According to recent IT employment surveys, certification analyses, and polls of IT professionals, system and network security remain a valuable core competency, still well worthy of cultivation. To help you explore this fascinating field and appreciate its breadth and depth, Ed Tittel has put together a collection of two articles that together cover information security (or InfoSec, as it's sometimes called) as completely as possible. All the books in here are worth owningthough you may not need to acquire all books on identical or related topics from these lists. Together this compilation documents the best-loved and respected titles in this field. This is the second of two parts, so be sure to check out its predecessor story as well.
In this story, I present the second installment of a two-part series on computer security books, in which I recommend titles that are noteworthy for those with a professional or certification interest in this field. In my particular case, I'm updating materials relevant to the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam and digging my way through the most useful elements of a very large body of work on this subject matter. And of course, I want to make sure to take cognizance of "hot" new books in this area as well.
This list and its companion emerged from the following research:
- I drew on my own reading in this field since the early 1990s. Currently, my bookcases already include nearly five shelves of security books.
- I consulted every expert security reading list I could find, including recommended reading for a broad range of security certifications and various college-level computer security class syllabi, where available.
- I asked friends and colleagues who work in this field to provide feedback on my initial findings and to suggest additional entries.
Expert and ordinary reader reviewsand in about half the items mentioned here, my own personal experienceshow me that there's an amazing number of truly outstanding books in this field. If you find yourself reading something you don't like or can't understand on this topic, don't be afraid to investigate alternatives. There are plenty to choose from!
To avoid any potential unpleasantness involved in ranking these books, I present them in alphabetical order indexed by the primary author's last name. No other hidden criteria are at work, other than those unconscious influences on my selection process for this list. For that, you have only me to blame!
Anderson, Ross J.: Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems, 2e, Wiley, April 2008, ISBN-13: 0470068526.
Ask security experts why security is a problem for systems and applications, and they'll often tell you such problems result from failures to design for security from the get-go. This is one of a handful of books devoted to the topic of secure software design and implementation practices. It's good for software developers, but also for security professionals who must be able to draw attention to the principles and practices this book espouses. The second edition is even better than the first!
Barrett, Daniel J., Richard E. Silverman, and Robert G. Byrnes: SSH, the Secure Shell: The Definitive Guide, 2e, O'Reilly Media, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0596008956.
This book explains what the protocols and services that support SSH do to improve (or add) security for TCP/IP applications and services, and how they mesh with overall security policy matters. It covers how to install, configure, and manage an SSH server; and how to work with SSH client software. It also includes coverage of how SSH fits into PKI infrastructures, as well as how to detect and defeat various classes of possible attacks. The book also covers UNIX/Linux, Windows, and Macintosh SSH implementations. Up to O'Reilly's usual "Definitive Guide" standards, this is a very useful and informative book.
Bejtlich, Richard: The Tao of Network Security Monitoring: Beyond Intrusion Detection, Addison-Wesley Professional, July 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0321246776.
A thorough and powerful introduction to network security monitoring (NSM) principles, tools, and practices to help networking professionals collect and assess network events and activities; and react appropriately when signs of attack, pathology, or threats materialize. A great primer, how-to guide, and source of information on securing a network and keeping it secure.
Bragg, Roberta, Mark Rhodes-Ousley, and Keith Strassberg: Network Security: The Complete Reference, McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, November 2003, ISBN-13: 978-0072226973.
This book explains network security concepts and techniques from beginning to end. It covers security policy development, security architecture components (including chapters on authentication and authorization, UNIX, Windows, NetWare, J2EE, VPNs, wireless, and more), and security infrastructure. This book, written by seasoned and well-known security authors, should be a valuable addition to your collection of security-related reference texts.
Bynum, Terrell Ward (editor) and Simon Rogerson: Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Blackwell Publishers, 2003, ISBN: 978-1855548459.
This book teams up luminaries Bynum (Director of the Research Center on Computing & Society at Southern Connecticut State University) and Rogerson (Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility and Professor of Computer Ethics at De Montfort University). The result is a textbook that introduces computer and professional ethics concisely and clearly. Teaching materials include student-tested review questions and real-world case studies.
Chirillo, John: Hack Attacks Denied: Complete Guide to Network Lockdown for UNIX, Windows, and Linux, 2e, Wiley, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0471232834.
Continuing the work from Hack Attacks Revealed to cover tools, techniques, and strategies to defeat known attacks and exploits and to practice preemptive techniques to deflect and defeat potential attacks and exploits, it covers basic lockdown techniques, intrusion detection and protection measures, and essential countermeasures. The book also includes a large collection of tools and utilities to help conduct lockdown activities. This second edition offers 170+ new countermeasures and nearly 75 methods for patching UNIX and Windows OSes. The CD includes a full version of TigerSurf 2.0 Intrusion Defense (single license).
Chirillo, John: Hack Attacks Revealed: A Complete Reference for UNIX, Windows, and Linux with Custom Security Toolkit, 2e, Wiley, 2002, ISBN: 978-0471232827.
A full-time professional hacking consultant for major corporations and organizations, Chirillo shares his knowledge and experience on the topic in this second edition. He explains in detail how hackers exploit security vulnerabilities, holes, and weaknesses; and how to recognize potential threats to security. The book also covers tools, techniques, and instructions on how to mount hacker attacks (and hence, to defeat them). This edition includes 40 percent new material, which focuses on the latest attacks on UNIX, Windows, and Linux OSes. It's an outstanding book of its kind (more or less equivalent to the Kurtz/McClure/Scambray Hacking Exposed).
Chirillo, John: Hack Attacks Testing: How to Conduct Your Own Security Audit, Wiley, 2003, ISBN: 978-0471229469.
The latest work from Chirillo focuses on security analysis tools you can use to conduct security audits on your networks to expose vulnerabilities, breaches, and holes. He covers multiple OSes, including Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS X. Each chapter offers step-by-step instructions for installing, configuring, and using popular auditing tools and scanners, such as CyberCop, ISS, Nessus, SAINT, and STAT.
Conti, Greg: Security Data Visualization: Graphical Techniques for Network Analysis, No Starch Press, October 2007, ISBN-13: 978-1593271435.
Ask any practicing professional about managing security, and you'll quickly learn that the most difficult aspect of the job lies in separating more from less important information and acting quickly on what's most pressing and important. This book teaches readers how to graph and display network data using various tools to help them interpret complex datasets in a single glance. A visual understanding of what network attacks look like makes them easier and faster to identify, and speeds reaction and remediation times. It's a must-read for anyone working with InfoSec.
Danseglio, Mike: Securing Windows Server 2003, O'Reilly, November 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0596006853.
This book takes a practical, hands-on look at what's involved in locking down Windows Server 2003 in small- to medium-sized business environments. It follows a nice review of security basics and best practices with useful coverage of Group Policy, security templates, signed code, authentication, IP security, certificates, and PKI. Also provides good security information on DHCP, DNS, IIS, Active Directory, and Remote Access topics.
Denning, Dorothy E.: Information Warfare and Security, Addison-Wesley, 1998, ISBN-13: 978-0201433036.
A renowned computer security expert from academia, Dr. Denning covers most topics from news-related to computer security and electronic warfare. She deals with topics that include electronic warfare, espionage, fraud, identity theft, piracy, and sabotage, drawing on real-world examples reported in the media, including information warfare operations conducted during the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Threats are covered along with countermeasures, and the book covers topics from cybercrime, to terrorism, national security, information security, and individual rights. It's an outstanding overview of modern-day security subject matter.
Dowd, Mark, John McDonald, and Justin Schuh: The Art of Software Security Assessment: Identifying and Preventing Software Vulnerabilities, Addison-Wesley, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0321444424.
This book is nothing more nor less than a detailed, thorough, and usable guide for performing and reacting to the results of a complete and wide-ranging security audit. This book also does a bang-up job of dealing with code and software security audit topics, with great coverage for developers and in-house applications, guidelines for secure commercial software development, and even coverage aimed specifically at Web-based services and applications. One of the best, if not the best, books on software security around.
Erickson, Jon: Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2e, No Starch Press, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-1593271442.
Widely regarded as one of the best hacking books around, this short (488 pages) treatment combines great analysis and discussion of hacking techniques with lots of code and examples. With especially clear coverage of heap and stack overflows (a.k.a. buffer overruns or buffer overflows), this book not only explains what's involved in hacking but also walks readers through common tools and techniques. It's a good book to start with and greatly improved in this second edition.
Ermann, M. David and Michele S. Shauf (editors): Computers, Ethics, and Society, 3e, Oxford University Press, November 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0195143027.
This book includes articles and information related to the ethical and social aspects involved in increasing and critical uses for computing technology. It addresses issues from Internet copyrights to the impact of computing technology on women, minorities, and the Third World. It also covers how right-wing militias, terrorists, and other underground organizations and movements that use the Internet. This book is an excellent introduction to ethical concepts in computing that's useful as a secondary or post-secondary textbook.
Fadia, Ankit: Network Security: A Hacker's Perspective, 2e, Course Technology PTR, May 2006, ISBN-13: 978-1598631630.
This compact book acquaints the reader with the psyche of a hacker, and explains how anyone from a home user to a networking professional can protect private information. By becoming a "real hacker profiler," you learn the reasons and methods attackers use to infiltrate computer systems. Topics include identity theft, IP address security, sniffing, port scanning, fingerprinting, and password file attacks. The author includes a nifty section named "Fadia's Hot Picks"a short list of proven security toolsin each chapter.
Ferguson, Niels, Bruce Schneier, and Tadayoshi Kohno: Cryptography Engineering: Design Principles and Practical Applications, Wiley, 2010, ISBN-13: 978-0470474242.
This book is a good introduction to cryptography, covering topics such as ciphers, hash functions, message digests, protocols and PKI, and common attacks. You'll need at least intermediate math skills to truly appreciate some of the content.
Gast, Matthew: 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, 2e, O'Reilly Media, April 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0596100520.
This good all-around reference on wireless network technologies provides useful coverage of security topics.
Readers interested in wireless security should also check out Bruce Potter and Bob Fleck's 802.11 Security (O'Reilly, December 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0596002909) and Rob Flickinger and Roger Weeks' Wireless Hacks (O'Reilly Media, November 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0596101442) as well. Across these references, they'll get a good sense of what to check, what to secure, and how to keep it secure thereafter.
Grimes, Roger A.: Malicious Mobile Code: Virus Protection for Windows, O'Reilly Media, August 2001, ISBN-13: 978-1565926820.
Although this book focuses exclusively on the Microsoft Windows operating systems, it provides excellent general coverage of "malicious code"including the viruses, Trojan horses, worms, and so forth so often encountered online and in the news of late. Grimes offers advice on how to counter and deflect such code, and how to manage Windows systems and software to minimize potential exposure to infection and harm. He also explains how to analyze and disinfect systems that become compromised, and how to restore normal operations thereafter. This book is generally agreed to be one of the most comprehensive and readable books on the subject around.
Hoglund, Greg and James Butler: Rootkits: Subverting the Windows Kernel, Addison-Wesley, August 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0321294319.
At about the same time that Mark Russinovich broke the news about Sony's illicit use of a rootkit in its digital music rights protection software, Hoglund and Butler came out with this timely and informative book. It's still the best and most thorough reference on rootkitsa deliberately stealthy and hard-to-detect form of malware that targets operating system kernelsaround.
Kaufman, Charlie et al.: Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World, 2e, Prentice Hall PTR, May 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0130460196.
An enduring classic in computer security is in its second edition. This book covers basic security technologies, protocols, encryption and authentication techniques, digital signatures and certifications, and so forth. It also has copious coverage of key network services and communication techniques. This book is both an outstanding general overview of key topics and a useful resource on encryption, authentication, and how such technologies are used (or misused) when seeking to secure communications, prove identity, and so forth.
Littlejohn Shinder, Debra and Michael Cross: Scene of the Cybercrime, 2e, Syngress, June 2008, ISBN-13: 078-1597492768.
Deb Shinder is a former law enforcement professional turned computer security maven. As such, she brings a unique perspective to this book, equally appreciative of technical details and the sometimes-persnickety requirements of managing legal evidence. The book does a great job of covering computer crime, computer forensics, and legal and ethical considerations, and provides great case studies and examples from the popular press to illustrate its many points and topics. The updates are primarily devoted to coverage of technical, legal, and regulatory changes introduced after the release for the first edition, including SOX, PCI, and other rules and regulations.
Lockhart, Andrew: Network Security Hacks, 2e, O'Reilly Media, October 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0596527631.
This book has good coverage of networking topics and break-ins as they apply to Linux, BSD, and Windows operating systems. However, it does better at covering topics off the beaten tracksuch as various lesser-known hacking toolsthan when covering topics common to most treatments of the subject matter. It's a great "second reference" on this topic, for those interested in digging deeper into this subject matter (or pursuing credentials such as the Certified Ethical Hacker).
Menezes, Alfred J. et al.: Handbook of Applied Cryptography, CRC Press, 1996, ISBN-13: 978-0849385230.
CRC Press is a well-known compiler of technical information on many subjects from mathematics to biology, primarily for use in reference books. This exhaustive reference includes coverage of key topics in cryptography from shared secrets to public key technologies, and provides information on related encryption techniques and algorithms in use. Detailed mathematical treatments abound, as does coverage of key security protocols, implementations, standards, and patents. It's an excellent reference for those seeking coverage of the entire modern subject matter for cryptography.
Mitnick, Kevin D. and William L. Simon: The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, Wiley, October 2003, ISBN-13: 978-0654542800.
Reading more like a thriller than an ordinary IT book, the world's most famous hacker shares his repertoire of con games, deceits, and grifting techniques he used successfully to attack business systems and processes. Since his release from prison in 2000, Mitnick has become a popular computer security expert. Today, he helps companies detect security breaches and teaches them how to prevent future incidents. The book presents perspectives from both sides of the gameattacker and victim. A good read!
Mitnick, Kevin D. and William L. Simon: The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers, Wiley, December 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0471782667.
In the same fashion as The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, Mitnick and Simon keep your interest piqued throughout while they relate tales of real-world attacks and intrusions. When you need a break from the nitty-gritty details of how to lock down systems and thwart computer attacks, pore through a chapter or two of Real Stories. In addition to being just plain engrossing, it might give you a new angle to consider about your personal or business security.
Nelson, Bill, Amelia Phillips, and Christopher Steuart: Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations, Course Technology, September 2009, ISBN-13: 978-1435498839.
A college textbook designed to teach fundamental principles and practices of computer forensics and computer-related investigations. The authors combine a strong understanding of the field with hands-on experience on both the law enforcement and the corporate sides of this important security endeavor. A great general introduction to the field of computer forensics and a decent handbook on best related principles, practices, procedures, and legal requirements.
Noonan, Wes: Hardening Network Infrastructure, McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, May 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0072255027.
An excellent, detail-oriented, hands-on guide to securing networked environments, this book gets rave reviews from many different quarters in the security community. The author's clear, concise writing style and his inclusion of specifics, best practices, and examples come in for praise and acknowledgment. It's a great book for practitioners and cert candidates alike.
Peikari, Cyrus and Anton Chuvakin: Security Warrior, O'Reilly Media, February 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0596005450.
This book contains an outstanding litany and analysis of security exploits, aimed at security professionals seeking to understand their workings and how to mitigate them. Though the book is detailed enough to teach even hackers a thing or two, it's a great book for security professionals seeking to improve their understanding of how exploits are discovered and exploited in production environments.
Rubin, Avriel D.: White-Hat Security Arsenal: Tackling the Threats, Addison-Wesley, July 2001, ISBN-13: 978-0201711141.
From the title, you'd expect this book to analyze attacks and describe how to defeat them. In reality, this book does best in its discussions of security protocols: It describes their capabilities and how they work, and explores important details related to their operation. Particularly useful for its coverage of SSL, packet filters, secure storage methods, and secure data exchange techniques, it also covers firewalls, access controls, and cryptography very well.
Schweitzer, Douglas: Securing the Network from Malicious Code: a Complete Guide to Defending Against Viruses, Worms, and Trojans, Wiley, September 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0764549588.
Covers all the bases: employee education and policies, use of removable media, construction of effective security policy, intrusion detection and prevention tools, audits and monitoring regimes, and much more, to help organizations and companies understand what kinds of threats they must confront, and how to contain and control them with minimal potential for damage or loss. It's a great book on procedures and processes.
Schiffman, Mike, et al.: Hacker's Challenge 2: Test Your Network Security & Forensics Skills, 2e, McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0072226300.
The authors combine humor into real-world hacking challenges (that include a clever lineup of fictitious bad guys) for the reader to resolve. The book focuses on wireless security issues, network attacks, and security log analysis in a most entertaining way.
See also the successor this book for more of the same kind of challenges and information: David Pollino, Bill Pennington, Tony Bradley, and Himanshu Dwivedi: Hacker's Challenge 3: 20 Brand New Forensic Scenarios & Solutions, McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0072263046.
Schiller, Craig, et al: Botnets: The Killer Web App, Syngress, January 2007, ISBN-13: 978-1597491358.
This book provides an introduction to the emerging world of compromised "zombie" computers, called botnets. Bot herders control their activities and often sell them to the highest bidders to spread spam, attack public Web sites, and wreak general mayhem on the Internet. Although this is neither a definitive nor final treatment of the subject; it's a good introduction for those seeking to learn more about this emerging source of the most serious security threats around.
Skoudis, Ed and Tom Liston: Counter Hack Reloaded: A Step-by-Step Guide to Computer Attacks and Effective Defenses, 2e, Prentice Hall PTR, January 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0131481046.
This reference book is intended to provide its readers with enough knowledge and understanding to help make networks and systems secure enough to discourage run-of-the-mill attackers. Author Ed Skoudis is careful to arm readers with enough information to help them understand what they're learning about and asked to do, and make it enjoyable in the process. His best chapters cover Windows, Linux, and other UNIX variants; and TCP/IP from the standpoint of common security issues and answers to help deal effectively with them.
Skoudis, Ed and Lenny Zeltser: Malware: Fighting Malicious Code, Prentice Hall PTR, 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0131014053.
Another reference book that is both understandable and approachable, this one is my personal favorite on the subject of malware. Both Skoudis and Zeltser are longtime researchers and experts in this area, and their knowledge and ability to explain arcane shine throughout this book. Every critter in the malware bestiary is covered here, often in profuse (but never stultifying) detail, along with attack methods and their best counters. It's a terrific book.
Smith, Ben, David LeBlanc, and Kevin Lam: Assessing Network Security (Pro-One-Offs), Microsoft Press, July 2004, ISBN-13: 978-8120326606.
Written by the security pros who keep the Microsoft sites up, running, and secure, this book covers the major topics important to hardening, auditing, and assessing security vulnerabilities in public sites and online services. These topics include planning and implementing security audits; penetration test for both nonintrusive and intrusive attacks; and numerous security assessment case studies, chock-full of real-world information, examples, and best practices.
Stallings, William: Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and Practice, 5e, Prentice Hall, 2010, ISBN-13: 978-0136097044.
Stallings is a stalwart fixture on any decent networking bookshelf; I've owned three or more current editions of his work since I graduated from a computer science program in 1981. This widely adopted textbook on cryptography and network security topics provides an excellent, if detailed, introduction to the algorithms and techniques associated with private and public key cryptography, and their numerous and varied applications to all kinds of network security topics from networking protocols and services. Also covers the full range of general network security topics from firewalls and intrusion detection; to malicious code; to related standards, protocols, and services used to improve or impose security on systems and networks. It's probably the best introduction to security for the technically inclined.
Stamp, Mark: Information Security: Principles and Practice, Wiley Interscience, October 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0471738480.
A concise and compelling introduction to the principles that drive and the practices that guide and inform information security, this is one of the best new InfoSec books I've read in a long time. It provides information about all the key topics: cryptography, access controls, protocols, software, and security policy without overwhelming the reader with too much terminology, nor glossing over important technical concepts and language. It's an excellent first book on security for IT professionals, and also designed for college classroom use.
Tiensivu, Aaron: Securing Windows Server 2008: Prevent Attacks from Outside and Inside Your Organization, Syngress Media, June 2008, ISBN-13: 978-1597492805.
A complete and thorough introduction to security Windows Server 2008, with emphasis on new tools and technology such as Network Access Protection (NAP), enhanced and improved Group Policy controls for security, increased data protection and access controls, protection against malware through User Account Control and a new authentication architecture, and more. Also covers server roles; role-based security; and monitoring, securing, and troubleshooting Windows Server 2008.
Tittel, Ed: PC Magazine Fighting Spyware, Viruses, and Malware, Wiley, December 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0764577697.
I include my own books in this kind of list with a little trepidation, but this book covers all the key issues that SOHO users face in securing standalone systems and small networks that attach to the Internet. It includes lots of examples, analyses, and tool reviews; and recommends numerous best security practices and behaviors. This is a good book for security professionals to give to family members who otherwise require ongoing handholding and tech support.
Viega, John and Gary McGraw: Building Secure Software: How to Avoid Security Problems the Right Way, Addison-Wesley, October 2001, ISBN-13: 978-0201721522.
One of a handful of highly influential books on designing and building secure software available today, this one offers some of the best coverage on the topic. Aimed primarily at software developers who seek to build security into their systems and services as a fundamental design criterion, this book is also useful for security professionals who must communicate such concerns to in-house development organizations or who are trying to understand potential causes for insecure behavior in software designed without security objectives in mind. It's an excellent reference and developer's guide.
Vladimirov, Andrew, et al: Wi-Foo II: The Secrets of Wireless Hacking, 2e, Addison Wesley, July 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0321393715.
This book takes a tools-driven, hands-on approach to evaluating and probing the security of wireless networks, using the same tools and techniques that illicit interlopers will use to try to break into them. It updates the previous edition of this book to include coverage of 802.11n, emerging WWAN technologies, new security tools, VPNs, and more.
Young, Adam and Moti Yung: Malicious Cryptography: Exposing Cryptovirology, Wiley, February 2004, ISBN: 978-0764549755.
Many, if not most, security technologies can be used for malicious purposes as well as benign ones. This book explores the ways in which cryptographic tools and techniques may be (and have been) used to create malware and mount attacks based on a combination of keen technical insights and malign intent. The book focuses more on how machines may be mined and exploited, discusses how and why viruses can remain stealthy using encryption, and talks about techniques used to exploit confidential data once obtained, rather than dealing with methods of compromise. It's a fascinating read nevertheless.