Opinion: Getting “Beyond Fear”: A Security Expert’s Prescription for A Safer World

My review of Bruce Scheier’s new book Getting “Beyond Fear”: A Security Expert’s Prescription for A Safer World is now online at Security Pipeline.

I must admit, I had a difficult time with this one. I’ve reviewed other security books, including one by Bruce before, but those are usually “insider” books on the hard tech aspects of security (see “Perspectives on Computer Security” and Under Lock and Key”, Dr. Dobbs Journal). But Bruce took a different tact with this book – he wanted to talk to ordinary people about how they could deal with security. And he expressed to me privately that he was frustrated with how difficult it was to reach that audience.

And I could see why he had a problem. The marketing of security books is very masculine, very secret agent man, but opening it up Bruce wrote a very readable book about fear and security. Since secret agents and hackers are thought not to feel fear, this doesn’t mesh.

Ironically, the audience I thought Bruce spoke best to inside the covers was women! Women are often neglected in discussions of security, because it is commonly viewed (even by women editors) that this subject is too “manly” and too “technical” to attract their attention.

But here we are, reading about security patdowns that seem like groping sessions and women terrorists from Chechnya blowing up airplanes. How women can be excluded from consideration or from the responsibility of informing themselves about security is beyond me – yet the publishing bias persists.

I originally tried to place a longer piece discussing security and the role of women in our society in more mainstream press, simply because the tech audience is decidely male. I hoped to reach the women and girls currently undergoing the humiliations of an overworked and underfinanced security grid. But after a lot of those cited rejections, I finally gave up and placed it (suitably modified) with an editor I know in a solidly male tech publication. I’m grateful to Mitch Wagner of Security Pipelines for allowing me to discuss Bruce’s book in the context of recent security debacles. I only hope that the guys reading it will pick up a copy for their wives, mothers, and girlfriends, and encourage them to read it because a woman said so. Because despite what the mainstream press editors will tell you, women still need to know how to evaluate security before it becomes a danger to them and others.

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