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on 26 April 2012
Bruce Schneier is one of the most respected writers on the topic of security. Previously, his work focused on identifying what it all means in terms of Information Technology; in this book, he takes a step out into the wider world to explain just how the same issues of security and trust operate within society as a whole.

He has a way of clearly explaining the real issues that helps even those with limited experience understand some of the more complex scenarios. He takes the reader step by step through the various problems and makes even the most dry topic thoroughly readable. The writing is interspersed with real world examples that highlight those areas where things work well; and he takes various agencies to task over the foolish policies and strategies that do nothing to help secure the individual, organisation or nation.

Those that work in IT should definitely read this; and it would be of considerable use to senior managers, HR staff, politicians and anyone that has an interest in how society is developing.
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on 25 August 2013
I have been a fan of mr. Schneiers work ever since I encountered it during a cryptography class in university. Bruce Schneier knows his IT security, he is an acclaimed expert on the wider issues surrounding (IT) operational security, and I appreciate him for that. However, when he first announced this book I saw two traps he could walk into, both related to the fact that with this book he would step far outside his academic home base.

First, like a physicist approaching economics, he could look around in his new field, loudly announce everything the experts have been doing wrong for decades, and proceed to make a fool of himself. Second, like an experienced excel user approaching an actual programming problem for the first time, he could be spending pages and pages furiously applying completely the wrong tool to an actual problem, wasting everybody's time.

Fortunately, mr. Schneier has avoided both traps with style by taking this book in a -for me at least- unexpected direction. This book is a tool-kit to help you think about trust and security related issues as they occur everywhere in society. In a slow but steady pace, using a lot of case-studies as examples, mr. Schneier shows us how to identify these types of issues, how to think about the various actors involved, and -and this is the most important bit- how to approach a possible solution. The book talks about all trade-offs involved, and also spends sufficient time about the fallacy of perfect security, and the impossibility of eliminating the need for trust. He never goes so far as to propose solutions for the many complex problems in this field that society faces, but he establishes an excellent vocabulary for talking about this type of problem, and that makes this book very valuable.

I know a lot of people in today's society who could benefit from reading this. Politicians who have to create the trust systems we live in, public servants across all fields who have to write the rules that govern the system, all the people who complain when these systems fail, and all the journalists who then follow the popular cry for more expensive, trust-eliminating rules. I fear not enough of these people will.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and heartily recommend everyone who came this far to read it, talk about it, pass it on.
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on 14 August 2012
Before I started reading "Liars and Outliars" I had never given much thought to the topic of trust in society. Of course, I had thought about security, but mainly from a technical standpoint: how to use it to secure myself and ourselves against threats from the outside. This book has taugt me how trust and security belong together and how the latter can be used to fill up the gaps that result from lacking the former. This book stands out, because both of its well-researched models and theories and because of its practicality: each of the main ideas is larded with examples that make understanding the presented ideas really easy.

This book is divided in four parts. In the first part Schneier brings the reader up to par with the current state of the 'science of trust', as he calls it. In these chapters he talks about the way human beings and some animals cooperate, how cooperation developed in their respective species, what altruism is, and what a society is. This first section of the book ends with an interesting set of societal dilemmas and - most importantly - a framework by which each of these dilemmas can be understood. In this framework Schneier puts the societal (or group) interest over against the interest of the party (or person) that wants to defect.

Part two of the book presents four pressures influencing every societal dilemma, namely societal, moral, reputational and institutional. Each one of these parts of this model of trust is described in detail and explained through examples. This part of the book ends with an overview of the topic of security and how it relates towards these pressures. In this chapter, Schneier shows once again how good and well-balanced security is necessary to counterbalance the different forms of trust. He also describes how security influences each of the four pressures.

The first two parts of the book are quite theoretical and systemic, but legible and understandable nevertheless. In the third section Schneier takes his models into the real world, to see how they fit in. He does so from the perspective of competing interests within organizations (each group of people), corporations (different from individual people because they're no people with personal interests), and institutions (governmental groups, with their particular interests). What has kept with me after reading these chapters is that each 'society' has its own interests and that these interests do not always fit in with the interests of others. I believe that dissecting societal dilemmas through Schneier's model of trust really helps to gain a fuller understanding of the weight and content of the forces at work.

The fourth and final part of the book contains three chapters with conclusions. For some part, these chapters are a repetition of the previous chapters. They contain, however, a kind of counterbalance to the well-reasoned and rational model of trust Schneier presented, because of the concept of the human psychology that sometimes gives us the desire to do things that are not so reasonable. Moreover, he describes some of the technological advances that have been made and will be made, and - more importantly - how both cooperators and defectors make use of technology. This section also holds a fiery speech in favor of well-reasoned, community-based, transparant, and general forms of security technology.

In his last chapter Schneier once again makes sure that we understand that security is not something do once and then forget, it's a process that needs to be readjusted all the time. It's also important to keep in mind that society both needs cooperators and defectors (or outliers), since the latter group is able to foster innovation, that can be used to improve society for all of us.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 15 September 2014
As Bruce Schneier explains, "All complex ecosystems, whether they are biological ecosystems like the human body, natural ecosystems like a rain forest, social ecosystems like an open-air market, or socio-technical ecosystems like the global finance system, or the Internet, are deeply interlinked. Individual units within those ecosystems are interdependent, each doing its part and relying on the other units to do their parts as well. This is neither rare nor difficult, and complex systems abound.

"At the same time, all complex ecosystems contain parasites. Within every interdependent system, there are individuals who try to subvert the system to their own ends. These could be tapeworms in our digestive tracts, thieves in a bazaar, robbers disguised as plumbers, spammers on the Internet, or companies that move their profits offshore to evade taxes.

"Within complex systems, there is a fundamental tension between what I'm going to call cooperating, or acting in the group interest; and what I'm going to call defecting, or acting against the group interest and instead in one's own self-interest."

In these few words, Schneier has established the framework within which to present an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that prepare his reader and almost any organization (or almost any group within an organization) to help establish and then sustain a culture within which mutual trust is most likely to thrive. There are two essential questions to be answered: There is one essential question to be answered: How to empower the "cooperators" with whatever resources are needed so that they can minimize (if not eliminate) the damage done by "defectors"? In this context, "an ounce of prevention" really is worth "a pound of cure."

Schneier uses the term "Cooperators" but, having read and then re-read his brilliant book, I presume to suggest that "Collaborators" would be more appropriate. Why? Establishing and then sustaining the aforementioned culture of mutual trust requires more, much more than buy-in or consent or agreement; it requires wide and deep collaboration between and among those who are not only involved but, more to the point, actively [begin italics] engaged [end italics] in the given enterprise, at all levels and in all areas.

Schneier suggests, "This book is about trust. Specifically, it's about trust within a group. It's important that defectors not take advantage of the group, but it's also important for everyone in the group to trust that the defectors won't take advantage"...until, of course, that trust is betrayed. "Specifically, it explains how society enforces, evokes, elicits, compels, encourages -- I'll use the word [begin italics] induces [end italics] -- trustworthiness, or at least compliance, through systems of what I call [begin italics] societal pressures [end italics], similar to sociology's social controls: coercive mechanisms that induce people to cooperate, act in the group interest, and follow group norms."

This book is also about security. In this context, "an ounce of prevention" really is worth "a pound of cure." A culture within which trust thrives can only be reasonably secure if four societal pressures are effectively applied: moral, reputational, institutional, and systems. These are the subjects of greatest interest to me in Parts I and II:

o The core principles of "the science of trust"
o Key developments throughout the history of organizational security
o Key developments during the evolution of cooperation
o Key developments throughout the social history of trust
o The unique challenges posed by establishing and then maintaining various societal pressures
Note: These challenges are even greater for leaders of organizations with multiple domestic and/or foreign locations.
o The strengths, limitations, and vulnerabilities of security systems

In Part III, Schneier introduces and then explains a model whose design takes into full account how effective societal pressures can help an organization to achieve its strategic objectives. This model is based on ten core principles:

1. Understanding the social dilemma
2. Consideration of all four societal pressures
3. Paying attention to scale
4. Fostering empathy and community; increasing moral and reputational pressures
5. Using security systems to scale moral and reputational pressures
6. Harmonizing institutional pressures across related technologies
7. Ensuring that financial penalties account for the likelihood that a defection will be detected
8. Choosing general and reactive security systems
9. Reducing concentrations of power
10. Requiring transparency -- especially in corporations and government institutions

In any organization, at least some defection is inevitable because no prevention system is infallible. Also, it would be a serious mistake to assume that defection is always bad and that societal pressures always serve admirable purposes. "Defection represents an engine for innovation, an immunological challenge to ensure the health of the majority against the risk of monoculture, a reservoir of diversity, and a catalyst for social change...The societies that societal pressures protect are not necessarily moral or desirable. In fact, they can protect some pretty awful ones."

Obviously, it remains for each reader to determine which of the material provided is most relevant to the given organization's needs, resources, and strategic objectives. Just about everything needed for the design process is provided in this book.
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on 16 July 2012
I've followed Bruce's work for many years, so I had a good idea of what to expect from his latest work.

It does not disappoint. Covering the evolution of security mechanisms, from the very small scale of a few personal friends up to the global institutions to which we trust much of our lives, Bruce examines in depth how we choose whether to trust or distrust other people and organisations, and how we decide how much regulation and technology is required to keep enough of them trustworthy enough for our societies to function.

As a reader of Bruce's blog on schneier,com, I thought I would be reading things I'd already learnt, but I was wrong. There's a lot of new stuff here, and perhaps the best and most-lasting aspect is the presentation of a structure and language for talking about trust - I find I'm using the terms from Liars and Outliers intuitively any time I think about security.

There's a good exposition of how our security systems fail, and what must be done to avoid such failures, which I think makes it essential reading for any company director or politician.

You need two copies of this book - one to keep on your shelf to read, and re-read, and one to give to your (least-) favourite policymaker.
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on 11 January 2013
I greatly enjoyed reading this book; every few minutes, it seemed, I'd pick up my iPad to look up a name or event mentioned in passing. Schneier does a great job collecting anecdotes and linking them to his central thesis, and if you enjoy interesting anecdotes and experimental results on trust you'll enjoy this book. The central point of the book was well-argued, but seemed to me fairly self-evident; I read the author's blog, so quite possibly I am not the target audience. The diagrams every few pages also struck me as a bit too straightforward; I appreciate the author's attempts to create a system by which to logically structure/think about incentives, but I felt it somewhat incongruous with the light, anecdotal style of the rest of the book. I also, as a computer scientist, would have enjoyed a bit more technical detail.

Having said that, this book is an excellent introduction to the issues surrounding trust in a changing, technological world. I've given it 5 stars for this reason; I believe that it is perfectly placed for its intended audience. For a reader already somewhat knowledgeable in the field, it's a great compendium of fun facts though, and still well worth a read.
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on 20 November 2012
Dear Colleagues,

I am in the process of reading Bruce Schneier's latest book, "Liars and Outliers"...Very good it is too. I was much surprised with how much I agreed with his views on so many things, not that that matters, but it is nice to find that one is not quite alone in one's views of the world occasionally...:-). The book is well researched, wide ranging and looks closely at issues of security and trust between human beings, how they developed through history and what difference the computer age makes to relationships and transactions between different groups and different societies. A breath of fresh air in all this paranoia which is going on in the world today. If you are interested in this area, it is well worth a read in my view...:-).
Duggz De BuggzLiars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
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on 24 June 2013
This book, written by a specialist in computer security, discusses the problems of trust in society and comes garlanded with praise by "distinguished" professor of this and "emeritus" professor of that.

The author has read widely in psychology, behavioural economics and the other sexy new research fields. It's hard to see how he could write such a boring book, but he's managed it. With bullet points that go on forever, repetition, clichéd anecdotes, tables that reveal nothing and flow diagrams that obfuscate more than they illuminate, reading this book is like listening to the most tedious sociology lecturer or a third rate management consultant.

I struggled to the end, reluctant to think I'd wasted my money and recognise that I'd learnt nothing new.
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on 25 April 2012
This book is recommended for anyone who wants to understand how society depends upon trust. Bruce Schneier once again brings his insight to the over-arching basis of security - what it means, and how it can be abused - in his usual clear style.
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on 1 November 2012
Bruce Schneier's writing career has followed a well defined path from the specific to the general. He started with Applied Cryptography, a highly technical reference on computer encryption, then came Secrets and Lies, an outstanding book on computer security. This book continues the trend as it considers security and trust in the widest possible sense.

I found this book thought provoking and stimulating but a more difficult read than some of his earlier books. It's definitely very meta... it gets quite philosophical on the nature of security and trust in modern society.
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