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REVIEW: "Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent", Ryan Russell

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKSTNHOC.RVW 20040721 Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent , Ryan Russell, 2004, 1-931836-05-1, U$49.95/C$69.95 %E Ryan Russell
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9 9:06 AM
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      BKSTNHOC.RVW 20040721

      "Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent", Ryan Russell, 2004,
      1-931836-05-1, U$49.95/C$69.95
      %E Ryan Russell BlueBoar@...
      %C 800 Hingham Street, Rockland, MA 02370
      %D 2004
      %G 1-931836-05-1
      %I Syngress Media, Inc.
      %O U$49.95/C$69.95 781-681-5151 fax: 781-681-3585 www.syngress.com
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836051/robsladesinterne
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836051/robsladesinte-21
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836051/robsladesin03-20
      %P 402 p.
      %T "Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent"

      This book is fiction (more a series of short stories or scenarios than
      a novel), but, like Winn Schwartau's "Pearl Harbor Dot Com" (cf.
      BKPRHRDC.RVW, and "Terminal Compromise" before it, BKTRMCMP.RVW),
      the
      authors intend the book to be taken as a serious addition to security
      literature.

      Chapter one is basically about hiding and paranoia. The central
      character seems to be using a considerable amount of money to hide
      while setting up some kind of crime, and then abandons everything.
      The points in regard to ensuring computers and data are unrecoverable
      are interesting, and probably workable. The more important aspects of
      the plot which involve creating a team, employing cutouts, and
      disappearing are left almost completely undetailed. If, therefore, we
      are supposed to learn anything either about crime, or how to detect or
      prevent it, the content and information simply aren't there. The
      claim that the "technology" is real, and would work, is unverifiable
      because we haven't had any technology yet. (The writing is edgy,
      interesting, and mostly readable. However, it's also difficult and
      confused in places.)

      The story continues, via another character (two, actually) in chapter
      two. This time the technical aspects are more detailed (and fairly
      realistic) although the community factors are questionable (and the
      story has some important gaps). (I can personally vouch for the fact
      that the description of the physical attributes of that specific hotel
      are bang on, although the ... umm ... social amenities are not.) An
      "Aftermath" section is at the end of every chapter. In some instances
      the segment provides a little advice on detecting the attacks
      described in the story, but this is by no means true in all cases.
      Nothing much is added in chapter three: a wireless network is
      penetrated for a second time. Man-in-the-middle attacks, some IP, and
      UNIX cracking are added in chapter four, phone phreaking in five, and
      sniffing and rootkits in six. Chapters seven and eight describe
      software analysis and exploits. Malware is used in chapter nine,
      although there are the usual unresolved problems with directing
      attacks and limiting spread. The lack of particulars on the intent of
      the attack makes the chapter quite perplexing.

      As with any volume where multiple authors work on separate chapters,
      the quality of the writing varies. (That the authors did strive
      together on the overall plot is evident from a few subtle ties between
      different stories. An appendix lists some of the discussion in this
      regard: for those interested in the process of writing and
      collaboration it is an interesting piece in its own right.) One
      specific point is that a few sections have very stilted dialogue.
      Overall, most of the book is readable as fiction, although it is
      hardly thriller level plotting.

      Since it is fiction, the story has to be a story, and interesting, and
      therefore contain elements that are not related to the technology
      under examination. It is difficult to draw the line between not
      enough and too much, but the authors do seem to have included an awful
      lot of material that is unimportant either to the security functions
      or to the plot. A number of these digressions are simply confusing.

      The characters used in the stories are frequently stereotypes,
      although not always of the same type. (I was very amused by the note
      that the book attempted to remain true to geek culture, including
      "swearing, boorishness, and allusions to sex without there being any
      actual sex.") If you watch a lot of movies with somewhat technical
      themes you can recognize where quite a number of personae come from.

      Basic editing is the province of the publisher rather than the
      author(s), but it must be noted that spelling, grammatical, and
      typographical errors are surprisingly common. Not enough to be a real
      annoyance, but a proper copy edit would have improved the book quite a
      bit.

      This book is certainly interesting enough (albeit rather disjointed)
      as fiction, and technical enough for everyone tired of the usual
      Hollywood view of computers. The security risks noted are real, and
      therefore a read through the book could be used to alert non-
      specialists to a number of security issues and vulnerabilities
      (although you'd hardly want to use it for training). I enjoyed it and
      I think it's got a place, although I'm having difficulty in defining
      where that place is.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKSTNHOC.RVW 20040721


      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      After the rush is over, I'm going to have a nervous breakdown.
      I've worked for it, I owe it to myself, and nobody is going to
      deprive me of it.
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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