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The Myth of Homeland Security Hardcover – October 17, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0471458791 ISBN-10: 0471458791 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471458791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471458791
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,619,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This rather jumbled study of the state of modern American security issues falls short of indispensable but rises well above useless polemic. Saying the most in his own professional area, information-technology security, Ranum denigrates the prospect of "cyberwar," but then discusses in some detail the disruption that hackers have caused. Existing firewalls (of which the author is a professional developer) and virus protection are valuable, but only if universally and rigorously used. Hackers should not be rewarded for turning "expert" but charged with grand theft, and people with top-secret access need to be paid more than clerks. He praises the better trained personnel of the Transportation Security Authority and goes on to denounce the opposition to profiling as the dreaded "PC's." If Ranum demonizes anybody in this breezy first-person polemic, it is the media, with the standard charges of giving information to the enemy ("Thanks a lot, guys!"), but he also makes a persuasive case for their abysmal technical ignorance. (The ACLU is not accused of anything worse than having a radically different perspective than his about the long-term consequences of the Patriot Act.) Ranum notes that more cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies is needed, and is possibly occurring. The turf war between the FBI and the CIA has to end. And the government's information technology system needs to be rationalized, starting about 10 years ago. At the end of Ranum's stocktaking, one is left with an instant soup-like aftertaste, but there are enough cubes of information among the "You Should Know" sidebars and "Bringing the Point Home" boxes, particularly for technophiles, to make it worthwhile.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

This rather jumbled study of the state of modern American security issues falls short of indispensable but rises well above useless polemic. Saying the most in his own professional area, information-technology security, Ranum denigrates the prospect of "cyberwar," but then discusses in some detail the disruption that hackers have caused. Existing firewalls (of which the author is a professional developer) and virus protection are valuable, but only if universally and rigorously used. Hackers should not be rewarded for turning "expert" but charged with grand theft, and people with top-secret access need to be paid more than clerks. He praises the better-trained personnel of the Transportation Security Authority and goes on to denounce the opposition to profiling as the dreaded "PC's." If Ranum demonizes anybody in this breezy first-person polemic, it is the media, with the standard charges of giving information to the enemy ("Thanks a lot, guys!"), but he also makes a persuasive case for their abysmal technical ignorance. (The ACLU is not accused of anything worse than having a radically different perspective than his about the long-term consequences of the Patriot Act.) Ranum notes I that more cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies is needed, and is possibly occurring. The turf war between the FBI and the CIA has to end. And the government's information technology system needs to be rationalized, starting about 10 years ago. At the end of Ranum's stocktaking, one is left with an instant soup-like aftertaste, but there are enough cubes of information among the "You Should Know" sidebars and "Bringing the Point Home" boxes, particularly for technophiles, to make it worthwhile. (Nov.) (Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2003)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Schneier on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Myth of Homeland Security is an excellent debunking of the counter-terrorism security nonsense that we're all being forced to put up with. Marcus has written an honest, straightforward, sensible book. I don't agree with every point he makes, but it's refreshing to read someone who actually takes a stand on the issues and supports his stance with intelligent arguments and not rhetoric. The fact that this book is enjoyable to read is a bonus.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tina Bird on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As the range of opinions in this space suggest, Marcus is the sort of person who inspires a range of intense reactions in people. His book on homeland security will have the same effect -- whether his presentation of the situation offends or amuses, it's sure to make you think.
We've all been impacted by the post-9/11 security strategies implemented by the federal Homeland Security initiatives, and we've probably all wondered what good those changes have made. Marcus has gone the extra step here, trying to collect "the real dope" about new laws and requirements and to discuss them in a relatively objective way. He didn't get very far, in most cases, and not for lack of effort. It's an eerie portent of the problems that Americans face in trying to balance the need for protection with the requirement for liberty and privacy.
In collecting these questions and answers, Marcus has given us all an outline of how to evaluate the situation individually. He hasn't given us one single simple answer -- there isn't one -- but he's shown readers of all backgrounds a way to think critically about homeland security issues.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James J. Lippard on December 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I purchased and read this entertaining romp despite having skimmed it at the bookstore and reading this poor ad hominem argument:
"After watching the way the worldwide media and the international community reacted to the question of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, I don't think they'd see a smoking gun if you stuck it right against their foreheads." (p. 220)
I purchased it anyway, because although I think that's an incredible feeble aside (Mr. Ranum doesn't bother to say what smoking guns he thinks have been established, and it seems clear as of this writing that there are no WMDs in Iraq, and no good evidence that there were any post-1994), elsewhere in my initial skimming I saw what looked to be very interesting information about the Homeland Security Act and the USA PATRIOT Act. Largely because of this material, I did find the book to be worth my time (if not quite worth the dollars I spent on it--I should have waited for a paperback edition).
The book is definitely a polemic, not a researched and referenced scholarly tome--there are no references or footnotes, beyond the suggested further reading material on pp. xvi-xvii. There is much to disagree with besides the above example, as other reviewers here have noted. It's short on conclusions and suggested remedies, though there are a few radical (i.e., politically impossible) suggestions, such as abolishing the INS and starting over from scratch (probably not a bad idea at all).
I recommend it for those interested in a lightweight, quick read to get a quick overview of the problems of securing an entire nation and the means that are being adopted with that alleged goal, but if you are looking for depth and detail, with solidly argued conclusions and recommendations, you'll need to look elsewhere.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on October 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Let's set the record straight. This book is a 231 page political rant, regardless of the author's claim on p. 31 to be "nonideological." I have the slightly odd benefit of reading this book with a master's degree in public policy on the wall, but I work as a hands-on, FreeBSD-running computer security consultant. I imagine many readers are also members of the technical community, yet are unaware of books addressing similar topics. "The Myth of Homeland Security" cannot compare to a serious book like James Q. Wilson's "Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It." I'll tell you why and conclude with my rationale for 4 stars, nonetheless.
On p. xvi Ranum accurately reports "I'm making some inflammatory observations." True enough. He repeatedly insults the media (p. 13), the FBI (pp. 22-23, 26, elsewhere), contractors, bureaucrats, pen testers -- you name it. He continues: "I don't want you, the reader, to ignore the substance of what I have to say by getting bogged down in the details of my research. So I didn't quote sources." Political Science 101: quote your sources. Wilson gives 30 pages of endnotes to back up his arguments; Ranum gives zero.
Some of his arguments are completely illogical. Ranum says on p. 3: "conceiving a defense against a possible threat will automatically encourage someone to make that threat a reality." Hmm, so if someone bullet-proofs his car window, an enemy is going to buy a gun which can't possibly damage the car? You may disagree with me, but the following sentence (p.
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