeed the same whether or not there is an opponent to exploit it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense Security
Bruce Schneier hits the jackpot with this common sense book on security. It is a good read for just about anyone with an interest in the field of Information Security. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2007 by Horace McPherson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but needs editing
Bruce Schneier is a well known security expert and author of one of my favorite technical books of all time, Applied Cryptography. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2004 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of very useful practical advice � and don't panic
Not quite what I'd expected. I'd read & enjoyed 'Secrets & Lies', and I thought this would be more of the same. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by Keith Appleyard
1.0 out of 5 stars I WANT MY MONEY BACK
I thought this book would tell me something I didn't know. It didn't. I thought it would be interesting enough to keep me awake and wanting to read it. It wasn't. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Just like Texas: a whole lot of nothing
Some pedants may decry Bruce's many semantic flaws, but these same people have neglected to realize that their biggest mistake was to buy the book to begin with.
BZZZT. Read more
Published on Nov. 23 2003 by Lt. Ben Goodman
4.0 out of 5 stars good book for the layman; entertaining but w/some flaws
_Beyond Fear_ is a good book, and I'd put it into the "should read" but not "must read" category for people working in security (as opposed to _Secrets and... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003 by James J. Lippard
1.0 out of 5 stars Fluffy rehash of the same old stuff
If Bruce Schneier has acquired a habit, it is the ability to take the same old material and rehash it into different books, year after year. Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but a bit muddled when using security terms
"Beyond Fear" is a good book, but don't turn to it for proper definitions of security terms. Steer clear of this book's misuse of the words "threat" and "risk. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2003 by Richard Bejtlich
5.0 out of 5 stars An encyclopedia of knowledge, written for non-tech people
"Anyone who tries to entice you with promises of absolute security or safety is pandering to your fears" (pg 277). Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2003 by Keith Tokash
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