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Open Source Security Tools: Practical Guide to Security Applications, A Paperback – Jul 29 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (July 29 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321194438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321194435
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 975 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,913,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

Open source software is such an integral part of the Internet that is it safe to say that the Internet wouldn’t exist as we know it today without it. The Internet never would have grown as fast and as dynamically as it did without open source programs such as BIND, which controls the domain name system; Sendmail, which powers most e-mail servers; INN, which runs many news servers; Major Domo, which runs many of the thousands of mailing lists on the Internet; and of course the popular Apache Web server. One thing for sure is that the Internet is a lot cheaper due to open source software. For that, you can thank the Free Software Foundation, BSD UNIX, Linux and Linus Torvalds, and the thousands of nameless programmers who put their hard work and sweat into the programs that run today’s Internet.

While open source programs cover just about every aspect of computer software—from complete operating systems and games to word processors and databases—this book primarily deals with tools used in computer security. In the security field, there are programs that address every possible angle of IT security. There are open source firewalls, intrusion detection systems, vulnerability scanners, forensic tools, and cutting-edge programs for areas such as wireless communications. There are usually multiple choices in each category of mature, stable programs that compare favorably with commercial products. I have tried to choose the best of breed in each major area of information security (in my opinion, of course!). I present them in a detailed manner, showing you not just how to install and run them but also how to use them in your everyday work to have a more secure network. Using the open source software described in this book, you can secure your enterprise from both internal and external security threats with a minimal cost and maximum benefit for both the company and you personally.

I believe combining the concepts of information security with open source software offers one of the most powerful tools for securing your company’s infrastructure, and by extension the entire Internet. It is common knowledge that large-scale virus infections and worms are able to spread because many systems are improperly secured. I believe that by educating the rank-and-file system managers and giving them the tools to get the job done, we can make the Internet more secure, one network at a time.


The audience for this book is intended to be the average network or system administrator whose job duties are not specifically security and who has at least several years of experience. This is not to say that security gurus won’t get anything out of this book; there might be areas or tools discussed that are new to you. And likewise, someone just getting into IT will learn quite a bit by installing and using these tools. The concepts discussed and techniques used assume a minimal level of computer and network proficiency.

There is also a broad group of readers that is often overlooked by the many open source books. These are the Windows system administrators. The info-security elite often has a certain disdain for Windows-only administrators, and little has been written on quality open source software for Windows. However, the fact remains that Windows servers make up the lion’s share of the Internet infrastructure, and ignoring this is doing a disservice to them and the security community at large. While overall the book is still tilted towards Linux/UNIX because most open source programs are still Linux/UNIX-only, I have tried to put Windows-based security tools in every chapter. I’ve also included helpful hints and full explanations for those who have never run a UNIX machine.


This book covers most of the major areas of information security and the open source tools you can use to help secure them. The chapters are designed around the major disciplines of information security and key concepts are covered in each chapter. The tools included on the book’s CD-ROM allow for a lab-like environment that everyone can participate in. All you need is a PC and this book’s CD-ROM to start using the tools described herein.

This book also contains some quick tutorials on basic network terminology and concepts. I have found that while many technicians are well-schooled in their particular platforms or applications, they often lack an understanding of the network protocols and how they work together to get your information from point A to point B. Understanding these concepts are vital to securing your network and implementing these tools properly. So while this book may seem slanted towards the network side of security, most of the threats are coming from there these days, so this is the best place to start.

Coverage of each security tool is prefaced by a summary of the tool, contact information, and various resources for support and more information. While I give a fairly detailed look at the tools covered, whole books can and have been written on many of the programs discussed. These resources give you options for further research.

Helpful and sometimes humorous tips and tricks and tangents are used to accent or emphasize an area of particular importance. These are introduced by Flamey the Tech, our helpful yet sometimes acerbic mascot who is there to help and inform the newbies as well as keeping the more technical readers interested in sections where we actually make some minor modifications to the program code. He resembles the denizens you may encounter in the open source world. In exploring the open source world, you will meet many diverse, brilliant, and sometimes bizarre personalities (you have to be a least a little bent to spend as much unpaid time on these programs as some of us do). Knowing the proper etiquette and protocol will get you a lot farther and with fewer flames. On a more serious note, many of the tools in this book can be destructive or malicious if used in the wrong ways. You can unintentionally break the law if you use these tools in an uninformed or careless manner (for example, accidentally scanning IP addresses that aren’t yours with safe mode off). Flamey will always pipe up to warn you when this is a possibility.

Open Source Security Tool Index

Immediately following this Preface is a listing of all the tools and the pages where they are covered. This way you can skip all the background and go straight to installing the tools if you want.

Chapter 1: Information Security and Open Source Software

This chapter offers an introduction to the world of information security and open source software. The current state of computer security is discussed along with a brief history of the open source movement.

Chapter 2: Operating System Tools

This chapter covers the importance of setting up your security tool system as securely as possible. A tool for hardening Linux systems is discussed as well as considerations for hardening Windows systems. Several operating system-level tools are reviewed too. These basic tools are like a security administrator’s screwdriver and will be used again and again throughout the course of this book and your job.

Chapter 3: Firewalls

The basics of TCP/IP communications and how firewalls work are covered here before jumping into installing and setting up your own open source firewall.

Chapter 4: Port Scanners

This chapter delves deeper into the TCP/IP stack, especially the application layer and ports. It describes the installation and uses for a port scanner, which builds up to the next chapter.

Chapter 5: Vulnerability Scanners

This chapter details a tool that uses some of the earlier technology such as port scanning, but takes it a step further and actually tests the security of the open ports found. This security Swiss army knife will scan your whole network and give you a detailed report on any security holes that it finds.

Chapter 6: Network Sniffers

This chapter primarily deals with the lower levels of the OSI model and how to capture raw data off the wire. Many of the later tools use this basic technology, and it shows how sniffers can be used to diagnose all kinds of network issues in addition to tracking down security problems.

Chapter 7: Intrusion Detection Systems

A tool that uses the sniffer technology introduced in the previous chapter is used here to build a network intrusion detection system. Installation, maintenance, and optimal use are also discussed.

Chapter 8: Analysis and Management Tools

This chapter examines how to keep track of security data and log it efficiently for later review. It also looks at tools that help you analyze the security data and put it in a more usable format.

Chapter 9: Encryption Tools

Sending sensitive data over the Internet is a big concern these days, yet it is becoming more and more of a requirement. These tools will help you encrypt your communications and files with strong encryption as well as create IPsec VPNs.

Chapter 10: Wireless Tools

Wireless networks are becoming quite popular and the tools in this chapter will help you make sure that any wireless networks your company uses are secure and that there aren’t wireless LANs you don’t know about.

Chapter 11: Forensic Tools

The tools discussed in this chapter will help you investigate past break-ins and how to properly collect digital evidence.

Chapter 12: More On Open Source Software

Finally, this chapter will give you resources for finding out more about open source software. Various key Web sites, mailing lists, and other Internet-based resources are identified. Also, I give a number of ways to become more involved in the open source movement if you so desire.

Appendix A: Common Open Source Licenses

Contains the two main open source licenses, the GPL and BSD software licenses.

Appendix B: Basic Linux/UNIX Commands

Contains basic navigation and file manipulation commands for those new to UNIX and Linux.

Appendix C: Well-Known TCP/IP Port Numbers

Contains a listing of all the known port numbers as per IANA. Note that this section is not intended to be comprehensive and is subject to constant update. Please check the IANA Web site for the most current information.

Appendix D: General Permission and Waiver Form

Contains a template for getting permission to scan a third-party network (one that is not your own). This is intended to be used as an example only and is not intended as a legal document.

Appendix E: Nessus Plug-ins

Contains a partial listing of plug-ins for the Nessus Vulnerability Scanner discussed in Chapter 5. This listing will not be the most current since the plug-ins are updated daily. The Nessus Web site should be consulted for plug-ins added after January 12, 2004.

CD-ROM Contents and Organization

The CD-ROM that accompanies this book has most of the open source security tools on it for easy access and installation. The disk is organized into directories labeled by tool. If there are separate files for Windows and Linux, they will be in their own directories. The directory “Misc” has various drivers and other documentation such as RFCs that will be of general use through your reading.

Using the Tools

Whenever possible, the tools in this book are provided in RedHat Package Manager (RPM) format. Of course, you don’t have to be running RedHat Linux to use RPM. The RedHat folks originally designed it, but now it comes with most Linux versions. The RedHat Package Manager automates the installation process of a program and makes sure you have all the supporting programs and so forth. It is similar to a Windows installation process where you are guided through the process graphically and prompted where necessary. Using the RPM is almost always preferable to doing a manual installation. When you need to set custom install parameters or if a RPM file is not available for your distribution, I describe how to install the program manually. If the RPM file is provided, simply download the file or copy it from the CD-ROM that comes with this book and click on it. Your version of RPM will take care of the rest.

If you use any of the other variations of UNIX (BSD, Solaris, HP/UX, and so on), they will probably work with the tools in this book, but the installation instructions may be different. You can run most of the tools in this book on alternative versions of UNIX or Linux. Staying within the Linux family will certainly make compatibility more likely with the actual tools on the CD-ROM. If you have to download a different version of the program, some of the features discussed may not be supported. But if you are a Solaris aficionado or believe that BSD is the only way to go, feel free to use it as your security workstation. Just be aware that the instructions in this book were designed for a specific implementation and you may have to do some additional homework to get it to work. The platforms supported are listed at the beginning of each tool description.

Reference Installation

Most of the tools in this book were tested and reviewed on the following platforms:

  • Mandrake Linux 9.1 on a HP Vectra series PC and a Compaq Presario laptop.
  • Windows XP Pro and Windows 2000 Pro on a Compaq Prosignia series desktop and Compaq Armada laptop.
Input or Variables

In code and command examples, italics are used to designate user input. The words in italics should be replaced with the variables or values specific to your installation. Operating system-level commands appear like this:

ssh -l login hostname

Due to page size limits, code lines that wrap are indented with a small indent.

I hope you enjoy and learn from this book. There are many, many more tools that I couldn’t include due to space limitations, and I apologize in advance if I didn’t include your favorite tool. I had room to cover only my favorites and tried to pick the best of breed in each category. I’m sure some will differ with my choices; feel free to e-mail me at tony@howlett.org, and perhaps those will make it into a future edition.


From the Back Cover

Few frontline system administrators can afford to spend all day worrying about security. But in this age of widespread virus infections, worms, and digital attacks, no one can afford to neglect network defenses.

Written with the harried IT manager in mind, Open Source Security Tools is a practical, hands-on introduction to open source security tools. Seasoned security expert Tony Howlett has reviewed the overwhelming assortment of these free and low-cost solutions to provide you with the “best of breed” for all major areas of information security.

Inside, you’ll find everything from how to harden Linux and Windows systems to how to investigate breaches with Sleuth Kit, Autopsy Forensic Browser, and Forensic Tool Kit. For each security task described, the author reviews the best open source tools and how to use them and also provides a case study and sample implementation. Covered tasks include:

  • Installing an open source firewall using Ipchains, Iptables, Turtle firewall, or Smoothwall
  • Scanning ports and testing for vulnerabilities using Nmap, Nlog, Nmap for Windows, Nessus,and NessusWX
  • Using sniffers and network-intrusion systems, including Tcpdump, Ethereal, Windump, Snort™, and Snort™ for Windows
  • Tracking and analyzing collected data with Swatch, ACID, and NCC
  • Encrypting communications with PGP, GnuPG, SSH, and Free S/WAN

This handy reference also tackles the emerging field of wireless security and covers tools such as Kismet Wireless, Airsnort, and Netstumber.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9bac0efc) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9be069c0) out of 5 stars Top down and bottoms up views Aug. 15 2004
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Howlett spans both the unix/linux and Microsoft worlds in his offering of free, open source security programs. There really is a surprising amount of reliable, free packages out there, for you to bolt down your network. He shows this at the book's start, with a simple but very convenient table of tools, like Ethereal, finger, OpenSSH, PGP, Snort and traceroute. Many others are also listed. Several are available on both operating systems. Here, I consider all the unix/linux OSs as one, and likewise with Microsoft.

The book can be regarded as a buildout of the table. Explaining each tool's best usage, with examples and screen captures. But Howlett offers more than just an encyclopaediac reference approach to the tools. That's more of a bottoms-up outlook. The book has a top-down view that starts with high level topics like firewalls and network sniffers and suggests how to understand the salient points. And thence use some tools optimised for these.

In passing, when he talks about why a cracker might want to break into your system, even if you have nothing in it worthwhile to her, he understates the danger. If you have a machine with a broadband connection, then a cracker has an economic incentive to take it over. She can use it to transmit spam (especially the phishing variety) to other, larger networks. Because open relays are getting closed up, to prevent spam, then some spammers are resorting to creating their own open relays, in this fashion. Howlett describes her using your system for DDOS attacks. But spam injection is actually a better reason, inasmuch as she can make money from this. Of course, this scarcely invalidates his text. If anything, it increases the need for it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9be06a14) out of 5 stars Outstanding Survey of Open Source Security Tools Dec 31 2004
By Bookreader1000 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent resource to help readers understand what open source tools are available to address every dimension of securing a computing infrastructure.

What I liked best about this book is that it did not assume an already-existing base of knowledge in the reader. Other books present information that assumes the reader already understands the topic, and therefor only needs the details of how to use the tool being discussed. Howlett's book provides a graduated discussion of every area, enabling a beginner to start from scratch and an experienced reader to glean the important details.

Also outstanding about this book is the fact that it covers pretty much all the areas of security an admin will need to address. If you work through this book, you can be pretty sure that you've covered all your bases.

Because of that, the book is like a survey, rather than an exhaustive discussion of any one area. However, the author always provides pointers to other places the reader can go for deeper material. I think this is a great way to organize material and really enjoyed the book because of it.

Overall, this is a great contribution to a critical area of computing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9be06e4c) out of 5 stars The High Value of FREE / Open Source Security Tools March 3 2005
By shuumai - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book provides a good overview of security tools. It could help readers get started by explaining security concepts and stepping the reader through installation of useful tools. (The book includes a CD containing the utilities covered in the text.) It doesn't however, give good coverage to interpreting the results of scans and monitoring.

About 1/4 to 1/3 of the book is wasted on appendices of readily available information. GPL and BSD licenses, well-known port numbers, and a huge list of Nessus plug-ins. The space might have been better utilized by providing coverage of virus scanners or even common application alternatives that are more resistant to attack. On the positive side, the information is there so you won't need to look for it on the Web.

I like the fact that the book covers utilities for both Linux and Windows. And the fact that the utilities are free and Open Source, of course. Just using one of the utilities covered in the book would save you many times the cost of the book.

I learned a few new tricks from this book even though I was already familiar with many of the utilities and concepts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b43b228) out of 5 stars Good for Beginner to Intermediate System Admins Dec 20 2004
By Atillla Ozgur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I consider myself a developer rather than system admin. But I enjoyed and learned quite a bit. I read this book in one 7 hours bus journey. It is very good on introducing new topics. It teaches you how to use programs and give recommandations.

I think my money is well spent.

Think it, this way. When you start to learn something new, you are bombarded with a lot of buzzwords and jargon. This book will teach you most of this buzzwords and you will learn quite a lot in reading this book. A internet search about tools will bring you more similar tools and new learning points.

As I said in the title, this books is about beginners. If you are a expert, I do not think you will gain a lot from this book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b43b30c) out of 5 stars Solid guide to security for the systems administrator Aug. 16 2004
By Jack D. Herrington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This thick security tome is a practical guide to security that seems ideally suited to systems administrators. There is a brief introduction to general security issues, then eleven chapters that cover tools and techniques. These include packet sniffing, data encryption, wireless security. An overall soup to nuts guide to practical security.

This book doesn't go from computer science theory and architecture, it starts with descriptions of the problems very close to the metal (often times showing packet layouts), and then covers point by point use of open source software to fix the holes.

The text is well written, if a little stiff, and the graphic are not overused but are not as sparse as O'Reilly. I recommend this book for Systems Administrators looking for a step by step guide to using open source security tools.