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on 4 November 2004
Anyone involved in any kind of security should read this book. While the politicians and the hysterical media scream about face recognition, and other security panaceas, Bruce Schneier explains simply and logically why it doesn't work and proposes much simpler and more effective measures.
Take face recognition as an example. Even a system claiming 99.9% accuracy (which none are) will still fail 1 in 1000 times. How many times would it fail when used on football crowd? Or at an airport? How are the police better off when they have to deal with dozens of false positives from the most perfect system? What is the point of a system which requires every face to be logged in a database when terrorists are so sparse to begin with (and not necessarily in the database)? Obviously it's ridiculous, but this doesn't stop people claiming such nonsense will prevent another 9/11 or whatever.
Instead he advocates human intelligence - security guards who are trained to recognize signs that people are behaving oddly (or 'hinky' as one officer described a terrorist caught smuggling a bomb). This and common sense security based upon risk assessment. As one of the world's leading experts on security, his is a voice that should be listened to. Unlike his crypto books, there is no an equations to be found here. Instead he highlights his points with real world examples and analogy. This tends to become a little tiresome in places, but the point is well made.
It's too bad that someone as informed as Schneier isn't in charge of policy. Otherwise we might be in a world where money would be spent on systems which actually protect us, rather than offer faux security and inconvenience.
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VINE VOICEon 21 January 2004
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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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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on 13 May 2008
This is an excellent book overall. The author is no hardline libertarian, for sure; he does accept intrusions by the state in the name of security that I might object to, but what is so impressive about the book is the measured, rational way he goes about showing the pros and cons of security measures. It is the sort of book that policymakers here in London would do well to study. A fine antidote to hysteria and complacency in equal measure.
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on 5 March 2005
Bruce Schneier always writes about his subject with clarity and common sense. This book is no exception, it's an intelligent review of 21st century security for the man in the mall.
My biggest criticism is that, for a work of non-fiction, there is not a single reference to his sources. Similar works, such as "Security Engineering" by Ross Anderson, cite every reference they used. This book isn't an academic work, of course, but I would still have liked to follow up on the facts.
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on 21 November 2010
Having read "Secrets & Lies" by the same author a few years before, I was interested to see what else he had to say. Bruce Schneier is a leading thnker in the world of security and is able to make the topic interesting and relevant to people that otherwise might find it quite dull.

In this book, he also looks at many aspects of physical security, and in particular the way that security is being implemented in the modern world. He is highly critical of many security measures and explains in precise detail why they are so ineffective; and why we should still not be that concerned about this, except for the extra cost burden it places on us.

I would strongly advise that if you are involved in physical or digital security in any way, that you should have a copy of this book and that you should re-read it from time to time. Even if it is not a primary part of your job, you may well find it of value.
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on 11 March 2010
This book is a definite starting point for any one who wants to
understand the concepts of security, defense and risk. It will
also help to overcome many misconceptions lying around.
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on 18 June 2009
Once again Bruce Schneier takes a rather complex challenging subject and dissects it in his usual approach with a constructively critical review of security in our globalised society.

You can read what fear is, defined in an honest and sometimes disarming manner, also our approach to risk management and terorism mitigation.

Schneier has an interesting approach to threat modelling.

I have to admit I have been a fan of Schneier since reading "Secrets and Lies".

You dont have to be an infosec enthusiast to read this book.
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on 7 September 2014
A good read
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