- Amazon Student members save an additional 10% on Textbooks with promo code TEXTBOOK10. Enter code TEXTBOOK10 at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)
The Myths of Security: What the Computer Security Industry Doesn't Want You to Know Paperback – Jun 29 2009
|New from||Used from|
Special Offers and Product Promotions
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
About the Author
John Viega is CTO of the Software-as-a-Service Business Unit atMcAfee, and was previously Vice President, Chief Security Architect atMcAfee. He is an active advisor to several security companies,including Fortify and Bit9, and is the author of a number of securitybooks, including Network Security with OpenSSL (O'Reilly) and BuildingSecure Software (Addison-Wesley).
John is responsible for numerous software security tools and is theoriginal author of Mailman, the popular mailing list manager. He hasdone extensive standards work in the IEEE and IETF, and co-inventedGCM, a cryptographic algorithm that NIST (US Department of Commerce)has standardized. He holds a B.A. and M.S. from the University ofVirginia.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
This book has the challenge of attempting to reach a wide audience and, as such, at times becomes either too light on topics requiring heavy discussion or too in depth in areas which I thought might have needed a high level overview. Again, I consider my background to influence my interest and retention on these topics and clearly Mr. Viega knows his stuff. At times I found myself looking for more on a specific topic on an idea (Privacy perhaps?) or skipping ten pages on something which wasn't particularly interesting to me. But these are perils of the industry and I can't fault the author for that.
For the most part, I believe the target audience is the computer consumer home hobbyist more than the professional or enterprise concerned. That's not to say that the security professionals won't gain knowledge by reading this book, but rather it's written at a level that anyone with an interest can read. Actually, if you're a budding entrepreneur, Mr.Read more ›
Mr. Viega provides the current state of many security issues and topics from his point of view. He certainly has interesting ideas and bold comments on the topics he covers. He also offers some practical advice in some chapters.
I recommend this informative and fun book to anyone interested in reading a collection of short discussions on some security topics written by someone working within the security industry.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
TMOS is strongest when Viega talks about the antivirus (or antimalware, or endpoint protection, or whatever host-centric security mechanism you choose) industry. I didn't find anything to be particularly "myth-shattering," however. I have to agree with two of the previous reviewers. Many of the "chapters" in this book could be blog posts. The longer chapters could be longer blog posts. The lack of a unifying theme really puts TMOS at a disadvantage compared to well-crafted books. I was not a huge fan of The New School of Information Security or Geekonomics (both 4 stars), but those two titles are better than TMOS.
If you want to read books that will really help you think properly about digital security, the two must-reads are still Secrets and Lies by Bruce Schneier and Security Engineering, 2nd Ed by Ross Anderson. I would avoid Bruce's sequel, Beyond Fear -- it's ok, but he muddles a few concepts. (Heresy, I know!) I haven't read Schneier on Security, but I imagine it is good given the overall quality of his blog postings.
If you want to shatter some serious myths, spend time writing a book on the "80% myth," which is stated in a variety of ways by anyone who is trying to demonstrate that insider threats are the worst problem facing digital security. If you're going to pretend to debunk open source security, why not back it up with some numbers? Studies have been published recently, and original research and results would be welcome. How about demonstrating that user awareness training wastes money, because enough marks fall prey anyway? I'd also like to see research showing that frequent password changes are worse for security, not better. Wrap all of that in a coherent manner with substantial chapters and you have a real TMOS book.
The reality is that while security evangelists such as Viega write valuable books such as this, it is for the most part falling on deaf ears. Most people don't understand computer security and its risks, and therefore places themselves and the systems they are working in danger. Malware finds computers to load on, often in part to users who are oblivious to the many threats.
Much of the book is made up of Viega's often contrarian views of the security industry. With so much hype abound, many of the often skeptical views he writes about, show what many may perceive are information security truths, are indeed security myths.
From the title of the book, one might think that there is indeed a conspiracy in the computer security industry to keep users dumb and insecure. But as the author notes in chapter 45 -- An Open Security Industry, the various players in the computer security industry all work in their own fiefdoms. This is especially true when it comes to anti-virus, with each vendor to a degree reinventing the anti-virus wheel. The chapter shows how sharing amongst these companies is heavily needed. With that, the book's title of What the Computer Security Industry Doesn't Want You to Know is clearly meant to be provocative, but not true-life.
The book is made up of 48 chapters, on various so called myths. Most of the chapter are 2-3 pages in length and tackle each of these myths. The range of topics covers the entire security industry, with topics spanning from various security technologies, issues, risks, and people.
While not every chapter is a myth per se, many are. Perhaps the most evocative of the security myth is chapters 10 -- Four Minutes to Infection and chapter 22 -- Do Antivirus Vendors Write their own Viruses?. But the bulk of the book is not about myths per se, rather an overview of the state of information security, and why it is in such a state.
In chapter 16, The Cult of Schneier [full disclosure -- Bruce Schneier and I work for the same company], Viega takes Schneier to task for the fact that many people are using his book Applied Cryptography, even though it has not been updated in over a decade. It is not fair to blame him for that. While Viega admits that he holds Schneier in high esteem, the chapter reads like the author is somehow jealous of Schneier's security rock star status.
Chapter 18 is on the topic of security snake oil, ironically a topic Schneier has long been at the forefront of. The chapter gives the reader sage advice that it is important to do their homework on security products you buy and to make sure you have at least a high-level understanding of the technical merits and drawbacks of the security product at hand. The problem though is that the vast majority of end-users clearly don't have the technical wherewithal to do that. It is precisely that scenario that gives rise to far too many security snake-oil vendors.
Perhaps the best chapter in the book, and the one to likely get the most comments, is chapter 24 -- Open Source Security: A Red Herring. Viega takes on Eric Raymond's theory of open source security that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." Viega notes that a large challenge with security and open source is that a lot of the things that make for secure systems are not well defined. Viega closes with the argument that one can argue open versus closed source forever, but there isn't strong evidence to suggest that it is the right question to be asking in the first place.
Overall, The Myths of Security: What the Computer Security Industry Doesn't Want You to Know is good introduction to information security. While well-written and though provoking, the book may be too conceptual and unstructured for an average end-user, and too basic for many experienced information security professionals. But for those that are interested, the book covers the entire gamut of the information security, and the reader, either security pro or novice, comes out much better informed.
While the author makes it clear he works for McAfee, and at times takes the company to task; the book references McAfee far too many times. At times the book seems like it is an advertisement for the company.
Viega does give interesting and often entertaining overviews of what we often take for granted. Some of the books arguments are debatable, but many more are a refreshing look at the dynamic information security industry. Viega has sat down and written his observations of what it going on. They are worth perusing, and the book is definitely worth reading.
Chapter 5, "Test of a Good Security Product: Would I Use It?", he then lists some he uses and those he doesn't:
Under the "he does use it" category: "I've been forced to run god-awful VPN (virtual private net-work) software at work (usually the crappy Cisco client). This allows me to access my company's resources even when I'm not actually in the office."
So I take it the god-awful software is a pass of this test? And the use of VPN software to access internal office network resources is a revelation?
Under the "he does NOT use it" category: he lists firewalls and his reasoning? Because he does not need to use one at home, on account that his cable MODEM and wireless router are NAT capable and therefore hosts behind them are not externally addressable. So firewalls fail the "good security product" test because John Viega does not need them at home? Seriously?
He then ends the "does NOT use" category with "Any other consumer security product"!
In Chapter 16, "The Cult of Schneier", he has a few stabs at Bruce Schneier, but does not give any specifics with the technical depth that Bruce Schneier deserves. He complains that Applied Cryptography is overly referred to by Schneier cultists, given that it has been 13 years since it was updated and the field has advanced since then. He uses MD5 as an example of something that was considered very strong then but not now. From my recollection of that brilliant cryptography foundation, Bruce mentioned that MD5 was suspected to have a weakness.
Edit: Dug out my much loved and tattered Applied Cryptography 2nd Ed. Here's the quote: "Tom Berson attempted to use differential cryptanalysis against a single round of MD5, but his attack is ineffective against all four rounds. A more successful attack by den Boer and Bosselaers produces collisions using the compression function of MD5. This does not lend itself to attacks against MD5 in Luby-Rackoff-like encryption algorithms. It does mean that one of the basic design priciples of MD5 - to design a collision-resistant compression function - has been violated. Although it is true that "there seems to be a weakness in the compression function, but it has no practical impact on the security of the hash function", I am wary of using MD5."
At the end of this chapter John states, "I'd like to make a plea for Schneierists to not accept every word Bruce Schneier has written as utterly factual". So the field has advanced 13 years from the snapshot in time that Applied Cryptography captured and so Bruce did not capture the facts at the time? So was there a better book at that time?
Under Chapter 27 "Virtualization: Host Security's Silver Bullet?", John suggests that Apple could get a leg up on Microsoft in the security of virtualization, by adding hardware support for virtualization in Open Firmware, "which it (Apple) controls". Strange, given that Apple have not mass shipped Open Firmware based computers (using the PowerPC archtecture), since the transition to EFI Intel based computers was completed in 2006. This book was first release three years after that!
He also claims that, "I think virtualization is the long-term future of host security", which flies in the face of Google research which found all x86 based virtualization products were vulnerable to attacks which allowed stepping out of an exploited virtual machine and into another adjacent virtual machine or even the host VM OS itself, seizing full control of the host and all virtual machines. Just take a look at all the advisories for the past years since that Google research to see that virtualization continues to provide a new attack surface for attackers.
Under Chapter 40 "VPNs Usually Decrease Security", John claims that VPN's reduce security because when an Internet connected client connects to a secured office network via VPN, it is now connected to the internet and the secured office network. But this is only practically true in for a split tunnel VPN configuration. If a corporation sets their laptops up for that, without anti-malware and a host firewall, then they get what they deserve.
There is nothing exceptional in this embarrassment of a book. It is filled with opinion that is not backed up. I'd expect this quality from a column in some monthly glossy PC magazine that is peddled from stands in the checkout aisle of super markets. I wish I could give zero stars. Really awful.
I applaude John for having the balls to write it.
Its not just a must read, its a must take note and must take action book!
I rate it two stars only on account of the occasional tidbit of juicy security/technology bits that you can add to your repertoire. It's a shame that the author chose to road he took to convey his ideas. I think it would be more respected if it were a straight up techy book.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Business & Investing > Industries & Professions > E-commerce
- Books > Business & Investing > Industries & Professions > High-Tech
- Books > Computers & Technology > Certification Central > Exams > Security+
- Books > Computers & Technology > Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence > Expert Systems
- Books > Computers & Technology > Computer Science > Software Engineering > Information Systems
- Books > Computers & Technology > Computer Science > Systems Analysis & Design
- Books > Computers & Technology > History & Culture > Privacy
- Books > Computers & Technology > Internet & Social Media
- Books > Computers & Technology > Networking & Cloud Computing > Internet, Groupware, & Telecommunications
- Books > Computers & Technology > Networking & Cloud Computing > Network Administration
- Books > Computers & Technology > Networking & Cloud Computing > Network Security
- Books > Computers & Technology > Networking & Cloud Computing > Networks, Protocols & APIs
- Books > Computers & Technology > Programming > Software Design, Testing & Engineering > Software Development
- Books > Computers & Technology > Security & Encryption
- Books > Computers & Technology > Software
- Books > Computers & Technology > Web Development > Security & Encryption > Viruses
- Books > Textbooks > Business & Finance
- Books > Textbooks > Computer Science & Information Systems > Networking