Wall Street Journal Review of Liars and Outliers

Liars and Outliers (along with two other books: Kip Hawley's memoir of his time at the TSA and Against Security, by Harvey Molotch) has been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal.

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 2:04 PM • 10 Comments


mcbSeptember 5, 2012 2:28 PM

Mr. Schneier is best known as an expert on computer security, with a long record of needling the powerful about their porous defenses.

Yup, that's our Bruce...

bobSeptember 5, 2012 3:00 PM

"None of these books are, in the usual sense, interesting; they are not the kind you skip a party to keep reading or stay up late to finish."

The reviewer is obviously unaware of how many late-night parties I skipped to keep reading Liars and Outliers.

FreiheitSeptember 5, 2012 3:11 PM

He also has no idea how many parties I simply wasn't invited to because I read Applied Cryptography for fun.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 5, 2012 5:37 PM

@ Friehiet,

He also has no idea how many parties I simply wasn't invited to because I read Applied Cryptography for fun

When I was "wearing the green" I went to many parties where I'd sit quietly in the corner reading post grad and other material and then when I felt the party was at a point where I could join in safely I would.

There is actually a photo of a regimental do where I was sitting there with a book on group theory chatting amiably to the then Lord Mayor of London in full regalia who likewise had an interest in maths...

The odd thing about the regiment I was in was they had a lot of very smart people and they'd got so used to me doing it some of them would bring along papers etc for me to read if they thought I might be interested (and I usualy was) and we would often sit and chat about the papers after the party whilst waiting for breakfast etc. Perhaps even odder was the majority were from young ladies doing their Masters or Doctorates who would hunt me out to chat about some paper or another and there are one or two PhD theses with my name in the "dedication" bit.

It was all a bit wierd by even the standards of the day, but then the regiment was a bit odd ball any way and "cherised" us odduns because of what we could and did do over and above the basic soldiering.

We were unique at the time in that we designed and built our own radio kit or modified existing kit for long haul HF "special comms" with very low power out stations with low probability of detect and high power home stations where we designed and built the KW+ transmitters etc. The bandwidth of the coms was very narrow (

I must admit I still have the occasional urge to build the stuff again using modern ultra cheap technology to see if I can squease a dB or so more out of it and then DSSS it across a half meg or so of bandwidth just for the fun of it...

RobertTSeptember 5, 2012 9:36 PM

@Clive Robinison
"DSSS it across a half meg or so of bandwidth just for the fun of it... "

I can only imagine that this must have been a theme party...DSSS is so 80's!

You need to keep up with the times oldman, even in Mil circles the game has moved to DIDO systems with high order QAM over OFDM.

As for the really secret stuff, well I can tell you about it, BUT I'll have to....

Clive RobinsonSeptember 6, 2012 4:06 AM

@ RobertT,

I can only imagine that this must have been a theme party...DSSS is so 80's

I stopped wearing the green at the end of the 80's begining of the 90's because of the stupidity of Politico's.

Also it's a question of tools and parts in the scrap box... Now I know from what you've let slip you've got a "home shed" equiped out in a way many Unis would chearfully sell their estemed and much venerated chancellors into a millennia of Dante's inferno to get hold of. So I'm also assuming your scrap box contains a bit more than off the shelf components out of the likes of Digi-Key and Radio Shack?

But I also like longish sequence DSSS as a carrier mechanisum due to the fact it plays much more nicely in places like the HF band or even in "white space" the FCC is desperatly wrestling with. In the ninties I had a nice little system that had "wide notch' DSSS on the same transmitter as an ordinary ISB-SC system that enabled various interesting user and data modes for low cost tactical type systems (the fact it could FHSS as well was usefull for other reasons such as moving window jamming systems to prevent remotly activated devices but still alow PTT comms).

Now admitadly this could all be done fairly easily and conveniantly in a $5 SOC these days, but not only would it take the fun out of it, the development costs would also be well north of what I'd pay for out of my pocket.

And at the end of day DevlCost not BOM is what limits inovation these days :-(

BF SkinnerSeptember 6, 2012 7:32 AM

Fm the Amazon blurb for Hawley "Hawley suggests that the fundamental mistake in America's approach to national security is requiring a protocol for every contingency. Instead, he claims, we must learn to live with reasonable risk so that we can focus our efforts on long-term, big-picture strategy, rather than expensive and ineffective regulations that only slow us down."

What a pity he didn't have a postion of authority or oppourtunity to implement this notion.

Honestly why do they wait until after they are professionally safe and retire before they start agreeing with their critics?

BondSeptember 6, 2012 11:27 AM

@ bob, @ Friehiet, @ Clive,

In a similar wein, I first read Bruce's crypto book while in the green room (backstage) during my first theatrical production. Good thing I had a fairly minor role so I got a lot of reading done between walk-ons.

RobertTSeptember 6, 2012 4:26 PM

"But I also like longish sequence DSSS as a carrier mechanisum due to the fact it plays much more nicely in places like the HF band or even in "white space"..."

Hmmm I'm not sure that I agree, wide band HF comms is typically limited by multipath fading rather than noise floors, so it is exactly these frequencie bands that benefit the most from OFDM techniques.

The typical problem with DSSS is the ISI (inter symbol interference) caused by multipath. to make it very wide band you need to equalize the signal across the entire band, which btw is dynamically changing. Anyway this is definitely OT so I'll leave it.

PS To prototype HF systems is very easy these days. Anyone can buy 14 bit 200Mhz ADC's and DAC's, off the shelf, (ADI, LTC, TI..) with a little work there is no problem interlacing these COTs parts to make a 14bit 1Gsps ADC / DAC. This analog block makes HF radio very easy.

Single FPGA's are definitely big enough, these days, to fit an entire OFDM / FEC system Mod/Demod and digital interface. So all you need is the external DSP and you can make some very nice bespoke HF comms systems .

The older FPGA prototype boards can be easily purchased on Ebay for a few hundred, plus Octave is just as good as Matlab for many of these comms apps. Development costs should not be big factor in prototyping HF systems, no more than maybe $2K.

Anyway, you really need to get back into the game because the young guys are all digital comms hacks and have never known the old school HF design methods. There is a lot of value in combining old school knowledge with new technology!

Actually CSIRO has a HF DIDO development project just started, its a bit hush hush but I'm sure you can find the details.

Another KevinSeptember 8, 2012 9:54 AM

I came for Schneier's pithy observations; I stayed for the off-topic threads. Bravi to the RF hackers.

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