Latest Essays

Candidates Won't Hesitate to Use Manipulative Advertising to Score Votes

Advertising in the 2016 election is going to be highly personalized, targeting voters’ personal information to sway their decisions

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Guardian
  • February 4, 2016

This presidential election, prepare to be manipulated.

In politics, as in the marketplace, you are the consumer. But you only have one vote to "spend" per election, and in November you'll almost always only have two possible candidates on which to spend it.

In every election, both of those candidates are going to pull every trick in the surveillance-driven, highly personalized internet advertising world to get you to vote for them.

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The Internet Of Things Will Be The World's Biggest Robot

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Forbes
  • February 2, 2016

The Internet of Things is the name given to the computerization of everything in our lives. Already you can buy Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars. Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

These "things" will have two separate parts.

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Security vs. Surveillance

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Don't Panic: Making Progress on the 'Going Dark' Debate
  • February 1, 2016

Both the "going dark" metaphor of FBI Director James Comey and the contrasting "golden age of surveillance" metaphor of privacy law professor Peter Swire focus on the value of data to law enforcement. As framed in the media, encryption debates are about whether law enforcement should have surreptitious access to data, or whether companies should be allowed to provide strong encryption to their customers.

It's a myopic framing that focuses only on one threat—criminals, including domestic terrorists—and the demands of law enforcement and national intelligence. This obscures the most important aspects of the encryption issue: the security it provides against a much wider variety of threats.

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When Hacking Could Enable Murder

  • Bruce Schneier
  • CNN
  • January 26, 2016

Cyberthreats are changing. We're worried about hackers crashing airplanes by hacking into computer networks. We're worried about hackers remotely disabling cars. We're worried about manipulated counts from electronic voting booths, remote murder through hacked medical devices and someone hacking an Internet thermostat to turn off the heat and freeze the pipes.

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How an Overreaction to Terrorism Can Hurt Cybersecurity

  • Bruce Schneier
  • MIT Technology Review
  • January 25, 2016

Many technological security failures of today can be traced to failures of encryption. In 2014 and 2015, unnamed hackers—probably the Chinese government—stole 21.5 million personal files of U.S. government employees and others. They wouldn't have obtained this data if it had been encrypted.

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The Internet of Things That Talk About You Behind Your Back

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Motherboard
  • January 8, 2016

SilverPush is an Indian startup that's trying to figure out all the different computing devices you own. It embeds inaudible sounds into the webpages you read and the television commercials you watch. Software secretly embedded in your computers, tablets, and smartphones picks up the signals, and then use scookies to transmit that information back to SilverPush. The result is that the company can track you across your different devices. It can correlate the television commercials you watch with the web searches you make.

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The Risks—and Benefits—of Letting Algorithms Judge Us

  • Bruce Schneier
  • CNN
  • January 6, 2016

China is considering a new "social credit" system, designed to rate everyone's trustworthiness. Many fear that it will become a tool of social control—but in reality it has a lot in common with the algorithms and systems that score and classify us all every day.

Human judgment is being replaced by automatic algorithms, and that brings with it both enormous benefits and risks. The technology is enabling a new form of social control, sometimes deliberately and sometimes as a side effect.

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How the Internet of Things Limits Consumer Choice

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • December 24, 2015

In theory, the Internet of Things—the connected network of tiny computers inside home appliances, household objects, even clothing—promises to make your life easier and your work more efficient. These computers will communicate with each other and the Internet in homes and public spaces, collecting data about their environment and making changes based on the information they receive. In theory, connected sensors will anticipate your needs, saving you time, money, and energy.

Except when the companies that make these connected objects act in a way that runs counter to the consumer's best interests—as the technology company Philips did recently with its smart ambient-lighting system, Hue, which consists of a central controller that can remotely communicate with light bulbs.

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Can Laws Keep Up with Tech World?

  • Bruce Schneier
  • CNN
  • December 21, 2015

On Thursday, a Brazilian judge ordered the text messaging service WhatsApp shut down for 48 hours. It was a monumental action.

WhatsApp is the most popular app in Brazil, used by about 100 million people. The Brazilian telecoms hate the service because it entices people away from more expensive text messaging services, and they have been lobbying for months to convince the government that it's unregulated and illegal.

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The Automation of Reputation

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Edge.org
  • November 5, 2015

This essay is part of a conversation with Gloria Origgi entitled "What is Reputation?" Other participants were Abbas Raza, William Poundstone, Hugo Mercier, Quentin Hardy, Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield, Bruce Schneier, and Kai Krause.

Reputation is a social mechanism by which we come to trust one another, in all aspects of our society. I see it as a security mechanism. The promise and threat of a change in reputation entices us all to be trustworthy, which in turn enables others to trust us. In a very real sense, reputation enables friendships, commerce, and everything else we do in society.

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Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Resilient Systems, Inc.