|Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems|
|publisher||Wiley Computer Publishing|
|summary||An exceptional book on the dynamics of security engineering. A must have on all developers shelves who care about digital security and its impact on system design.|
The complexities of security engineering go beyond the ideals of understanding buffer overflows and considering that patching your systems is not an option. Many a Slashdot article (particularly the latest one on Louis Bertrand's OpenBSD presentation) has comments on the failings of code design. In Ross Anderson's book Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems, Ross goes into impeccable detail into the aspects of building systems resilient to malicious attack, abuse and programming error.
The book is well laid out, and in my opinion Ross properly segmented the topics in a way that makes the sections easy to read. The first section is focused on the many concepts of digital security such as protocols, access control and cryptography, and is written in a way so that you do not require a technical background to understand. It was refreshing to read how Ross explains cryptography in such a non-threatening manner that you can understand it without having to refer to Applied Cryptography from Bruce Schneier. Many authors have tried this in the past, and failed.
The second part of the book goes into considerable detail about practical and important applications such as banking and network attacks and defense. I have to be honest with you, I don't read a lot of books on software engineering that go into Radar Jamming and Nuclear Command and Control systems, and I found that sort of discussion exciting. (Although I have no interest in writing security code for the next cruise missile that will move the world to a level of DefCon quicker than that in movies like War Games, I still was quite interested in the approach.) Many of the examples and case studies that Ross explains bring the whole topic together to help strengthen the point about security engineering and its application to each system. Further to this, Ross' writing made me shutter to think about just how popular applications like bankcard systems have been written to be so weak and vulnerable. Before the book's main content, Ross includes an explanation the legalities of publishing some of this information. It wasn't until I started reflecting on some of the case studies that I realized how potent and valuable some of this information is, especially when I thought of potential risks that should have been mitigated and were not. Ross' examples should be considered textbook cases, though, and not information that can be drastically abused.
The third part looks into the organizational and policy issues faced with security engineering. From office politics to security and the law, this section goes into depth about managing security engineering and its affects on business and people. Compared to the rest of this book I found some of the topics in this section too short on detail, feeling like just a glancing blow, but still giving the reader enough information to seek more in depth content if they so choose. (Check out the bibliography for such information.) Discussing issues such as Carnivore, digital copyright, and system evaluation and assurance, this section rounds out the book quite well.
Why to Consider this Book
If you are a developer considering security (which should be all developers, anyways) this book provides a good balance on security engineering, and serves as an excellent reference work. It can work well as a textbook introducing developers to security engineering, and can be used as a good introduction to many dynamics of digital security. (Hint to COMP professors outside of Cambridge: get your students to read this book -- after you do of course).
Although you might not be able to use the section on radar jamming and its countermeasures directly, you may still be able to use principles in writing protected electronic systems while working on that new wireless system for Ma Bell. And finally, you should use this book as a brick in the foundation of learning on the concepts of writing secure code.
Something else you should consider in this book is the extensive bibliography in the back. If you want to follow up with more detailed information in any one section, Ross did an tremendous job in providing pointers to research papers and work done by others to read and research on. This in itself made the book well worth the money, as for me I have already read up and used some of the works I didn't have indexed to me before.
If you are going to read this book and look for samples to write secure code, you are going to pick up the wrong book. This book is a cornerstone in building a strong foundation and understanding of security engineering. This book is goes beyond understanding the practical components of buffer overflows, stack smashing and code audits for review, and takes the reader into a new plain of understanding when it comes to security engineering. It is not a cookbook for lazy script kiddies to learn how to attack weak systems, but can be used to allow you to learn from others mistakes. You don't have to be a developer working on security systems to gain some knowledge from this text. Areas in the book such as that on E-Commerce can very much help bridge the chasm of bad web application design and can help you refrain from getting in the trap of fast application development full of vulnerabilities and exposing users to unnecessary online risk.
It is the responsibility of all developers to understand the risks they expose their software and their clients to. I am sure some developers will have some excuse where their web forms and applications do not require them to learn such silly things. That's fine. Hopefully I wouldn't need to use your systems. For the rest of us though, this is a must read.Table of Contents
- What Is Security Engineering
- Access Control
- Distributed Systems
- Multilevel Security
- Multilateral Security
- Banking and Bookkeeping
- Monitoring Systems
- Nuclear Command and Control
- Security Printing and Seals
- Physical Tamper Resistance
- Emission Security
- Electronic and Information Warfare
- Telecom System Security
- Network Attack and Defense
- Protecting E-Commerce Systems
- Copyright and Privacy Protection
- Management Issues
- System Evaluation and Assurance
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