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Ranum's The Myth of Homeland Security

I've just completed reading Marcus Ranum's The Myth of Homeland Security. Overall, I found this an interesting book, though it's now nearly 4 years old. Basically, Marcus (a well known security guru) did a bunch of research into the current Department of Homeland Security initiative and found that the initiative is doomed to bureaucratic failure. Completely unsurprising, since this is the federal government that we're talking about here. Anyway...

A couple quotes from his closing thoughts, such as this from p230:

"With terrorism or in a cold war, the only viable answer is active counterterror. It's a nasty, dirty business, but so far it is the single most effective tool against organized attacks. [...] The big problem remains: How do we infiltrate organizations, which have known associations with assassins and terrorists, without also compromising the next Dr. Martin Luther King? We need to be realistic about allowing counterintelligence against self-declared threats without instantiating a police state."

He then goes on to say on p231:

"Our founding fathers understood the importance of separation of powers, and I believe that the threat of abuse of authority can be mitigated through careful planning."

Overall, I found Marcus' book insightful. I skimmed through the last few chapters because it covered information that I live in daily life (related to security). It's definitely a recommended read for people not intimately familiar with security, and for those who are curious about facts to back up assertions that the US Government is still having difficulty getting the job done.

More importantly, however, is this concept, that homeland security is a myth (which it is). Just as humans are not currently adept at detecting and responding (appropriately) to online threats, so also are Americans in particular extremely concerned about threats that, while representing a great loss, are so unlikely to occur that they are almost statistically irrelevant. The media is partly to blame for this, but as my friend Shawn likes to point out, Americans are making a conscious decision to focus on celebrity news than to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm for dealing with larger issues, like the various Middle East crises. Just demonstrates once again that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink...


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» Schneier on Cyberwar from The Falcon's View
Bruce Schneier has posted an essay from Jan 2005 on Cyberwar that is fairly interesting. It's an interesting contrast to Marcus Ranum's comments in his book The Myth of Homeland Security. What do you think?... [Read More]

Comments (1)

Sounds like an interesting book about a topic that would _definitely_ interest me.

I think, even more than careful planning, abuse of power is best mitigated by a vigilant public. Unfortunately, we've proven to not be very vigilant unless we're talking about Britney Spears' love life.

Thanks for the book recommendation!

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