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Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems Paperback – January 22, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0471389224 ISBN-10: 0471389226 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471389226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471389224
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,008,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gigantically comprehensive and carefully researched, Security Engineering makes it clear just how difficult it is to protect information systems from corruption, eavesdropping, unauthorized use, and general malice. Better, Ross Anderson offers a lot of thoughts on how information can be made more secure (though probably not absolutely secure, at least not forever) with the help of both technologies and management strategies. His work makes fascinating reading and will no doubt inspire considerable doubt--fear is probably a better choice of words--in anyone with information to gather, protect, or make decisions about.

Be aware: This is absolutely not a book solely about computers, with yet another explanation of Alice and Bob and how they exchange public keys in order to exchange messages in secret. Anderson explores, for example, the ingenious ways in which European truck drivers defeat their vehicles' speed-logging equipment. In another section, he shows how the end of the cold war brought on a decline in defenses against radio-frequency monitoring (radio frequencies can be used to determine, at a distance, what's going on in systems--bank teller machines, say), and how similar technology can be used to reverse-engineer the calculations that go on inside smart cards. In almost 600 pages of riveting detail, Anderson warns us not to be seduced by the latest defensive technologies, never to underestimate human ingenuity, and always use common sense in defending valuables. A terrific read for security professionals and general readers alike. --David Wall

Topics covered: How some people go about protecting valuable things (particularly, but not exclusively, information) and how other people go about getting it anyway. Mostly, this takes the form of essays (about, for example, how the U.S. Air Force keeps its nukes out of the wrong hands) and stories (one of which tells of an art thief who defeated the latest technology by hiding in a closet). Sections deal with technologies, policies, psychology, and legal matters.

Review

"While many of the chapter topics may sound unexciting, Anderson has a wonderful writing style and at times reads almost like a Tom Clancy thriller with its details of military command and control systems and other similar topics. Anyone responsible for information security should read Security Engineering." (UnixReview.com, July 2001)

"an eminently readable yet comprehensive book" (Network News, 12 September 2001)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Anyone responsible for information security should read Security Engineering.
Ben Rothke
The whole book is similar, with a great deal of good information packed into a modest amount of space, yet entertaining and fun to read.
Mark Stamp
Ross Anderson's ability to blend technology, history, and policy makes "Security Engineering" a landmark work.
Richard Bejtlich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on July 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
A large group of programmers were asked a hypothetical question: If Microsoft was to build an airplane, would you get on it? All of the programmers instantly said no, save for a sole programmer who said he would definitely board the plane. When asked why he was so confident about getting on the plane, he replied, "If Microsoft were to ever build an airplane, it would be extremely safe since the plane would never make it out of the gate."
When it comes to information security, its current state is similar to that of a Microsoft airplane--built, but often flashy, while not forcefully functional. The root of the problem is that most organizations view security as something added on in a piecemeal fashion, rather than an integral engineering issue.
Those in the construction business get this concept; they know that designs, plans, permits, coordination, commitment, buy-in, etc.,; are all requirements, not options. Similarly, before any information security product is rolled-out, the appropriate project plans must exist. While the concept that design must come before implementation is a given in most other industries, many IT departments lack this understanding.
Thus is the quandary that Ross Anderson deals with in Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems. In a nutshell, Security Engineering is one of the best security books ever written. If you are looking for 50 pages of screen prints on how to install and configure a printer under Windows 2000, this is the wrong book for that. What Anderson does, in great detail and with lucidity, is particularize all of the aspects that are required to create a security infrastructure. He relentlessly reiterates that security must be engineered into information systems from the outset.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Avi Rubin on April 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is about time that this book has been written!
Ross Anderson has a unique perspective to offer. He explains complex information, such as the inner working of cryptographic functions, with a clear and precise manner, while at the same time always relating the content to the real world. He possess a rare combination of expertise in theory and experience in practice.
This book covers everything from security of ATM machines, to secure printing; from multi-level security to information warfare; from hardware security to e-commerce; from legal issues to intellectual property protection; from biometrics to tamper resistance. In short, Anderson's book basically covers the entire field of computer security. It is also refreshing that the book is as deep as it is broad.
I will use this book to teach and also to learn. It is a good read cover to cover, and I imagine it will make a fine textbook for many classes on computer security. Every chapter ends with suggestions for interesting research problems and further reading.
As I was reading this book, I kept asking myself how one person could have produced such a comprehensive and complete book. It is indeed a treasure.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on June 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book changes everything. "Security Engineering" is the new must-read book for any serious information security professional. In fact, it may be required reading for anyone concerned with engineering of any sort. Ross Anderson's ability to blend technology, history, and policy makes "Security Engineering" a landmark work.

Engineers learn more from failure than success. "Security Engineering" brings this practice to life, investigating the design and weaknesses of ATM machines, currency printing, nuclear command and control, radar, and dozens of other topics. Anderson's insights are accurate and helpful, partly because he's served as consultant for diverse industries. His descriptions of criminal and intelligence agency exploitation of insecure systems are startling; fake cellular base stations, fly-by-night phone companies, TEMPEST/EMSEC viruses, freezing electronics to preserve RAM -- all are explained in layman's terms.

The bibliography offers exceptional opportunities for further research, but the second edition needs a glossary. I found some of the cryptography chapter too complicated for non-mathematicians. I also believe the author was misled by whomever told him that "at the time of writing, the US Air Force has so far not detected an intrusion using the systems it has deployed on local networks." (p. 387) (I know from experience this is false.) Nevertheless, these are my only criticisms for a 612 page text.

"Security Engineering" is a book of principles, lessons, and case studies. It offers history, tools, and standards to judge engineering endeavors. This book actually inspired me to learn how brick-and-mortar engineers learn their trade, as their methods and failure analysis may apply to the software world. "Security Engineering" will remain relevant for years, but I recommend you read it as soon as possible.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Smith on May 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Those of us in the computer security business have been mining Ross Anderson's web site for years, since he's done some really unique and important work in the field. Finally he's pulled it into an incredible book, one that's essential for anyone interested in information security.
Two elements combine make this book unique: first, the book manages to cover all of the major topics in the field, and second, the book covers the whole range of attacks that systems can face: technical, procedural and physical. Historically, writers on information security have focused on computers and disembodied "users," downplaying the crucial issues of physical security, perimeters, operating procedures, and the limits of human behavior. This book tries to integrate such concerns into information security thinking, instead of treating them as "special concerns that computer geeks don't really care about."
Best of all, the book is a great read. Ross has a fine way of drawing out the irony we encounter in user behavior, enterprise behavior, and even in the actions of presumed authorities in industry and government. At one point he discusses a government endorsed security evaluation process "which, as mentioned, is sufficient to keep out all attackers but the competent ones."
Ross unabashedly explains several aspects of information security that most writers ignore entirely, like security printing, seals, tamper resistance, and associated procedures. In my own books, reviewers have chided me for including such "irrelevant" topics, even though they play an essential part in making a real system work. As Ross ably points out, most successful attacks these days are pretty mundane and don't involve cryptanalysis or sophisticated protocol hacking. ATM fraud, for example, often relies on pre-computer technology like binoculars to pick up a victim's PIN. This book should open a lot of peoples' eyes.
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