Whom can you trust? Try Bruce Schneier, whose rare gift for common sense makes his book Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World both enlightening and practical. He's worked in cryptography and electronic security for years, and has reached the depressing conclusion that even the loveliest code and toughest hardware still will yield to attackers who exploit human weaknesses in the users. The book is neatly divided into three parts, covering the turn-of-the-century landscape of systems and threats, the technologies used to protect and intercept data, and strategies for proper implementation of security systems. Moving away from blind faith in prevention, Schneier advocates swift detection and response to an attack, while maintaining firewalls and other gateways to keep out the amateurs.
Newcomers to the world of Schneier will be surprised at how funny he can be, especially given a subject commonly perceived as quiet and dull. Whether he's analyzing the security issues of the rebels and the Death Star in Star Wars or poking fun at the giant software and e-commerce companies that consistently sacrifice security for sexier features, he's one of the few tech writers who can provoke laughter consistently. While moderately pessimistic on the future of systems vulnerability, he goes on to relieve the reader's tension by comparing our electronic world to the equally insecure paper world we've endured for centuries--a little smart-card fraud doesn't seem so bad after all. Despite his unfortunate (but brief) shill for his consulting company in the book's afterword, you can trust Schneier to dish the dirt in Secrets and Lies. --Rob Lightner