Uses This

1279 interviews since 2009

A picture of Bruce Schneier
Image by David Betts.

Bruce Schneier

Security technologist

in developer, security, technologist, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Bruce Schneier, security technologist. Basically, I think and work in the intersection of security, technology, and people. Most people think of me as a cryptographer, but these days I do more policy than anything else: security policy, privacy policy, the NSA and surveillance. I suppose that's the natural evolution of things.

Right now I am thinking a lot about catastrophic risk. Technology empowers, for both good and bad. A broad history of "attack" technologies shows trends of empowerment, as individuals wield ever more destructive power. The natural endgame a nuclear bomb in everybody's back pocket, or a bioprinter that can drop a species. And then what? Is society even possible when the most extreme individual can kill everyone else? Honestly, I don't know.

As to what I do -- it's a lot of stuff. I write books, essays, and papers. I speak. I consult. I'm employed by Resilient Systems, Inc., which sells an Incident Response Platform. I fly a lot; last year my average speed was 30 mph.

My latest book is Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.

Basically, I read a lot of words in a row. And I write a lot of words in a row. My setup is optimized for words in a row.

What hardware do you use?

I need to be completely portable. My computer is a Sony Vaio, which seems to give me the best power/weight ratio. It's a Pro 13, but that's not important. What's important is that it weighs 2.5 pounds and has a long battery life -- and that it's not a touchscreen. The screen is pretty big, but I've worked on much worse screens to get the weight down. I also carry an iPhone 6 Plus -- the larger screen is nice -- and a few USB sticks for file transfer and backup. The computer's power supply has a built-in USB port, and I have a one-inch Lightning cable to charge my phone. I also have the cutest universal plug adapter in the world, that I found in Japan a decade ago. My goto pen is a Uniball Micro, in both black and blue.

That's it. That's all I travel with, and pretty much all I use.

And what software?

I don't like software gadgets any more than I like hardware gadgets. I use Windows 8.1 -- hate it -- and Microsoft Word. Lots of writers tell me I should use Scrivener, but it's much easier for me to keep using what I know than learn something new.

I still use Eudora for my e-mail (version 7.1, not the one based on Thunderbird), because I don't want my mail living in the cloud. I'd upgrade to something newer and better, but there isn't anything newer and better. Sooner or later a new Microsoft OS will break it, and I will be very sad.

If I need a text editor, I use Notepad++. Occasionally, I use Excel. I haven't used PowerPoint, or any other presentation software, in over a decade. When I give a talk, I do it without visual aids.

Firefox is my browser, with a whole bunch of security plug-ins like AdBlock Plus, BetterPrivacy, and HTTPS Everywhere. Sometimes I use Flashblock, but it breaks too many things.

I use Outlook to maintain my calendar and address book. I hate that program, too, but I can't find anything else that lets me sync locally to my iPhone without going through the cloud. I use Dropbox when I want to sync via the cloud and to share files, but only for things that I don't mind losing control of. For backup, I use Beyond Compare and a variety of external drives.

My computer and all external drives are encrypted, of course. I use GPG to encrypt e-mail -- but only under duress -- and OTR to encrypt chat sessions. I store all my passwords in Password Safe.

My iPhone has very few apps. I read books using the Kindle app. I have a bunch of travel apps: Kayak, GateGuru, Yelp, OpenTable, Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and several airline apps. I love the Swype keyboard. I use both FaceTime and Skype.

What would be your dream setup?

Anything smaller and lighter, with a longer battery life.

Actually, what I really want is a second screen for my laptop. I want a thin Bluetooth screen that I can sync with my computer and use as a second screen. That would be fantastic, as long as it doesn't weigh much.

For software, the one thing I have not been able to find is a good to-do manager. My two requirements are: 1) that it works even when there is no Internet, and 2) that I can sync directly between my computer and phone without having to store my data in the cloud. You'd think that would be easy, and yet. I still miss Palm Desktop.

And I would buy a fitness tracker in a minute if there was one that didn't use the cloud for storage.