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

by Bruce Schneier
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 4, 2003 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.


Frequently Bought Together

Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. + Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World + Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
Price for all three: $49.33

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 ..." -- itsecurity.com

 "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." -- infoworld.com

Review

"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 ..." -- itsecurity.com "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." -- infoworld.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 1st ed. 2003. Corr. 2nd printing 2006 edition (May 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387026207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387026206
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Schneier is the go-to security expert for business leaders and policy makers. His breakthrough book Applied Cryptography (1994, 1998) explained how the arcane science of secret codes actually works, and was described by Wired as "the book the National Security Agency wanted never to be published." His business-oriented bestseller Secrets and Lies (2000) was called by Fortune "[a] jewel box of little surprises you can actually use." Best known as a refreshingly candid and lucid security critic and commentator, he has appeared in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on NPR, CNN, and the major networks. He has also testified on security before the United States Congress.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Security or Liberty? Both! June 29, 2005
Format:Hardcover
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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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic advice August 4, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Bruce's greatest strength is in the role of Evangelist -- he translates the complex aspects of security into a vocabulary suitable for common consumption. If you're a sociologist, a risk management officer, or a cultural psychologist, you'll be familiar with a lot of the upstream references from which Bruce draws his examples. Conversely, if you're working in an office where "solving that security problem" is one of your many tasks, you won't have the time or inclination to dig out the esoteric sources. Consider this book as an alternative, far less onerous choice.
The book is easy reading -- it flows quickly and keeps returning to a common set of themes. These are set against many contexts so you're sure to find something familiar. You won't find any math or greek notation in here, to the disappointment of "Applied Cryptography" die-hards but the relief of everyone else.
The underlying message, seeing beyond the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) propagated by mass media and the government, is a key one to understanding why it's OK to question this hyper-security-conscious world we find ourselves in. Airline security is an arena familiar to most business travelers, and we as passengers are expected not only to accept increasingly invasive measures, but welcome them without hesitation. Bruce teaches us how to evaluate the efficacy of these schemes both individually and in the aggregate. The results will surprise all but the most cynical among you.
That said, this is not the textbook of a conspiracy theorist. Bruce willingly admits that improving security correctly is a worthwhile pursuit, and even teaches us how to do it. You won't find the rantings of an ill-informed libertarian crackpot.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Not quite what I'd expected. I'd read & enjoyed 'Secrets & Lies', and I thought this would be more of the same. This book is really a discussion about what actions have been taken post 9/11, and in parts it's a criticism of the overreaction that there has been.
However, its not overtly political, and gives dozens (perhaps a 100) practical worked examples of good & bad, effective & ineffective, responses to security issues, whether it be physical, electronic etc.
There is a 5-step process which I found useful to apply to everyday situations; and (in highly abbreviated form) these are : what are you trying to protect; what are the risks; risk mitigation; risks caused by the solution; trade-offs
The core message is : "as both individuals and a society, we can make choices about our security", and this book helps you understand how to make those informed decisions.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, and Not as Muddled as One has Claimed October 18, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is very informative, interesting, and entertaining. I've recommended it to people both within and outside the CS and IT communities w/o reservation.

Rather than reiterating things said in the many positive reviews, I'd like to take issue with one reviewer who says Schneier misuses the term "threat." In particular, this reviewer says "A threat is a party with the capabilities and intentions to exploit a vulnerability in an asset." This definition is both counter to standard English usage and counter to standard usage within the computer security field. Every book on my shelf has roughly the same definition of threat: "Threat: a potential for violation of security, which exists when there is a circumstance, capability, action, or event that could breach security and cause harm. That is, a threat is a possible danger that might exploit a vulnerability" -- Stallings, Network Security Essentials, p. 5. So a threat is condition or event, not a party. The reviewer seems to confuse threat with potential adversary.

Schneier's terminology is the standard terminology, and he uses it correctly.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Puts things into perspective February 10, 2005
Format:Hardcover
The title of the book refers to the steps to take after fear is sensed. To move beyond fear is to understand it, how it affects you and why, and what you can do about it. And that is what the book addresses - what things do we need to secure, from our personal interests, to national interests.

Schneier addresses this in the framework of a five questions to ask about security. Although the process seems crude, it does touch the heart of security issue - what are we trying to protect, why, and what happens if we don't protect it?

I particularly like his idea of brittle versus flexible security. When a brittle security system fails, you asset is screwed. A (poor) example would be burying your money in your back yard. If this is compromised (someone finds it), then you loose all your money, and that's the end of it. Compare this to a baking account. If someone robs the bank, or fraudulently takes your money, the bank is obliged to get you your money back. (So maybe you should bury your bank account number and password in yuor back yard!)

Although much of the discussion is on the level of national security, he also has gems of wisdom like suggesting that you leave the bathroom light on while you're away to deter burglars. And he points out yuor identity is more likely to be stolen from your discarded papers than from someone stealing your info on the internet.

I really appreciate the last part of the book where he lists the most-likely causes of death among Americans. What I got from that was not that I should avoid international airports, or dig a fallout shelter, but simply that I should make sure that I and my family are securely buckled up when we drive. Now that's putting 9/11 into perspective.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good points, but there are probably better books out there.
Some good nuggets of info, but ultimately too long, and the author is painfully fond of himself. I was looking for a book to educate myself about security, but I doubt this is it.
Published 3 months ago by Tommy Collison
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to read this a decade after 9/11
A decade after 9/11 the security theatre that Bruce identified persists and shows no signs of flagging and is permeating its way into every aspect of western life. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MattS
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading & Too Long
The summarization of the book that led me to purchase turned out to be a bit misleading. While the author received much of his experience as a security specialist in computer... Read more
Published 10 months ago by C. Bailey
5.0 out of 5 stars Dull topic made interesting and lively
Books on security generally compete for which can be the dullest with the greatest number of pages. What a relief to find it was entertaining, with lots of pertinent and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Michael Riess
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Quality
This book arrived on time and was in good quality when I received it. It was great for this class.
Published 14 months ago by MissToni
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine read. Recommended.
Schneier gives the reader a healthy and mostly dispassionate view on what commonsense security measures ought to be. Read more
Published on February 7, 2012 by E. J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Again, Schneier makes security understandable.
Bruce Schneier is well-known for his book Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C, Second Edition, and bringing the concept of cryptography down to be... Read more
Published on November 6, 2011 by Justin B.
1.0 out of 5 stars Little practical value
"Beyond Fear" contains the five-step analysis you see in many of the reviews. This framework is valuable, but Schneier adds little wisdom beyond it. Read more
Published on April 16, 2010 by Busy Reader: Get To The Point
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Entry Level Security Primer
Beyond Fear is an excellent,entry level primer for understanding Security and Security Issues.

I would recommend this book.
Published on April 5, 2010 by Angevine
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit belabored
The author comes across as very knowledgeable and does a good job of discussing security in a non-technical manner. Read more
Published on February 17, 2010 by Alan Fryer
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