Book Review: Scary Stuff

Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World
By Bruce Schneier
Copernicus Books, September 2003
295 pages, $25

The most appealing part of Bruce Schneiers thorough, well-reasoned approach to security strategies—personal, corporate and computer—is what he does not do. He does not propose concrete solutions ("We need more police. We need national ID cards. You need to build better firewalls"). Instead, he lays out the issues, debates the pros and cons, and leaves it to the reader to pick a solution.

What makes the discussion worthwhile is that Schneier, founder of consulting firm Counterpane Internet Security Inc. and publisher of the security newsletter Crypto-Gram, takes great pains to identify the key issues and examine some proposed solutions, pointing out the costs involved and the likelihood of success. For example, he believes that the idea of using biometric scanners—programmed to search out known criminals and terrorists based on their physical characteristics—probably wont work because false positives will overwhelm the system.