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Posted April 6, 2009
The most interesting security-related book I've read since Schneier's "Applied Cryptography"
Before I bought this book I had seen some of Zalewski's work: his museum of broken packets and his famous Mozilla Firefox vulnerability reports. Because of that, I suspected Zalewski's book would be worth reading. Well, It actually turned out to be much more than that.
Silence on the wire is an awesome book, clearly targeted for security enthusiasts. In its 18 chapters, it shows many different (and often undetectable) ways in which an attacker can obtain useful information just by watching the way your systems behave. Did you know that in some cases it's possible to determine an attacker's system clock time that is port-scanning one of your boxes? Did you know that there are ways to identify decoys and spoofed packets? Or that you can recover the information being transmitted by a modem just by observing its LEDs? Reading the book you may find that your Ethernet card is leaking kernel-space information, that your system's pseudo-random-number-generator is not that random but totally predictable or that someone is remotely port-scanning your server while all you can see are incoming TCP SYN packets coming from a trusted box.
Every chapter starts with an introduction, then discusses one or more attack vectors and finally gives some "food for thought", this is, ideas for further research or further paranoia. Sometimes those introductions are longer than they should but at the same time they provide the background required to understand what comes next. For every chapter, the book also includes a list of references to relevant papers, specifications or research projects.
It is true that the book is 5 years old, but believe me, I didn't find a single line that was outdated. Hey, the book even talks about the recent Kaminsky's DNS vulnerability research and it was published 4 years before it became public! Its fair to say that some of the techniques explained in the book are difficult to use in real world situations but still, they will give you an idea of all the threats you are exposed to. Things can sometimes get scary...
Honestly, I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys network security from a technical point of view, anyone that has to protect critical systems against skilled attackers, or anyone that is interested on knowing how much can someone know about a computer system just using passive and undetectable techniques. I think this is the most interesting security-related book I've read since Schneier's "Applied Cryptography".
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Posted May 6, 2009
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