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The New School of Information Security [Hardcover]

Adam Shostack , Andrew Stewart
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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26 Mar 2008 0321502787 978-0321502780 1
<>“It is about time that a book like The New School came along. The age of security as pure technology is long past, and modern practitioners need to understand the social and cognitive aspects of security if they are to be successful. Shostack and Stewart teach readers exactly what they need to know--I just wish I could have had it when I first started out.”

--David Mortman, CSO-in-Residence Echelon One, former CSO Siebel Systems

 

Why is information security so dysfunctional? Are you wasting the money you spend on security? This book shows how to spend it more effectively. How can you make more effective security decisions? This book explains why professionals have taken to studying economics, not cryptography--and why you should, too. And why security breach notices are the best thing to ever happen to information security. It’s about time someone asked the biggest, toughest questions about information security. Security experts Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart don’t just answer those questions--they offer honest, deeply troubling answers. They explain why these critical problems exist and how to solve them. Drawing on powerful lessons from economics and other disciplines, Shostack and Stewart offer a new way forward. In clear and engaging prose, they shed new light on the critical challenges that are faced by the security field. Whether you’re a CIO, IT manager, or security specialist, this book will open your eyes to new ways of thinking about--and overcoming--your most pressing security challenges. The New School enables you to take control, while others struggle with non-stop crises.

  • Better evidence for better decision-making
    Why the security data you have doesn’t support effective decision-making--and what to do about it
  • Beyond security “silos”: getting the job done together
    Why it’s so hard to improve security in isolation--and how the entire industry can make it happen and evolve
  • Amateurs study cryptography; professionals study economics
    What IT security leaders can and must learn from other scientific fields
  • A bigger bang for every buck
    How to re-allocate your scarce resources where they’ll do the most good

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (26 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321502787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321502780
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.8 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,439,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

<>“It is about time that a book like The New School came along. The age of security as pure technology is long past, and modern practitioners need to understand the social and cognitive aspects of security if they are to be successful. Shostack and Stewart teach readers exactly what they need to know--I just wish I could have had it when I first started out.”

--David Mortman, CSO-in-Residence Echelon One, former CSO Siebel Systems

 

Why is information security so dysfunctional? Are you wasting the money you spend on security? This book shows how to spend it more effectively. How can you make more effective security decisions? This book explains why professionals have taken to studying economics, not cryptography--and why you should, too. And why security breach notices are the best thing to ever happen to information security. It’s about time someone asked the biggest, toughest questions about information security. Security experts Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart don’t just answer those questions--they offer honest, deeply troubling answers. They explain why these critical problems exist and how to solve them. Drawing on powerful lessons from economics and other disciplines, Shostack and Stewart offer a new way forward. In clear and engaging prose, they shed new light on the critical challenges that are faced by the security field. Whether you’re a CIO, IT manager, or security specialist, this book will open your eyes to new ways of thinking about--and overcoming--your most pressing security challenges. The New School enables you to take control, while others struggle with non-stop crises.

  • Better evidence for better decision-making
    Why the security data you have doesn’t support effective decision-making--and what to do about it
  • Beyond security “silos”: getting the job done together
    Why it’s so hard to improve security in isolation--and how the entire industry can make it happen and evolve
  • Amateurs study cryptography; professionals study economics
    What IT security leaders can and must learn from other scientific fields
  • A bigger bang for every buck
    How to re-allocate your scarce resources where they’ll do the most good

About the Author

Adam Shostack is part of Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle strategy team, where he is responsible for security design analysis techniques. Before Microsoft, Adam was involved in a number of successful start-ups focused on vulnerability scanning, privacy, and program analysis. He helped found the CVE, International Financial Cryptography association, and the Privacy Enhancing Technologies workshop. He has been a technical advisor to companies including Counterpane Internet Security and Debix.

 

Andrew Stewart is a Vice President at a US-based investment bank. His work on information security topics has been published in journals such as Computers & Security and Information Security Bulletin. His homepage is homepage.mac.com/andrew_j_stewart


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go back to school! 20 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover
"Schooling, instead of encouraging the asking of questions, too often discourages it." (Madeleine L'Engle)

The New School, in contrast, is all about asking questions, questions that might make you cringe but nevertheless need to be asked and answered. The security industry has to overcome the fog of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) and start to embrace the scientific method, even if it means some security practitioners will lose their status as shamans or some current best practises will be proven insufficient or even futile.

I can only imagine how many CISSP's caught their breath when Shostack and Stewart questioned the heavy reliance of companies on it. Many might consider this blasphemy, and I for one still think that the CISSP is a great certification, but it's those challenging questions that have to be asked, challenge everything, no matter how holy it might be to someone, then give answers, using good metrics and data. The status quo that exists in many heads needs to either proved, or disproved, but not kept up by assumptions and passed from generation to generation. We can do better.

Some minor remarks would be that it was hard to follow in the beginning, the first chapters were a bit tenacious to read, but that might be due to me not being 100% fluent, native English speakers might not have that issue. I also would have liked proper endnote labelling, which in my opinion doesn't hinder the reading flow at all and should be taken for granted in a book that insists on "the academic way". I also didn't like the implication of a "dysfunctional" industry, that description might be going in the right direction but was a bit too harsh for my taste.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Intellectually idle 8 Jan 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very frustrating book. The authors go on about academic rigour and then simply fail to deliver. They criticise current security practises, but then fail to say what should be done to change them.

Here are a couple of quotes "Opportunities to better understand security by learning from sociology have barely been explored." Then the chapter ends! Surely if you are going to try and create a 'New School' you need to lay out how your new ideas work?

"A second problem is that security policies are typically written in a very clean, simple language that speaks about high-level, theoretical ideas such as "threats" and "risks"."

Well - if you are going to have a pop at current practises then you badly need to provide an example of what you are proposing to use in its place.

In summary, this book reads like a poor undergraduate essay. I cannot recommend it.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review I wrote for ITToolbox 24 April 2008
By Monkey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified 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.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amateurs Study Cryptography; Professionals Study Economics 29 April 2008
By James Harper - Published on Amazon.com
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.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Book on a Proper IT Outlook 14 May 2008
By Robert J. Sama - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified 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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is High Time for the New School 2 July 2008
By Justin C. Klein Keane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified 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.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended reading for information security practitioners 14 Jun 2008
By Jacob Gajek - Published on Amazon.com
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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