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REVIEW: "Secrets of Computer Espionage", Joel McNamara

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKSCCMES.RVW 20030902 Secrets of Computer Espionage , Joel McNamara, 2003, 0-7645-3710-5, U$35.00/C$52.99/UK#24.50 %A Joel McNamara %C 5353 Dundas
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 27, 2003
      BKSCCMES.RVW 20030902

      "Secrets of Computer Espionage", Joel McNamara, 2003, 0-7645-3710-5,
      %A Joel McNamara
      %C 5353 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
      %D 2003
      %G 0-7645-3710-5
      %I John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
      %O U$35.00/C$52.99/UK#24.50 416-236-4433 fax: 416-236-4448
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0764537105/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0764537105/robsladesin03-20
      %P 362 p.
      %T "Secrets of Computer Espionage"

      I suppose one might be able to make a case that this book is about
      computer espionage, but the contents are hardly secret. The fact that
      the introduction is decidedly vague about the audience--anyone
      concerned that someone might want to spy on their data--would lead one
      to suspect that this is another attempt to jump on a hot bandwagon,
      without necessarily doing a lot of research first. And, in this case,
      one would be right.

      In addition, this is, once again, a book about defence that provides
      more help to the attacker. Not much more, mind, but more. The
      countermeasures included after the attacks and penetration techniques
      are generally vague and not very useful. In quite a number of cases,
      the protections are irrelevant to the attacks described.

      Chapter one tells us about spies, and particularly that spies are
      purposeful. Never mind that the best data that researchers have been
      able to find points out that most network snooping and theft of
      computer equipment is random: the concentration on professional spies
      allows the author to present a much more sensational view. The
      overview of US federal laws, in chapter two, is rather short on any
      examination of legal concepts. The penetration activities described
      in chapter three are mostly physical, and even the computer invasions
      suggested in chapter four require physical access to the machine.
      About all that chapter five tells you about searching for evidence, is
      that you stand a better chance of finding it if you know how the
      machine works. I suppose this material might impress those who know
      very little about computers, but most of it is pretty simplistic and
      doesn't have enough detail to help newcomers, either to extract
      information or protect themselves.

      Chapter six briefly describes some means of cracking weak encryption.
      A list of data storage devices is presented in chapter seven.
      Keyloggers, both hardware and software, are outlined in chapter eight.
      Chapter nine primarily concentrates on remote access trojans, although
      it makes no distinctions in regard to other types. Network intrusion,
      in chapter ten, has countermeasures that are, unusually, *too*
      specific, dealing with particular exploits while not analyzing the
      concepts. Again, the countermeasures are not comprehensive in regard
      to the threats that are discussed. The overview of wireless security,
      in chapter eleven, is not bad, with decent research and an appropriate
      presentation for a general audience. Chapter twelve reviews other
      devices, such as secure telephones. Government surveillance tools, in
      chapter thirteen, are described well, and the text even includes
      mention of the various controversies, although without much analysis.

      Absent the strident and sensational tone of this book, is there
      anything really wrong with it? Well, I suppose not, but there isn't
      anything right with it, either. It is not a book about security in
      general, nor even privacy in particular. The protection measures
      suggested are generally only suitable for a computer neophyte, but the
      book does not provide adequate instruction for those users to apply
      the suggestions. As noted, the book is somewhat more appropriate for
      those trying to break into computers, but only somewhat: this is not
      exactly a guide for computer forensic analysts.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKSCCMES.RVW 20030902

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      Americans are a broad-minded people. They'll accept the fact that
      a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater, and
      even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive there's something
      wrong with him. - Art Buchwald
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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