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Fight terror with anti-terror
August 24, 2006 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Anti-terror. A great little common sense article from Bruce Schneier. via
posted by ObscureReferenceMan (45 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
We really need a new name for "common" sense. Excellent article (though it was already posted twice in the comments to this thread).
posted by Urban Hermit at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2006


we're doing exactly what the terrorists want

Nonsense, we're doing exactly what the military-industrial complex want, which is spend billions of taxpayer dollars on infrastructure, equipment, training and manpower to eavesdrop on and interfere with every aspect of our lives. The benefit to CIA-trained terrorists is just gravy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2006 [2 favorites]


Why does this man hate America so much?
posted by blucevalo at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2006


This is indeed quite a good article, although it contains nothing new (yes, yes, way to nitpick and so forth). The comments on the article on Schneier's blog make for surprisingly good reading, as well.
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2006


from the article:
The implausible plots and false alarms actually hurt us in two ways. Not only do they increase the level of fear, but they also waste time and resources that could be better spent fighting the real threats and increasing actual security.
No, they hurt in three ways, the third being people getting used to cries of "wolf".
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2006


How exactly does Mr. Schneir's background in cryptography and internet security qualify him to lecture us on physical terror such as potential bombings on planes?

It doesn't. His expertise doesn't extend beyond parking his ass in fromt of a computer screen.

He's just pimping himself and his company. Jeezus. everybody is an "expert" these days.
posted by bim at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2006


Quite right. We should trust elected representatives running on "tough on terrorism" tickets and salesmen for overpriced security devices instead!

At no point should we take a look at security measures and, y'know, *think* about them. Thinking is for commies and anti-war types!
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on August 24, 2006


Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic.

I just thought this bears repeating.

Oh, and bim, by that logic, you better put a sock in it unless you happen to be a professional commentator and/or "blog analyst." I mean, really now. I know we're caught up in the big push to narrowly professionalize everything, but whatever happened to the notion of a layman's reasoned analysis drawing on commonsense, particularly in civic affairs?
posted by joe lisboa at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2006


Only official spokesmen from the Ministry of Truth are permitted to address this deeply serious issue for reasons of national security.

Move along, civilians.
posted by digaman at 3:00 PM on August 24, 2006


He's just stating the obvious, really. The sad part is that so few here in the U.S. are even capable of seeing what's right in front of their noses.
posted by lekvar at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2006


Joe -- Mr. Schneir has every right to voice his opinion just like everyone else. But my point is that his comments carry no more weight than the average Joe's opinion.

Let me give a similar example. A pet peeve of mine is doctors who write in to the Letter to the Editor section of a newspaper. They are voicing their opinions on things which have nothing to do with medicine yet they ALWAYS have to sign their names, Dr. Joe Blow, M.D.

WTF? That M.D. makes their opinion on taxes or whatever someone more relevant than anyone elses? Aw, come on. Let's all start signing things B.S, M.S., Ph.D and the like to gauge the merits of an opinion.

I am by no means one to sit around waiting for some expert to tell me what to think. Especially, the idiots in the Bush Administration. And that includes Mr. Schneier too who is ultimately pimping himself and his business.

So both you boys (Joe and Digaman) can put a sock in it yourselves. :)

Maybe we should all pull out Gavin de Becker's book -- The Gift of Fear -- and see if he says anything different (I haven't read the book yet).


...and Fox News is total bullshit. We all know that already. :) And Michael Savage is the anti-christ.
posted by bim at 3:10 PM on August 24, 2006


How exactly does Mr. Schneir's background in cryptography and internet security qualify him to lecture us on physical terror such as potential bombings on planes?

Companies such as Counterpane that are consulting for large enterprises typically deal with more than just "internet security." They deal with phyiscal security, too, perform penetration testing, help companies write sound policies on information security, and so on. It's a very analytical job that requires a broad range of skills.

If there's a way to sneak something into a building (say, an airport), social engineer one's way past a security guard (or TSA employee), fake credentials (say identification), these people probably have thought of it.

If anything, he's much more versed in this kind of stuff that most people.
posted by kableh at 3:24 PM on August 24, 2006


his comments carry no more weight than the average Joe's opinion.

bim, I don't think anyone is saying that these comments should be given more weight because they're from - gasp! - Bruce Schneier. They should be given weight because, well, they're right (for the most part). It is you who seems to be implicitly giving these opinions less weight - not on their merits, but because you apparently harbour some resentment against their supposed cloak of authority.

they ALWAYS have to sign their names, Dr. Joe Blow, M.D.

If someone signs their name this way and claims to be a doctor, they aren't. Or at least they shouldn't be.
posted by Urban Hermit at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2006


Also by Mr. Schneier: Beyond Fear, about this very subject, published in 2003 to rave reviews, and showing 4½ out of 5 stars on Amazon's ranking. Clearly a security duffer.
posted by SpaceBass at 3:33 PM on August 24, 2006


kabeleh said -- If anything, he's much more versed in this kind of stuff that most people.

Huh? I doubt it.

bim, I don't think anyone is saying that these comments should be given more weight because they're from - gasp! - Bruce Schneier.

That's just what occurred above. I rest my case, U.H.
posted by bim at 3:34 PM on August 24, 2006


The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized.

I absolutely agree with bim. Unless you are a certified terrorist expert, how am I supposed to trust such advice?

Now where's my duct tape?
posted by effwerd at 3:39 PM on August 24, 2006


Now where's my duct tape?

That tape's gonna hurt you when you rip it off. :>
posted by bim at 3:45 PM on August 24, 2006


That's just what occurred above. I rest my case, U.H.

I don't think anyone mentioned his stature/qualifications until you questioned them. We were content to assess his arguments on the merits.

Now where's my duct tape?

It's over there, beside the tinfoil.
posted by Urban Hermit at 3:47 PM on August 24, 2006


Well I have a master's degree in Terrorology. I can tell you this man is quite mistaken.

See what the terrorists want is for us to assume they want us to be a'scairt of gett'n all blow'd up.

But that is simply a ploy.

They know we KNOW that's what they want. So we WON'T be scared. And thus we will let our guards down. Ah-HAH! See!?

So, take it from me, a licensed Terrorologist. Your best bet is to light your hair on fire right now, run around in tight little Three Stooge circles and scream "Oh MAH LORDEEE! Da TERRORISTS are here to eat my BABIES!!!!"

That will throw the terrorists off.

- TKChrist, MAT

PS. Also what the Terrorists want are cute new puppies for Christmas.
posted by tkchrist at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2006


They know we KNOW that's what they want. So we WON'T be scared. And thus we will let our guards down. Ah-HAH! See!?

I knew it! Now where's my lighter fluid?
posted by effwerd at 3:57 PM on August 24, 2006


I still want to know exactly how you can terrorize people with hand cream and matches.

Use the hand cream to make one's skin extra-white, then use the material from the match heads to make one's breath sulfurous? Then moan, and declaim doom and punishment upon all sinners, whilst defining "sinners" as something common, like killing ants or having ever worn purple?
posted by QIbHom at 3:58 PM on August 24, 2006


Huh? I doubt it.

Wow, you sure showed me.

Perhaps you'd like to share your credentials with us?

I just got back from a security conference. These people know their shit.
posted by kableh at 4:07 PM on August 24, 2006


What BP said, plus a wee paraphrase: folks will more gladly part with liberty when they feel insecure.
posted by owhydididoit at 4:11 PM on August 24, 2006


bim: ... ALWAYS have to sign their names, Dr. Joe Blow, M.D.

You probably enjoy those donor and sponsor lists (for art museums, school plays, and everything in between) peppered with "Dr. and Mrs. Joe Blow".

Have yet to see a "Plumber and Mrs."; those are among the donors with stealth occupations.
posted by kurumi at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2006


I've read, on some reputable weblog, that the next logical step for a terror attack will be binary explosives that are drank before one enters the Airport. The resulting mixture detonates upon sudden changes in the cabin pressure and/or the height above sea level, depending on which comes first. Apparently, the Russians developed this stuff back in the 80s and the technology went into the wild back in Afghanistan. The CIA and MI5 know all about this, but they're afraid to alert the public. The resulting panic would be catastrophic, because -- apart from the bad flatulence -- this explosive is hard to detect.

That's why Mr. Schneier is wrong. He believes that security by obscurity is anti-terrorism. Anybody who thinks that we're not under direct attack by the Fascists is delusionarily out of order, and should apologize for their complacency. It's almost suicide treasonous.
posted by gsb at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2006


I just got back from a security conference. These people know their shit.

Or at the very least they know how to sell their shit. Security is big business these days. Just ask Blackwater. There's gold in them thar hills!

So you're claiming that we SHOULD only listen to "experts."
posted by bim at 4:19 PM on August 24, 2006


Not a security vendor conference. Black Hat. People who break into buildings and computer systems for a living.

While this is an opinion piece, and you have every right to dismiss it, claiming he isn't an authority on the subject is ludicrous.

So you're claiming that we SHOULD only listen to "experts."

I claimed no such thing. Rather, I think your understanding of Mr. Schneier's field of expertise is lacking.
posted by kableh at 4:25 PM on August 24, 2006


I know all about terrorism because I am frightened all the time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:30 PM on August 24, 2006


While I'm not specifically familiar with Bruce Schneier's qualifications to discuss the process that goes on in the minds of terrorists, kableh has it right with regard to the the collective experience that these companies produce. Schneier may not be an expert, but he probably has a few of them within a dead cats swing.

Whether or not he qualified, I have to believe that for the most part, he's right. So many still seem confused with the results of terrorism as opposed to terrorism as a tactic. And as a tactic, they are winning every time we freak out for no reason.

And yes, I mean 'no reason'. A couple of Asian guys speaking in a language you don't understand and checking their watches is no excuse to panic and start getting people arrested. Seeing an empty juice bottle is no reason to shut down a rail line.

We are being told to keep an eye out for anything suspicious and report it to someone. Problem with that is when you are looking for something out of the ordinary, you are going to see it everywhere. The media doesn't help either. Their eternal quest for ratings has been selling fear since long before 9/11, but now it's been made so much easier. They can just spend a day speculating wildly about how the terrorists were going to mix binary agents and kill everyone, so now all the suspicious people are keeping their eyes peeled for, what? Containers of liquid? Give me a fucking break.
posted by quin at 4:32 PM on August 24, 2006


Black Hat? Hackers?

It seems to me that Blackhat is all about COMPUTER related security.

This thread began as an offshoot of on ona thread on BOMBS and terrorism.

As I said before, Mr. Schneir may be an expert on computer related things. Good for him.

But I'm not going to be dismissive of people's concerns on subways or planes -- despite anything that Bruce has to say.

Not giving in to terror is not the same as putting your head in the sand.

So rap on. I'll be in NYC tomorrow taking my chances on the trains. And if they need to stop the train, no big deal.
posted by bim at 4:53 PM on August 24, 2006


There aren't many people better known as being qualified to talk about this sort of thing than Bruce Schneier. He's about as close to a universally-recognized celebrity name in general security theory and practice as you'll find anywhere. Which isn't particularly close, but still, sort of ridiculous to see people weakly defending his right to speak up on a subject on which he's for some years been widely known as an authority.

I still want to know exactly how you can terrorize people with hand cream and matches.

Too easy. Take slow-burning fuse, stick it in the hand cream, and run down the airplane aisle laughing manically as you try to light it with the matches. Then when they're about to apprehend you, throw the "bomb" at some near-by terrified-looking passenger. The media would be speculating for months as to what kind of explosive you had, and why it fortunately failed to detonate.
posted by sfenders at 4:57 PM on August 24, 2006


Mr. Schneir [sic] has every right to voice his opinion just like everyone else. But my point is that his comments carry no more weight than the average Joe's opinion.

Disagreed. Have you ever done any work in computer security? If you do, you will find that it is a perfect exmple of the classic security problem.

In his book, Beyond Fear, Schneier posits 5 questions that may be used to analyze any security solution :

1) What assets are you trying to protect?
2) What are the risks to those assets?
3) How well does the secuirty solution mitigate those risks?
4) What other risks does the security solution cause?
5) What tradeoffs does the security solution require?

These questions apply to any security solution, be it metal detectors in airports, vaults in banks, or the practice of hiding a key under your welcome mat. In the book, he shows how the failure to thoroughly answer these questions leads to the worst kind of security mistakes.(Hint : lots of people skip 4 and 5)

Schneier is a man who is very skilled at analyzing security solutions. This is why his skills and opinions are sought after by companies, governments, and people.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:15 PM on August 24, 2006


Bim won't be convinced.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:27 PM on August 24, 2006


I do rather get the impression that Bim *likes* the Voodoo which passes for security these days. Weird.
posted by Artw at 5:30 PM on August 24, 2006


For more reasons on why Schneir is worth listening to read this list of facts about his computer security prowess.
posted by sien at 6:22 PM on August 24, 2006


Hey bim, by what secret power do you know that doctors who write in to newspapers ALWAYS sign their names "Dr" whatever "M.D."? Do you have some way of ascertaining that none of the thousands of letters that aren't signed that way are written by doctors?
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:40 PM on August 24, 2006


That's why Mr. Schneier is wrong. He believes that security by obscurity is anti-terrorism. Anybody who thinks that we're not under direct attack by the Fascists is delusionarily out of order, and should apologize for their complacency. It's almost suicide treasonous.

I don't know if my sarcasm meter is miscalibrated here... But are you seriously arguing that letting go of the obsession with 'suspicious' activity (which can be anything from tampering with a smoke detector to two vaguely asian-looking people talking in a foreign language) would be equivalent to security by obscurity? That's pretty scary.

Next time I see an arabic man look at his watch in an airport or plane, I will be certain to report it to the SS. I wouldn't want to be complicit in a terrorist plot, and ignoring the suspicious activity is traitorous, right?
posted by splice at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2006


What was it like working with the great Harrison Ford, and why do you hate our troops?
posted by Dunwitty at 7:01 PM on August 24, 2006


Of course, the irony is that much of the terrorism stems from our foreign policy. Al Kader turned on us because our troops were stationed on Saudi soil. I think it's also clear that children who suffer greivous loss at the receiving end of American-made munitions sometimes dedicate their lives to vendetta.

It's really rather grim, but I'm hopeful that people are waking up to it, and are going to vote for (a?) change. We need leaders who understand step 4.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:17 PM on August 24, 2006


Well I have a master's degree in Terrorology. I can tell you this man is quite mistaken.

I have mail order degress in Terrorology AND Terroronomy!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:03 PM on August 24, 2006


I think the reason watches are suspicious is because they use Arabic numerals.

More seriously, I lived in India the year before Indira Gandhi was assassinated. There were at least 3 fairly major terrorist groups operating. But, I don't remember any of the kind of useless dreck we've got scaring people these days in the US. At one point, I stood on a train platform with about 12 blue-clad, tall-turbaned Sikhs carrying 9' tall spears and wearing rather large kirpans. Nothing happened, unless you count being smiled at while I looked in shock at a group of men who looked just like the pictures of Sikh terrorists in the current issue of India Today.

None of this rigamarole has to do with actual security. What it is really all about, well, I don't know.
posted by QIbHom at 10:04 PM on August 24, 2006


It is to pull the wool over our eyes and blind us from the truth.
posted by nlindstrom at 12:01 AM on August 25, 2006


“The implausible plots and false alarms actually hurt us in two ways. Not only do they increase the level of fear, but they also waste time and resources that could be better spent fighting the real threats and increasing actual security.”

Why....that’s just crazy talk!
Really, there’s no excuse for what’s going on now because this has been said over and over and over again. Level of expertise on the points covered is irrelevent, this is and has been common knowlege since the 1960’s when hijacking planes became vogue.
(“Security theater” - heh heh.)

“But I'm not going to be dismissive of people's concerns on subways or planes -- despite anything that Bruce has to say. Not giving in to terror is not the same as putting your head in the sand.” - bim

This here is the actual problem concerning the argument over authority. Everyone is an expert, therefore no one is and “people’s concerns” are just as valid as someone with 30 years experiance in counterterrorism techniques. If “they” need to stop the train, then the terrorism has worked by causing a practical reduction in productivity. Do that across a wide enough spectrum and you can influence a country’s economy in various negative ways - or don’t we notice that happening?
Simple rule of thumb: partisans and guerillas bomb bridges (et.al); terrorists threaten to.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:59 AM on August 25, 2006


Everyone is an expert, therefore no one is and “people’s concerns” are just as valid as someone with 30 years experiance in counterterrorism techniques.

Hmmm...well Ray Kelly (NYC Police Commissioner) seems to think it's reasonable to deploy cops to check into passenger concerns.

And on one of the trains I was on today, two NYPD officers got on and took a look around as they rode the rails a bit.

But I guess Ray Kelly's expertise doesn't count now does it? Is HE unqualified to make decisions regarding anti-terrorism in NYC? Or does Bruce know best? Maybe Bruce should run the NYPD. That might be interesting.

If “they” need to stop the train, then the terrorism has worked by causing a practical reduction in productivity. Do that across a wide enough spectrum and you can influence a country’s economy in various negative ways - or don’t we notice that happening?

So a few train checks have caused GNP to dramatically fall and we are heading for a recession. Geesh. I think you're getting a tad carried away here, Smedley.

I think there a much bigger fall in productivity from people playing on the internet while they're at work -- mefi included. ;)

Simple rule of thumb: partisans and guerillas bomb bridges (et.al); terrorists threaten to.

Huh? So what should we call the dudes who flew the planes into the WTC? Does it even matter?
posted by bim at 9:07 PM on August 25, 2006


The real problem with the War on Terror is, despite everything Bush, Cheney, and Blair and the NeoCons have done to encourage them, the other side has largely just not shown up to play. There has simply not been enough terrorism pointed at the US or the West in general to sustain in power the politicians who have built their careers around fighting it.

I must admit, I shared their miscalculations. I thought this level of provocation, and this level of pure and utter incompetence on the part of the Bush Administration to do anything to prevent a terrorist attack would certainly be sufficient to make something big happen in the US by now.

Its odd to realize that, among the many things Bush and Bin Laden have in common, they must both be grinding their teeth at night wondering where the hell all the terrorists they have put so much effort into producing can possibly be.
posted by jamjam at 11:40 PM on August 25, 2006


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