Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My review for "Spies Among Us"

I just posted my review for Ira Winkler "Spies Among Us"; here it is:

"Fun and enlightening read - reviewed January 9, 2006 by Anton Chuvakin (NJ, USA) - See all my reviews

Ira Winkler's "Spies Among Us" finally cleared my head on the subject of ... oooh, so horrible ... " cyberterrorism." Intuitively, when you read about "cyberterrorism" you instantly think "what a load of bull", but the amount of press and "research" that you see coming about it, makes one wonder. As a result, I was somewhat confused about the subject. Until now! Ira's book finally cleared it: at this stage, "cyberterrorism" is positively, absolutely, 100% "bull product." Here is why: computer failures are an accepted thing. "Everybody knows" that computers "are flaky", and might crash at any time, taking your work (or a billion-dollar Martian probe :-)) with them. Thus, computers do a pretty good job damaging themselves and things around them, and, thus, people will not be terrified if it happens due to malicious actions by whatever cyber-terrorists. Now, the above obviously doesn't cancel the use of computers and the Internet by the terrorists, but this is not what is commonly understood as "cyberterror."

So, the book is fun! The book starts from "espionage concepts" and continues on to case studies (the most fun part!) and countermeasures parts. "Spies among us" also highlight some commonly overlooked truths in the security arena, such as that users' errors are more damaging, in aggregate, than all the malevolence of all the spies in the world. Acts of God, not "hackers", run a close second. Also, the section on countermeasures really stresses the point that many a sophisticated attack was ruined by the simplest countermeasures, applied deliberately and consistently.

Among other things, I loved the insider profiling bit, where the profile of the hardest working employee matches that of a "typical industrial spy." I also liked his country by country espionage coverage, such as how are Russian spies different from Chinese spies :-) Overall, while the book clearly aims at a non-technical audience, even seasoned security professionals will benefit (or at least will have fun reading it), if not from the information, but from reliving Ira's experiences ("Can your organization be penetrated THIS way?"). Everybody related to security (and many who are not) should get the book!

Dr Anton Chuvakin, GCIA, GCIH, GCFA is a recognized security expert and book author. In his current role as a Security Strategist with netForensics, a security information management company, he is involved with defining future features and conducting security research. A frequent conference speaker, he also represents the company at various security meetings and standard organizations. He is an author of a book "Security Warrior" and a contributor to "Know Your Enemy II", "Information Security Management Handbook" and the upcoming "Hacker's Challenge 3". Anton also published numerous papers on a broad range of security subjects. In his spare time he maintains his security portal at info-secure.org and two blogs."

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Dr Anton Chuvakin