For the typical busy security professional, reading a 900-page tome cover to cover represents an investment of time that may be difficult to justify. Frankly, security books that are worth the effort are few and far between. Security Engineering is one such book, for several reasons.
First, Ross Anderson's vast knowledge, experience and insight on the subject are well known, and his reputation as one of the top security experts in the world is well deserved. No doubt a reflection of this, his book covers a very broad range of security topics, the discussions ranging from high-level policy issues, all the way down to details of smartcard hacking and the mathematics of cryptography. The topics are well researched and described at a level of detail useful to the non-specialist. Concise summaries and occasional nuggets of insight indicate an in-depth understanding of the subject matter. The book is well written, easy to follow, and devoid of the vagueness and platitudes so typical of much of the security literature.
Second, the book exposes the sheer difficulty of engineering secure systems in the face of the many forces at play in a typical product development lifecycle. Through many case studies of success and failure, the author illustrates the numerous pitfalls that may befall even a well-intentioned design. Lessons learned from deploying products in the real world include the negative impact of perverse economic incentives, the importance of designing security features for maximum usability, and the need to look at a security problem from many different angles in a holistic manner. The book is a treasure trove of wisdom for the aspiring security engineer.
Lastly, the book brings together insight from many diverse areas of research. Disciplines ranging from economics, psychology, sociology, criminology, banking and bookkeeping, safety research, electronic warfare, to politics are all mined for ideas and results that could yield a better understanding of - and novel approaches to - difficult security problems. It is perhaps in this aspect that the book will prove to be most influential. Since the first edition was published in 2001, security economics, security usability, and security psychology have emerged as fertile areas of research.