Schneier on Security

By Bruce Schneier; Reviewed by Glen Kitteringham, CPP

***** Schneier on Security. By Bruce Schneier; published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; available from ASIS, item #1845, 703/519-6200 (phone), (Web); 328 pages; $29 (ASIS members), $32 (nonmembers).

The praise for author Bruce Schneier on the jacket of his book is effusive. Britain’s The Register calls him “the closest the security industry has to a rock star” and Wired magazine says that he is “one of the world’s foremost security experts.”

Schneier’s expertise lies primarily on the IT end of the spectrum. His first eight books dealt with topics like cryptography and e-mail security. But this should not scare off practitioners of physical, personnel, or other security niches. Schneier is a thinker and thus his comments are equally applicable across an increasingly converged security industry. His criticisms, observations, and comments—while they are peppered with sarcasm and skepticism—show insight and offer an intelligent analysis of security issues.

Schneier’s greatest contribution is the courage to challenge a number of “truths” that the United States and other nations use as a basis for reducing their citizens’ liberties with the stated goal of making them safer. He chastises the media, government, security industry, and private citizens for sacrificing hard-won liberties amid often exaggerated threats of “uber-terrorists” and “ultra-hackers.” The threats, he argues, come from politicians and other government officials seeking to justify draconian security measures. Officials base their claims on worst-case scenarios, when most attacks are carried out by sloppy amateurs, Schneier argues.

The book is not perfect. Schneier contradicts himself from time to time. He says people should not overreact and report every suspicious incident they witness, but elsewhere praises people who did just that. He also trots out the old, unfounded fear of private security acting not in the public’s interest but only in the interest of private corporations but does little to support his argument. There is also some duplication of material.

Overall, Schneier delivers by making readers think. He wants the security consumer to use common sense and not just take someone’s word about the need for some new security measure. For those reasons alone, this book should appeal to any security practitioner willing to think critically.

Reviewer: Glen Kitteringham, CPP, is director of security and life safety for Brookfield Properties in Western Canada. He holds a master’s degree in security and crime risk management from the University of Leicester in England. He is chair of the ASIS International Commercial Real Estate Council and an assistant regional vice president for the Canada region.





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