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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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  608 Ratings  ·  47 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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Aug 09, 2007 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
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Bruce Schneier coined the term "security theater" to describe restricting or modifying aspects of people's behavior or surroundings in very visible and highly specific ways to make it look like security is improved while actually not providing any measurable security benefits at all.

This book talks about security theater and about the ways to recognize it and about the ways to assess risk and the costs of various security measures. The author presents a 5 step process for analyzing and evaluati
Dennis Cahillane
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Schneier gives a 10k foot overview of security in general, not just computers. His principles and clear thinking are timeless.
Though published fourteen years ago, Schneier's Beyond Fear is still a relevant read - if anything, more relevant than ever. In some detail, he describes what security really means and what factors must be evaluated when choosing and implementing security measures. This is not just a book for techies; it's written for a wide audience and covers security in all areas of life. He uses a number of historical anecdotes to illustrate his points, which I particularly liked.

However, despite my initial
Janis Orlovs
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Realistic approach to security and risk management
Michael Brady
Mar 29, 2012 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
Mar 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, cyber
Security is about trade-offs etc etc.
Steve Brady
Sep 14, 2010 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
Vagabond of Letters
May 14, 2015 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
Jan 29, 2015 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
Kevin O'Brien
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: security, technology
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
Dee Halzack
Dec 20, 2013 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
Mar 07, 2008 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,
Nov 26, 2012 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
Jan 20, 2012 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
Uzair Khan
Feb 24, 2015 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
Jun 16, 2012 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
Jan 19, 2012 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
Mike Ehlers
Jan 25, 2016 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
Apr 18, 2009 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 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 21, 2017 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.

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.
Mar 13, 2013 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.
Simon Carlier
Jun 13, 2016 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.

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.
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.
Neil McGarry
Apr 25, 2015 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.
Dave Peticolas
May 10, 2014 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.

Craig Cottingham
May 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
#26 for 2009.
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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.
More about Bruce Schneier

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