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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you want to read a book that will have an influence on your information security career, or if you just want to read something that points out that we do need to do information security differently, then you need to go pick up a copy of "The new school of information security" by Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart.

The book reads like this blog, everything from Noam Epple and the "Security Absurdity" with the response article Noam Eppel Follow up to Security Absurdity and Security Absurdity - Is information security "Broken". All the way through some of the latest hacks from Two weeks, two security breaches in web 2.0 applications to Tom's excellent article on Even Oracle is not without security problems. There are some short sharp jabs in the side for information security people and managers that think they are safe behind their firewalls.

If anything is going to serve as the cup of coffee after Noam Epple's wake up call, it has to be this book. Which means you have to go buy it to get where we are going as an industry.

The New School of Information Security asks a lot of questions, that as a security community we need to answer. Everything from the value of the CISSP (is it just showing you can take a test, or does it really imply that the person knows something?), in a debate here that even people in the industry who love what we do can not answer. The idea of the CISSP is good, but the book speaks heresy, reliance on the CISSP is dangerous, dangerous to a company, it narrows the confines of the box when information security people need to be everywhere helping out.

The book also talks about issues within the company as simple as the firewall, to how programmers got around firewall blocks by routing programs over port 80, to the untrusted and trusted insider, to the fundamental bedrock of how we make decisions, the flawed and often meaningless statistics that come from research labs.

The whole industry is broken, and while we bask in our unregulated age, HIPAA, SOX, and other rules like PCI are just the shot across the bow on regulation, and more will be coming.

Programmers do not get it, neither do security folks. From requesting a 6 million dollar solution for a 30 minute test, to saying "no" to watching businesses move their IT requirements to Amazon EC2 or AWS, to dumping the traditional attitude - we are a group of people in trouble, and we need to read this book.

We need to shake up our communities, and the way that we work, not smarter, not harder, but working within the confines of realistic information security for the company that we are in. Best practices are just that, generic, you must tailor them for the risks that you have in your industry. To rely on Best Practices, NIST 800, ITIL, and other standards is to court disaster because no one is taking the specifics or unique issues of your particular industry.

They also talk about security appliances, vendors, trusted sites that have the branding truste and hacker safe, with some interesting comments on how those systems and certifications provide a false sense of security not just to the people running the site, but to the customers who visit them as well.

Much to ponder, some of it has shown up with the writers here at ITtoolbox as well, which is very nice, we have been talking about these very same issues for the last 2 years if you read this site. The book is a nice digest of what has been here, and available to folks who visit here or read via syndication or RSS.

Otherwise, we really will not need a "security industry" per say, we will just get rolled up into something else, and loose our unique and distinct culture.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a delightful chapter title in Adam Shostack's and Andrew Stewart's new book, The New School of Information Security. They have produced a readable, compact tour of the information security field as it stands today - or perhaps as it lies in its crib. What we know intuitively the authors bring forward thoughtfully in their analysis of the information security industry: it is struggling to keep up with the defects in online communication, data storage, and business processes.

Shostack and Stewart helpfully review the stable of plagues on computing, communication, and remote commerce: spam, phishing, viruses, identity theft, and such. Likewise, they introduce the cast of characters in the security field, all of whom seem to be feeling along in the dark together.

Why are the lights off? Lack of data, they argue. Most information security decisions are taken in the absence of good information. The authors perceptively describe the substitutes for good information, like following trends, clinging to established brands, or chasing after studies produced by or for security vendors.

The authors revel in the breach data that has been made available to them thanks to disclosure laws like California's SB 1386. A purist must quibble with mandated disclosure when common law can drive consumer protection more elegantly. But good data is good data, and the happenstance of its availability in the breach area is welcome.

In the most delightful chapter in the book (I've used it as the title of this review), Shostack and Stewart go through the some of the most interesting problems in information security. Technical problems are what they are. Economics, sociology, psychology, and the like are the disciplines that will actually frame the solutions for information security problems.

In subsequent chapters, Shostack and Stewart examine security spending and advocate for the "New School" approach to security. I would summarize theirs as a call for rigor, which is lacking today. It's ironic that the world of information lacks for data about its own workings, and thus lacks sound decision-making methods, but there you go.

The book is a little heavy on "New School" talk. If the name doesn't stick, Shostack and Stewart risk looking like they failed to start a trend. But it's a trend that must take hold if information security is going to be a sound discipline and industry. I'm better aware for reading The New School of Information Security that info sec is very much in its infancy. The nurturing Shostack and Stewart recommend will help it grow.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The New School's thesis is straightforward: publish data and use that data to approach IT security questions with a more scientific mindset, utilizing other academic disciplines such as economics and psychology to aid in solving problems.

The book would be a great primer for an MBA course on IT systems and organizational behavior. I suspect that so much of what causes secrecy around breaches in business organizations are the overblown fears of MBAs of customers fleeing. Shostack and Stewart do a good job calming those fears, and showing how disclosure really helps all parties move toward better security.

The book is a quick read, and it's more of a philosophical treatise than a how-to manual. For that reason I think it would be beneficial for anyone in IT or an organization's management to read it, as the book speaks to both parties.

I should disclose that I've known Adam Shostack for years, I do not know Andrew Stewart.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The New School of Information Security is one of the most timely and radical books on computer and information security that I've ever read. Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart help to stimulate a significant paradigm shift that has been brewing in the infosec sphere for some time. With solid evidence and well grounded arguments Shostack and Stewart advocate for a new, and much needed, approach to information security: the New School.

Chapter 1 begins with a quick look at some prominent problems in the information security landscape today. By looking at spam, malware, identity theft, and computer breaches the authors provide a rough sketch of the current infosec landscape. Given the apparent failure of current approaches to security in the face of these threats the authors rhetorically pose the question of simply starting over and building a new approach from scratch before providing the opening sketch of their New School. The authors advocate the need for a new approach to computer security, the New School. The New School is described as quantifiable, "putting our ideas and beliefs through tests designed to draw out their flaws and limitations." This concept of metrics and empiricism is a common thread throughout the book.

Chapter 2 describes the "scene," or the state of the computer security industry today. By applying some elementary game theory the authors sketch out some of the dilemmas facing information security today. Then they delve into some of the historic origins of modern computer security. They point out that much of the computer security "conventional wisdom" has grown out of the military's needs for computer security and how that foundation isn't necessarily the best. They also explore the influence of hackers and crackers on the evolution of the industry. Finally they explore the relationship of capitalism and money to the field, including the driving factors of making money and how these have shaped the development of security today. The authors point out that while many good things have come from these various influences, they have also produced some unfortunate side effects that don't necessarily have to be taken for granted. The chapter goes on to examine the economy of the security industry, including the idea of "best practices" (which the authors very roundly decry) as well as turnkey solutions. The authors also point out the difficulty in measuring security products given the lack of objective test data produced in the sector. The chapter concludes with the though that "without proper use of objective data to test our ideas, we can't tell if we are mistaken or misguided in our judgement." They provide further evidence that the industry as a whole isn't often guided by any sort of quantifiable data (thus removing the 'science' from computer science) and that all too often "conventional wisdom" is misguided and sometimes blatantly wrong because it lacks a solid empirical foundation.

Chapter 3 looks at some of the underpinnings of gathering solid scientific evidence with which to test the ideas of the New School. Without good evidence, they point out, it is nearly impossible to make accurate decisions. The authors point out the problems with much of the evidence used to support common claims in computer security, including surveys, and show the bias present in much of the survey data used to justify security decision making. The chapter goes on to lament the lack of an objective trade press in the industry and then delves into the vulnerability discovery lifecycle that drives much of computer security. The authors examine how vulnerabilities are discovered, how vendors often ignore flaws in their products in their rush to market, and the fact that there are sometimes problems with using vulnerability reports as solid metrics for security. The chapter then goes on to examine how data about security can be collected, either by hobbyists or individuals. Ultimately, the authors lament the fact that much of the data collected about security isn't shared with the community and thus it becomes nearly impossible to make better decisions. The lack of objective, available data makes it extremely difficult for us to draw reliable conclusions based on trends or quantify the current state of security.

Chapter 4 looks at security breaches and specifically argues for the benefits of breach notification as one of the best ways to produce quantifiable metrics in security. The authors point out that breach notification rarely has long term consequences to a companies stock price or customer loyalty and the benefit of breach data would be invaluable to researchers. The authors argue that breach notification is a key component to the outlook of the New School. In joining the New School organizations have to learn "to focus on observation and objective measurement." They argue that only by doing so can we move information security from an art to a science. They say that while "it is true that computer security consists of a fog of moving parts...complex problems do get solved. Investigators bring a broad set of analytic techniques ranging from explanatory psychology...to complex economic models." At this point in the book the authors begin to introduce another key component of the New School, that is the need for integration of other fields of study into computer security. The authors argue that by utilizing approaches and theories developed in the fields of psychology, economics, sociology, and other academic areas our understanding of information security can be broadened and greatly enhanced. They always come back to ideas of empiricism, however, stating that "the core aspect of scientific research - the ability to gather objective data against which to test hypotheses - has been largely missing from information security." The authors emphasize that not only does data need to be collected, it must also be shared in order to aid in our understanding of the data.

Chapter 5 begins to draw upon outside fields of academia to enhance the New School. This chapter begins by introducing several economic models and explaining how they influence information security. While economic approaches to security are nothing new (risk mitigation, calculations of value and exposure equaling risk, etc.) the New School argues that "because computers are inevitably employed within a larger world, information security as a discipline must embrace lessons from a far wider field." The authors argue that economic models don't only have to be applied at a macro level to computer security, but can also be applied to more compartmentalized security problems (such as getting users to select good passwords). They also examine the success potential of certain security products based on economic analysis. The chapter goes on to discuss how lessons from psychology can be incorporated into our security decision making and to help us understand computer security more fully. Finally the chapter draws on lessons from sociology and shows how they too can inform our understanding of security.

Chapter 6 focuses on spending. The chapter is devoted to examining how organizations spend their money on information security and why. Like the earlier chapters, this one applies the New School approach to attempt to analyze spending habits and challenges many of the foundational logic that supports common security spending plans. The chapter draws on lessons from economics and psychology to examine the patterns of spending and suggests some ways in which we can improve our spending on security. Ultimately the authors argue that we understand the factors that should influence spending and focus our efforts on the most quantifiably effective expenditures of money.

Chapter 7, or Life in the New School, discusses many of the challenges facing the New School. These range from the lack of quality data to the dearth of a standardized security vocabulary. This chapter mainly points out the challenges that lie ahead and the many ways that a new approach can help overcome them.

Chapter 8 is a blanket call to join the New School along with instructions for how to begin. The authors argue that New School proponents should collect good data, analyze that data and seek new perspectives. They point out that the New School draws from a diverse body of academic knowledge and advocates synthesizing work from other academic area into the New School approach. Ultimately the New School challenges us to change how we think about information security. Not only should we question the "conventional wisdom" we take for granted, but we should also seek out new hypothesis and ways to test them in order to expand our understanding of computer security as a whole.

The book is an easy read and make quite an impression. Shostack and Stewart lead the charge towards a more empirical approach to computer security. The field has matured enough that we should begin treating it seriously, and in order to do so we need to be able to speak authoritatively about issues. The voodoo of conventional wisdom is no longer good enough when making recommendations as experts. We need to be able to point to solid evidence to justify security strategies and implementations. We also need to be able to look at quantifiable data when evaluating new products and tools. Ultimately I see the field moving in this direction and I give kudos to Shostack and Steward for issuing this clarion call to an industry that will hopefully take their message to heart.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an information security professional, I enjoyed reading this book. The authors present a somewhat compelling case for a scientific approach to information security that emphasizes decision making based on empirical evidence, public disclosure of breach data as a means of gathering that evidence, and the application of methods and concepts from other disciplines such as economics, psychology, and sociology to information security problems.

In the first part of the book, the authors attempt to make the case that information security as a discipline is failing. High profile examples of various forms of computer crime, spam, phishing, malware, data breaches, and identity theft are cited as evidence. While the material makes for interesting reading, it falls somewhat short of making a convincing argument that the bad guys are winning the war on all fronts. I would have liked to see more solid evidence that the current approaches are not working. Has anti-virus technology truly failed to stem the tide of malware? Are there any statistics on that? What about anti-spam measures? Surely, not everything that the security industry has been up to until now has been a waste of time?

The current state of the security industry is examined next. Some criticism of the security industry is certainly warranted. The proliferation of questionable products which are more marketing hype than substance is a phenomenon that has parallels in other domains as well. One need only look at the world of high-end audio, where ridiculously expensive snake-oil products are sold to eager buyers who convince themselves that they can hear the difference in sound quality that these products purportedly afford them. However, this observation does not justify the wholesale rejection of all security products on the market and the security practices they facilitate. Just as technology alone cannot solve most real-world security problems, neither can most security failures be blamed on technology alone.

Several potential sources of empirical data are evaluated in the third and fourth chapter. Surveys are largely dismissed as flawed. The value of data from trade publications is questioned due to issues of timeliness and relevance to individual organizations. Software vulnerability data is given a little more respect, although the challenge to drawing meaningful conclusions from it remains largely unsolved. Instrumentation on the Internet in the form of honeypots and other security sensors is described as a promising source of evidence. In a similar vein, breach data locked up within the confines of individual organizations would constitute a veritable goldmine if shared freely, and this is expanded upon in the following chapter. The authors conclude with the observation that while objective evidence is very difficult to come by, the search for it must become the central focus for the "new school".

The fifth chapter is an interesting illustration of the explanatory power that a multi-disciplinary approach can bring to the problems of information security. Economic theory is used to elucidate the reasons for the proliferation of insecure software, the resistance to adoption of many security technologies and the failure to stop spam. Concepts from psychology are applied to the problems of patching software vulnerabilities and the management of security risks. The sociological problem of gender bias and lack of ethnic diversity within the computer security community is explored in terms of its exclusionary effect on new insights and fresh ways of thinking about information security.

Information security spending is analyzed in chapter six. Several emerging business drivers, such as creating customer trust and the benefits of security capabilities on IT operations efficiency, are described and may be of interest to readers faced with the challenge of selling security within their own organizations. Traditional approaches to security spending are discussed and sometimes rightfully criticized. An interesting recommendation is made: based on a study by Gordon and Loeb at the University of Maryland, the optimal amount to spend on the protection of an asset is 37% of the expected loss. Psychological factors influencing spending decisions are examined. The cost-effectiveness of employee security awareness and training is questioned, as is the return on investment from the development of a comprehensive security policy framework. This chapter is likely to be the most controversial one in the eyes of many security practitioners who are not technologists.

If I have been somewhat skeptical of the early parts of the book, I wholeheartedly agree with the overall message in the final two chapters. It is certainly worthwhile to explore new directions in information security, and a scientific, multi-disciplinary approach holds much promise for the future. The "new school" mind-set can only be a positive influence on the industry and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone in the information security profession.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This book commands attention! The authors bring to light current security practices, methods and decision analysis and their many shortcomings. The authors' thesis; to provide sound argument toward a more modern and effective way of implementing security practices. The ideas are easy to apply, but contrary to what is taught by security seminars and vendors selling security products.

While security seminars and education efforts teach cataclysmic results of security breaches, "New School" demonstrates the need for collecting data to assess the threat in a scientific manner. Shostack and Stewart champion going back to raw data to identify the threats and then develop programs to address those threats.

Aside from evidence related to loss, espionage or other threats, risk managers cannot effectively apply security measures. The authors indicate that breech data exists, but the holders are reluctant to share. However, the authors do a good job of proving that companies who publically admitted failure recovered quickly from any scandal or fallout from information or data breeches.

The authors know down the traditional walls of security training institutions. They preach good solid evidence behind decision making; otherwise security managers can not effectively determine whether or not the lack of threat is a result of new security measures or just plain luck.

The book is easy to read implement in all areas of security. The physical security, loss prevention, DoD contractor, and many others in and out of the security profession can adapt the principles to their business units.

Author of:
ISP Certification-The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual or How to Prepare for and Pass the Industrial Security Professional Certification Exam

Insider's Guide to Security Clearances
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I think Adam and Andrew did some good work on the book. I just finished The New School of Information Security the other day. I was happy to recognize the names of a couple of the reviewers, and I could picture them making some of the comments when a 'reviewer' was referred to in the text. I think the book will be an eye-opener for a lot of folks in the professional world. I think I am somewhat lucky in the fact that most systems administrators and security people I know already think in the "New School". I think this is perhaps due to the fact most of us are in Academia.

Also, I liked the style of End Notes. This is the first book in a very long time that I have actually read through the end notes instead of just referring back to them at some other point. Also, the lack of in-text citation really did help the book flow smoothly.

Although not all this information may be new to everyone, I think a lot of people could benefit from this book. If anything, it will provide those in the industry with the view of how we in academia tend to view things. The book was written in a very easy to read manner and flowed rather well. I don't think anyone would have a problem chewing through this book in 3 or 4 days given the time, and those 3 or 4 days are completely worth it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
It seems to me that the authors decided to write a book about security but had to strain the imagination to come up with sufficient content to really call it a book as such. Some parts, such as making a dubious connection with fields such as sociology and so on, really just don't apply to ground level needs in security, or any other level for that matter. If you push the boundaries of reality you can say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Argentina is applicable to modern day security practices, but i tend to think that if a security book is going to have any value for businesses then the content has to be in sync with the daily realities of life in modern corporations.
However there is a huge but here. As the first book I came across (I think other than my own work Security De-Engineering: Solving the Problems in Information Risk Management and John Viega's Myths of Security) that had anything negative to say about our beloved security industry, I was over the moon and ecstatic to hear the authors venting over matters which I also found great annoyance with...an example would be use of the term "best practices" and the comments in these areas were succinct and very much in line with my own experiences at the security coal face. Someone needed to say these things and the authors have done so.
The security industry created a fashion out of techie bashing since 2002, and we see more of that with the ever-so nastily worded chapter "Amateurs study cryptography, professionals study economics". The chapter isn't nasty towards anyone, there is the predictable disqualifier, but as you would expect, as the title of a chapter, many would take the overall jist to be an assault on anyone who studies cryptography. So this book has created a stick for the non-tech MBAs in the security industry which can be used to beat the techs (if there are any around these days).
Crypto has a place in security, more so with custom applications than anything else, but also I never met a single tech in my years of roaming who ever banged the crypto drum. And with regard "studying economics"...not related to the authors or their experience in the field, but anyone who pleads that the business side of security is everything is hiding something. They're hiding a lack of relevant experience. There are plenty of folk in businesses who understand the business side of the business (so to speak). Security has a business element, but do people in security need a degree in economics or MBA to grasp the business side of security? Not really, and moreover i didn't meet a single tech who pretended that security is all about IT.
Another area I strongly disagree with is the connection of incidents data and our survivability in security. There will never be any clear proof of a threat, and I don't believe we really need this kind of evidence.
Overall, while i disagree with many of the points in the book, it's about time they were laid out in clear in media. There was a lot of side tracking, but the points were well communicated, and the value for businesses in much of the content far outweighs the negative effects of the irrelevant or just plain faulty content.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Simply put, you either understand InfoSec or you don't. Members of the New School do. This book will help those who do not understand InfoSec, understand it correctly. My title, "The age of security as pure technology is long past..." is a quote from the book that speaks volumes. Today, too many "experts" are relying on technology and policies to help curb attacks and provide "security". The New School approach helps you understand the pros and cons of that old method, and offers a wealth of information as to why you need to understand the social and cognitive aspects of InfoSec as a foundation at the very least. What happened to HBGary and what LulzSec has been doing to others, is a great example as to why readers really need to understand the New School approach. I have only purchased 2 InfoSec books in my life (I'm a computer forensic analyst), this book and "Detecting Malice" by Robert Hansen because I feel the authors share my perspective on InfoSec.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Should you buy it and read it? Yes. I think there's no better evidence for your purchase than the fact that many smart people have already provided you with a quality review in which they've nitpicked various pieces and parts while still rating the book a 4 or 5. To me that shows not just enthusiasm for the content, but some level of "ownership" of the information on the part of the reviewers. A desire to take this work and build on it, have some intellectual ownership over it, if you will. That, if you ask me, should be a compelling reason to give this book a read.

It's also worth noting that much of the previous criticisms reflect the desire of the reviewer to have complete information around the subject of information security, information that *nobody* has yet. It's faulting the authors for not writing a book that reveals all of life's great mysteries. For me, it's enough for the authors to point us in a general direction while admitting that there are no easy answers.
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