[ISN] REVIEW: "Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Fri Jan 27 2006 - 02:16:29 PST

Forwarded from: "Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Hannah" <rMslade@private>

BKNTSCFS.RVW   20051106

"Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas, 2004, 1-58720-099-6,
%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 feedback@private 800-382-3419
%O  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587200996/robsladesinterne
%O   http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587200996/robsladesin03-20
%O   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

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

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2005   BKNTSCFS.RVW   20051106

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