Bruce Schneier (/ˈʃnaɪ.ər/; born December 15, 1952) is an American cryptographer, computer security professional, privacy specialist and writer. He is the author of several books on general security topics, computer security and cryptography.
Schneier is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, a program fellow at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. He has been working for IBM since they acquired Resilient Systems where Schneier was CTO. He is also a contributing writer for The Guardian news organization.
Bruce Schneier is the son of Martin Schneier, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge. He grew up in Flatbush, attending P.S. 139 and Hunter High School. After receiving a physics bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester in 1984, he went to American University in Washington, D.C. and got his master's degree in computer science in 1988. He was awarded an honorary Ph.D from the University of Westminster in London, England in November 2011. The award was made by the Department of Electronics and Computer Science in recognition of Schneier's 'hard work and contribution to industry and public life'.
Schneier was a founder and chief technology officer of BT Managed Security Solutions, formerly Counterpane Internet Security, Inc.
In 1994, Schneier published Applied Cryptography, which details the design, use, and implementation of cryptographic algorithms. In 2010 he published Cryptography Engineering, which is focused more on how to use cryptography in real systems and less on its internal design. He has also written books on security for a broader audience. In 2000, Schneier published Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World; in 2003, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World; in 2012, Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive; and in 2015, Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.
Schneier writes a freely available monthly Internet newsletter on computer and other security issues, Crypto-Gram, as well as a security weblog, Schneier on Security. The blog focuses on the latest threats, and his own thoughts. The weblog started out as a way to publish essays before they appeared in Crypto-Gram, making it possible for others to comment on them while the stories were still current, but over time the newsletter became a monthly email version of the blog, re-edited and re-organized. Schneier is frequently quoted in the press on computer and other security issues, pointing out flaws in security and cryptographic implementations ranging from biometrics to airline security after the September 11 attacks.
Schneier revealed on his blog that in the December 2004 issue of the SIGCSE Bulletin, three Pakistani academics, Khawaja Amer Hayat, Umar Waqar Anis, and S. Tauseef-ur-Rehman, from the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, plagiarized an article written by Schneier and got it published. The same academics subsequently plagiarized another article by Ville Hallivuori on "Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) security" as well. Schneier complained to the editors of the periodical, which generated a minor controversy. The editor of the SIGCSE Bulletin removed the paper from their website and demanded official letters of admission and apology. Schneier noted on his blog that International Islamic University personnel had requested him "to close comments in this blog entry"; Schneier refused to close comments on the blog, but he did delete posts which he deemed "incoherent or hostile".
To Schneier, peer review and expert analysis are important for the security of cryptographic systems. Mathematical cryptography is usually not the weakest link in a security chain; effective security requires that cryptography be combined with other things.
Any person can invent a security system so clever that he or she can't imagine a way of breaking it.
He attributes this to Bruce Schneier, who wrote in 1998: "Anyone, from the most clueless amateur to the best cryptographer, can create an algorithm that he himself can't break. It's not even hard. What is hard is creating an algorithm that no one else can break, even after years of analysis."
Similar sentiments had been expressed by others before. In The Codebreakers, David Kahn states: "Few false ideas have more firmly gripped the minds of so many intelligent men than the one that, if they just tried, they could invent a cipher that no one could break", and in "A Few Words On Secret Writing", in July 1841, Edgar Allan Poe had stated: "Few persons can be made to believe that it is not quite an easy thing to invent a method of secret writing which shall baffle investigation. Yet it may be roundly asserted that human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve."
Schneier is critical of digital rights management (DRM) and has said that it allows a vendor to increase lock-in. Proper implementation of control-based security for the user via trusted computing is very difficult, and security is not the same thing as control.
Schneier has said that homeland security money should be spent on intelligence, investigation, and emergency response. Defending against the broad threat of terrorism is generally better than focusing on specific potential terrorist plots. According to Schneier, analysis of intelligence data is difficult but is one of the better ways to deal with global terrorism. Human intelligence has advantages over automated and computerized analysis, and increasing the amount of intelligence data that is gathered does not help to improve the analysis process. Agencies that were designed around fighting the Cold War may have a culture that inhibits the sharing of information; the practice of sharing information is more important and less of a security threat in itself when dealing with more decentralized and poorly funded adversaries such as al Qaeda.
Regarding PETN—the explosive that has become terrorists' weapon of choice—Schneier has written that only swabs and dogs can detect it. He also believes that changes to airport security since 11 September 2001 have done more harm than good and he defeated Kip Hawley, former head of the Transportation Security Administration, in an Economist online debate by 87% to 13% regarding the issue. He is widely credited with coining the term "security theater" to describe some such changes.
"Movie-plot threat" is a term Schneier coined that refers to very specific and dramatic terrorist attack scenarios, reminiscent of the behavior of terrorists in movies, rather than what terrorists actually do in the real world.
Security measures created to protect against movie plot threats do not provide a higher level of real security, because such preparation only pays off if terrorists choose that one particular avenue of attack, which may not even be feasible. Real-world terrorists would also be likely to notice the highly specific security measures, and simply attack in some other way.
The specificity of movie plot threats gives them power in the public imagination, however, so even extremely unrealistic "security theater" countermeasures may receive strong support from the public and legislators.
Starting in April 2006, Schneier has had an annual contest to create the most fantastic movie-plot threat.
Schneier has criticized security approaches that try to prevent any malicious incursion, instead arguing that designing systems to fail well is more important. The designer of a system should not underestimate the capabilities of an attacker, as technology may make it possible in the future to do things that are not possible at the present. Under Kerckhoffs's Principle, the need for one or more parts of a cryptographic system to remain secret increases the fragility of the system; whether details about a system should be obscured depends upon the availability of persons who can make use of the information for beneficial uses versus the potential for attackers to misuse the information.
Secrecy and security aren't the same, even though it may seem that way. Only bad security relies on secrecy; good security works even if all the details of it are public.
Schneier is a proponent of full disclosure, i.e. making security issues public.
If researchers don't go public, things don’t get fixed. Companies don't see it as a security problem; they see it as a PR problem.
Schneier and Karen Cooper were nominated in 2000 for the Hugo Award, in the category of Best Related Book, for their Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide, a work originally published for the Minneapolis science fiction convention Minicon which gained a readership internationally in science fiction fandom for its wit and good humor.
Schneier has been involved in the creation of many cryptographic algorithms.
And if we ban baby carriages from the subways, and the terrorists put their bombs in duffel bags instead, have we really won anything?