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Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World
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Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  512 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
In "Beyond Fear," Bruce Schneier invites us to take a critical look at not just the threats to our security, but the ways in which we're encouraged to think about security by law enforcement agencies, businesses of all shapes and sizes, and our national governments and militaries. Schneier believes we all can and should be better security consumers, and that the trade-offs ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published May 4th 2006 by Copernicus Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Security Engineering by Ross J. AndersonSecrets and Lies by Bruce SchneierThe Tangled Web by Michal ZalewskiIntroduction to Security and Applied Cryptography by Bruce SchneierThe Practice of Network Security Monitoring by Richard Bejtlich
Information Security
22nd out of 70 books — 20 voters
Digital Copyright by Jessica LitmanThe Public Domain by James BoyleContent by Cory DoctorowThe Future of Ideas by Lawrence LessigWired Shut by Tarleton Gillespie
EFF's Favorite Books
19th out of 55 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Aug 09, 2007 Decassid rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one. Not even Schneier fans.
I actually had to stop reading this book, because the author apparently didn't care to do the research. The first chapter has a bunch of tables and graphs, depicting data he decided to pull from all sorts of different sources, and without normalizing the data in any way, decided to mash all the data together and call it "research".

I'm not really a statistician/mathematician/numerologist/whatever, but I'm pretty sure you can't just pick pieces of data from various different sources, and call it h
Jan 29, 2015 Scribe rated it really liked it
Had this on the shelf for years, but never picked it up until recently as it's a pretty hefty book. A quick skim showed it was quite readable though - pages flick by quickly. Schneier sets out a logical approach to thinking about all the stuff which worries us, in an attempt to think "beyond fear", and turn defence into something we understand better.

The first couple of chapters and the last are the interesting bits, setting out a rough guide to thinking about risk, and ending with a more philos
Dee Halzack
Dec 20, 2013 Dee Halzack rated it really liked it
Anyone concerned about security in this day and age should read this book by a security expert.

5-point system for assessing ANY security system, from home to national.

Interesting that we were actually at higher risk from a car accident when we went out to purchase duct tape at the recommendation of DHS than from a terrorist attack.

Explains why facial recognition systems and massive databases (too many false positives) and intensive checking of everything coming into the country (too expensive) a
Uzair Khan
Mar 22, 2015 Uzair Khan rated it liked it
The book takes security in general as its prime topic and tries to present a standardised methodology towards analysing all the security related issues. It then goes on to apply these standardised steps on various daily life and national security related scenarios in an effort to emphasize the need for taking security as a measure of trade-offs among various interrelated factors like personal ease, risk involved and the cost for mitigating those risks. Overall the author tries to impress upon th ...more
Nov 22, 2015 Chrysostom rated it it was amazing
Five stars for a book that lays out five steps to think about and analyze any and all security systems, from street mugging to encryption, from home security to national security, in terms of what needs to be protected, how to protect it, who is trying to get at it, what's it worth, and what trade-offs or externalities the proposed security incurs. Also breaks down the human factor, disentangles identification from authentication from authorization, and breaks down the different prongs of securi ...more
Steve Brady
Dec 29, 2011 Steve Brady rated it really liked it
My review, written and posted in the VICS Newsletter (VICS is the Voluntary Inter-Industry Commerce Solutions Association)

The bottom line: Bruce makes it clear that we should respond to real risks, and not perceived risks. Through this he challenges our responses to perceived risks, including our response post 9-11.


Never has security seemed more important. We almost long for the hackers of yester-year that really just wanted to see where they could go, and at their most malicious, would wip
Kevin O'Brien
Nov 04, 2013 Kevin O'Brien rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology, security
Bruce wrote this book in 2003 as a response to 9/11 and how it lead to changes in security practices in the U.S. He criticizes many of the security measures taken as "security theater" that makes it look like something is being done without actually accomplishing anything useful. His criticisms probably are nothing terribly new to people 2013 when many people have come to similar conclusions, but what I think is more important in this book is that he attempts to lay out a way of thinking about s ...more
Michael Brady
Apr 01, 2012 Michael Brady rated it it was amazing
From my review of Beyond Fear in Security Management magazine:

Bruce Schneier is perhaps the best example of why IT security professionals are "eating the lunch" of physical security managers in some corporations. He thinks creatively, he expresses himself logically, and he has cultivated the ear of people high on the corporate food chain. His latest book will be food for thought for security professionals.

Beyond Fear is organized into three sections: "Sensible Security," "How Security Works," a
Apr 06, 2008 Andrew rated it it was ok
Bruce Schneier in an author well worth knowing. I strongly recommend reading what he has posted on his website. ( It's fantastic stuff. However I found this book very disappointing, for quite a few different reasons. Three of them are:

1) The introduction is in the 2nd person. Thankfully it stopped, but it was extremely annoying. Seriously. Don't do that.
2) No footnotes. This results in some odd statements that I would have really liked to be able to verify. What's worse,
Mike Ehlers
Feb 05, 2016 Mike Ehlers rated it really liked it
Good security analysis:
1. What assets are you trying to protect?
2. What are the risks to those assets?
3. How well does the security solution mitigate those risks?
4. What other risks does the security solution cause?
5. What trade-offs does the security solution require?

Found this on an old library list I made, so I checked it out. I was worried it would feel outdated since it was written shortly after 9/11. But it is still very relevant. Good primer on how to think about security. Thought provoki
Jan 20, 2012 Timo rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading Schneiers books because he has the ability to write about complex and abstract issues and then bring them down into practice by giving easy to understand examples from real life scenarios and throwing even few jokes here and there to underline the absurdity of some security measures currently used.

Schneiers analytical view is systematic and inexhaustible and while reading the book I noticed how my own ideas and concepts about what security is and how one can achieve it ended up w
Nov 26, 2012 Joe rated it it was amazing
I'm familiar with most of the concepts and much of the writings of Bruce Schneier (at least on the security side; I don't claim to understand more than the barest outlines of cryptography). Even though the book was written in 2003, his central theme remain sound -- any security measures need to be evaluated with the following five questions:

1. What assets are you trying to protect?
2. What are the risks against these assets?
3. How well does the security solution mitigate the risks?
4. What other r
Simon Carlier
Jun 13, 2016 Simon Carlier rated it really liked it
This book is easy to read and interesting. Two flaws come to my mind:
-No bibliography – some parts are impossible to verify without an extensive search
-Sometimes the author seemed to fall for classic stereotypes (e.g violence in Russia)

However, the book fits well (again?) with our current situation and gives good insights on how to decipher the prevalent security paradigm.

Jose Magaña
Having read already half of the book, I consider it a must for anyone involved in Security in order to achieve a general overview on how Security works and what points are to be considered when evaluating, suggesting or designing a system.
Jun 23, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
This is more of security sociology, psychology, and philosophy book than a scientific or academic study. So you are not going to find statistics, tables, or "hard evidence".

But you will find examples of how security works and how it can fail. The lack of statistics and such is not necessarily a weakness for the type of book it seems to be. It is make the public think about where they really want to go with security and does it in a readable way rather than to try to give empirical data showing
I didn't 100% finish the book in terms of pages, but I got the idea. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, though it did have some interesting concepts that have stuck with me (like the idea of threat versus risk, and calculating tradeoffs). I would also say that it was written in an engaging manner, though occasionally the examples threatened to overrun the advice of the practical sections.
Jan 28, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another review of this book called it a "good non-technical book on understanding security in general" and that's how I'd summarize it. He talks about nothing is truly secure, so we make tradeoffs to get the best odds we can while still being able to function. It's a lot more common sense than you might think.

Also, since it was written in 2003 much of the book talks about 9/11, of course. The author praises the conception of TSA and how much that will improve security, which is funny to read in
Patrick  Van Hoeserlande
Great first 2 chapters, even if you're interested in risk management! Last chapter too.
A sobering view on security.
Aug 17, 2009 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Great non-technical book on understanding security in general. Presented a good method for analyzing security risks and whether or not certain trade-offs are worth it. Some people have complained about the lack of references, but I think the underlying methodology he uses in the numerous cases through the book (e.g., are home alarm systems worth it? is it safe to pay with credit cards online? does arming pilots make flying safer?, etc.). This definitely wasn't a fast read, as I've been reading i ...more
Apr 25, 2009 Sueij rated it really liked it
Definitely not "fluffy" reading, but an excellent book.

Bruce talks about *how* to assess security threats and solutions, leaving the theory current and highly applicable, even if the content is a couple of years old. He does a good job alternating between theory and examples, which both clarifies what he's talking about and keeps the text from being too dry. And he uses his theory to discuss examples from as small as whether you should lock your house door to as large as whether the US should h
Jan 27, 2014 Euan_b rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that breaks down in layman's terms what really matters about security and hwo to think about it.
Jan 09, 2015 Johnny rated it liked it
Well worth the read especially for those who feel we lost more after 9/11/2001 than we did on 9/11/2001.
Nov 17, 2014 S rated it it was amazing
Brilliant follow up to "Secrets and Lies", a grounding view on the world of security.
Mar 13, 2013 Brick rated it liked it
Interesting and informative, Schneier's 5 questions methodology for examining security issues seems very worthwhile, and also seems to be often ignored by the security systems of which I am aware. I would have found the book more helpful to me if it had outlined the cases examined in lengthy expositions in a more diagrammatic way.
Loránd Szakács
Bruce Schneier is probably the most reasonable person on Earth when it comes to anything we should be afraid of. He puts his great analytic mind to show us that things we fear so much, should not warrant that much fear, and more importantly they shouldn't warrant utterly irrational, and overblown reactions.
Dave Peticolas
Oct 08, 2014 Dave Peticolas rated it really liked it

Schneier analyzes the concept of security by breaking it down into five concrete questions that must be answered in any security situation (computer or otherwise). With clear exposition he draws on all aspects of life for his examples, with a somewhat heightened focus on terrorism.

Gmendra Lau
Jan 12, 2014 Gmendra Lau rated it it was amazing
Well done bruce! I finished this in a day
Neil McGarry
Jun 10, 2015 Neil McGarry rated it really liked it
A solid look at security: what it should do, and what it can't. This was published not long after the World Trade Center was destroyed, so its message of rationality and fear-rejection is all the more remarkable. Definitely recommended.
Shankar G
Jan 05, 2012 Shankar G rated it really liked it
Well explained without resorting to gimmicks. Bruce Schneier knows what he is talking about and explains 'security theater' which is prevalent today and will be there tomorrow as well.
Mar 14, 2013 Marianne rated it liked it
A good introduction to thinking rationally about security. A little elementary for my taste, but I would definitely recommend to a layperson who is interested in security.
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Bruce Schneier is "one of the world's foremost security experts" (Wired) and the best-selling author of thirteen books. He speaks and writes regularly for major media venues, and his newsletter and blog reach more than 250,000 people worldwide. He is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and the CTO of Resilient Systems, Inc.
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