Book Review: "Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas


"Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas, 2004, 1-58720-099-6, U$29.95/C$42.95 %A Tom Thomas %C 800 East 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240 %D 2004 %G 1-58720-099-6 %I Cisco Press %O U$29.95/C$42.95 800-382-3419 %O

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Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 456 p. %T "Network Security First-Step"

The introduction defines the audience for this book very broadly: so broadly that it appears to try to be all things to all people, and simply, too! (Wireless security seems to be a major consideration.) The preface does specifically mention students and security professionals.

Chapter one is the usual "selling" section of the book: in this case promoting the idea that "hackers" are out there and trying to getcha. The material is only loosely organized, and seemingly more intent on proving that the author knows a bunch of "inside" information than on usefully informing the reader. (Thomas also tends to make thinly veiled attacks on Microsoft: many security experts are unhappy with some of Microsoft's decisions in regard to security, but snide references to "the richest man in the world" are unlikely to assist users in securing their systems.)

A couple of references for further study are mentioned: these are works that are more popular than accurate. Review questions are provided at the end: these are the all-too-standard simplistic reading checks. (Some of the answers provided don't actually answer the questions at all.) The review of security policies, in chapter two, is reasonable, but generic and terse. The bulk of the content comes in a sample set of functional security policies which touch on a few important topics, but will probably be of very limited use to most readers.

Supposedly an overview of security technologies, most of chapter three concentrates on defining different types of firewalls (and doesn't do a very good job with stateful inspection), with (for some odd reason) brief mentions of public key infrastructure and two centralized authentication systems. Chapter four lists a couple of cryptographic, a couple of tunneling, and the secure shell protocols. An introduction to the concept of firewalls, in chapter five, seems odd following the more detailed catalogue previously. In contradiction to the introduction's position, much of this content is complicated (not assisted by a lack of structure in the writing), and also becomes more specific to Cisco products, including pages of PIX configuration tables.

Routers would relate to packet filtering, one would think, but chapter six also contains content inspection and intrusion detection topics. (The material becomes even more focussed on Cisco, reprinting a twelve page secure IOS template.) Chapter seven, on virtual private networks, fails to stress the difference between tunnelling and encryption, does a very poor job of explaining IPSec (also seems to confuse the discrete log problem used by the Diffie- Hellman algorithm with the prime factoring used by RSA), and spends a large section at the end listing commands for configuring IPSec on Cisco products. The ordinary wireless security topics are in chapter eight. Chapter nine looks primarily at intrusion detection, and a little bit at honeypots. A list of attacks, more specific than those in chapter one, and some vulnerability scanning tools, are outlined in chapter ten.

In relation to the attempt to make the material simple, the author seems to assume that understanding equates with entertainment, and tries to provide humour. The attempts at witticisms are irrelevant and distracting. The student will find this text too facile, and of questionable accuracy in a number of places. The professional will find the work too disorganized to act as any kind of reference, and the content lacking in both analytical and implementation considerations.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2005 BKNTSCFS.RVW 20051106

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer) This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. - Dorothy Parker

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