Tip: Information Security Reading

Information security is tricky business but fortunately we have Bruce Schneier. Whenever information security comes up in my classroom, I encourage my students to subscribe to his CRYPTO-GRAM newsletter (a blog with RSS is available, too).

Crypto-Gram is published monthly and it’s long. You can easily find 30 minutes to an hour of reading in each issue. Start following links and you can invest hours in each issue. That is to say, Schneier provides a selection of material you can use every month in the classroom.

For example, in the February 2007 newsletter, Schneier compliments what he calls “security theater”:

While visiting some friends and their new baby in the hospital last week, I noticed an interesting bit of security. To prevent infant abduction, all babies had RFID tags attached to their ankles by a bracelet. There are sensors on the doors to the maternity ward, and if a baby passes through, an alarm goes off.

Infant abduction is rare, but still a risk.

So why are hospitals bothering with RFID bracelets? I think they’re primarily to reassure the mothers. Many times during my friends’ stay at the hospital the doctors had to take the baby away for this or that test. Millions of years of evolution have forged a strong bond between new parents and new baby; the RFID bracelets are a low-cost way to ensure that the parents are more relaxed when their baby was out of their sight.

Schneier has a knack for pointing out the real risks in security scenarios. I think it’s excellent reading for high school students — and not just the computer geeks — because of the everyday scenarios (airport security, for example) he uses.

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