Book Review: Hacking Exposed: Network Security Secrets & Solutions

[The date of publication is not known.]

Hacking Exposed: Network Security Secrets & Solutions
Stuart McClure, Joel Scambray, George Kurtz
0072121270, 484 pages, McGraw-Hill

Since 1991, I have been involved in the security field in one way or another. Starting as a casual hobby and evolving into a career, it has been a predominant part of my life. In my spare time I have run a number of FTP archives, Web sites and participated in many mail lists. Because of this, many people seek me out for advice and answers. In all these years, the most frequently asked question of me has no simple answer. “How do I hack?” To date I have answered this with a wide variety of responses depending on how the question was asked, who asked it, and my general mood.

Lucky for me, I now have a quick and dirty way out of what sometimes proved to be a three page response to the question. While I have always maintained (and still do) that hacking can not truly be taught, some aspects certainly can be. The technical steps behind computer intrusion can be shared by knowledgeable people, giving a solid foundation for the steps and procedures required in compromising the security of a system. That is the goal of this book, and it does it quite well. To those with a basic understanding of how computers and networks operate, this book will teach them the basics of remote system auditing (also known as controlled penetration).

The book is divided into four main sections: Casing the Establishment, System Hacking, Network Hacking, and Software Hacking. Each section is further divided into separate chapters which cover various methods of system intrusion on different platforms. By breaking it down and separating information related to Unix and Windows NT, it adds clarity and avoids confusion between tools and techniques specific to a particular platform.

In Casing the Establishment, you learn the fine art of remote reconnaissance of machines on a remote network. To a dedicated security auditor, remote machines can give away a world of information that aids them in subsequent attacks. Oftentimes administrators are not aware of just how much information is shared out. The ability to pick this information out and use it to your advantage can often make the difference between gaining access and complete failure.

System Hacking goes into the specific details of breaking into remote hosts. Covering Windows, Novell and Unix, the authors cover a wide variety of methods, many of which are lost to newcomers to security auditing. Readers learn the nuances of brute force attacks, buffer overflows, symlink attacks and a lot more.

Network Hacking looks at the bigger picture and considers multiple machines as the intended target. Covering dial-ups, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), routers and more, these chapters aim to hit the critical infrastructure of many networks. Another critical appliance in any sensitive network is the Firewall. The final chapter in this section gives several ways to poke holes in the firewall so that it no longer acts as a complete dead end for you.

Software Hacking delves into details of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, remote access software, and advanced techniques. With more and more corporations using remote access software, they are finding it is leaving them wide open to attacks. These software packages are often a security auditors dream.

To everyone who has ever asked me ‘how to hack’, or anything to do with system penetration, start with this book. Read it cover to cover and you will save yourself a lot of time and effort otherwise wasted with search engines and outdated text files.

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