REVIEW: "Steal This Computer Book 4.0", Wallace Wang
- BKSTLTCB.RVW 20060819
"Steal This Computer Book 4.0", Wallace Wang, 2006, 1-59327-105-0,
%A Wallace Wang bothecat@...
%C 555 De Haro Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, CA 94107
%I No Starch Press
%O U$29.95/C$38.95 415-863-9900 fax 415-863-9950 info@...
%O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 361 p. + CD-ROM
%T "Steal This Computer Book 4.0: What They Won't Tell You About the
This book is still being promoted as a security text. The table of
contents lists a bewildering variety of topics, most related to
security breaking. The introduction doesn't really provide much
information about what the book is about, either, except that it
appears to be big on self-improvement. It seems to imply that the
book isn't meant as a how-to manual for hacking, but more as a
philosophical statement urging people to think for themselves. In
response, all that I can say is that neither the promotion of the book
nor the text itself stresses this intention, and I personally cannot
find any utility in the volume for teaching critical thinking skills.
Part one is supposed to be a historical look at "hackers." Chapter
one says that curiosity is good, and the US government did very bad
things to some of its own people. Phone phreaking stories are in
chapter two. Chapter three provides random information about social
engineering (aka "lying") and locks.
Part two turns to early (PC era) computers. Chapter four tells you
how to write an ANSI bomb (be still my beating heart), and retails
haphazard (old) information about (old) viruses. Stories about
trojans and misinformation about worms is in chapter five, while tales
of software copyright are in six.
Part three moves to the Internet. Chapter seven tells you where to
find "hackers," and tries to confuse the distinction between whitehat
and blackhat. Port scanning and wardriving get an overview in chapter
eight. Nine lists a few password attacks. Minimal material on
rootkits makes up chapter ten. Chapter eleven starts with a
discussion of filtering and DNS (Domain Name Service) poisoning, and
then lists some examples of censorship. Chapter twelve takes a quick
peek at file sharing networks, without much review of the technology.
Part four looks into "real world" hackers. Just what this might be is
not clear, but might be intimated by the fact that chapter thirteen
lists Internet frauds. Fourteen gets into cyberstalking and gathering
information about individuals online. The fact that corporate news
sources have been caught faking "news" photographs and other items is
used, in chapter fifteen, to suggest that blogs are a better source of
news. Various hacktivist activities are described in chapter sixteen.
Chapter seventeen lists some online hate activities.
I am afraid to say that I agree with Wang on part five: the future of
online malicious activity will increasingly involve profit. Chapter
eighteen looks at identity theft and spam. Web advertising, mostly of
the pop-up type, is in nineteen. Chapter twenty reviews spyware.
Part six purportedly provides information about protection. Chapter
twenty-one suggests how to save money via the Internet (without really
emphasizing the fact that you have to be pretty careful pursuing that
objective). Chapter twenty-two notes a few things about forensics and
mentions ways to get rid of some information automatically stored in
your computer. Hardening your computer is a good idea, but the
content of chapter twenty-three is unreliable: it is unlikely to help
secure your computer, and may end up damaging it.
Bottom line? This book is unfocused in conception and hasty in
execution. Yes, it is aimed at a technically unsophisticated
audience, but yelling "hey, watch out" is unlikely to be of help to
anyone. (One suspects that it would be appropriate for this book to
have a "code orange" cover.) On the one hand, it does not provide the
esoteric information that both the author and publisher promise, so it
isn't any threat. On the other hand, the author demonstrates no
particular technical skill or knowledge on any topic, so it hasn't any
other value, either. This random collection of information may
provoke some thought in non-technical computer users, but browsing of
the net for yourself is probably much, much more useful in that
regard. This edition is much more technically focused than the first
edition, but no more useful.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998, 2006 BKSTLTCB.RVW 20060819
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