TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Book Review: "Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas

Book Review: "Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas

Rob Slade (
Wed, 25 Jan 2006 08:15:33 -0800


"Network Security First-Step", Tom Thomas, 2004, 1-58720-099-6,
%A Tom Thomas
%C 800 East 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240
%D 2004
%G 1-58720-099-6
%I Cisco Press
%O U$29.95/C$42.95 800-382-3419
%O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 456 p.
%T "Network Security First-Step"

The introduction defines the audience for this book very broadly: so
broadly that it appears to try to be all things to all people, and
simply, too! (Wireless security seems to be a major consideration.)
The preface does specifically mention students and security

Chapter one is the usual "selling" section of the book: in this case
promoting the idea that "hackers" are out there and trying to getcha.
The material is only loosely organized, and seemingly more intent on
proving that the author knows a bunch of "inside" information than on
usefully informing the reader. (Thomas also tends to make thinly
veiled attacks on Microsoft: many security experts are unhappy with
some of Microsoft's decisions in regard to security, but snide
references to "the richest man in the world" are unlikely to assist
users in securing their systems.)

A couple of references for further study are mentioned: these are
works that are more popular than accurate. Review questions are
provided at the end: these are the all-too-standard simplistic reading
checks. (Some of the answers provided don't actually answer the
questions at all.) The review of security policies, in chapter two,
is reasonable, but generic and terse. The bulk of the content comes
in a sample set of functional security policies which touch on a few
important topics, but will probably be of very limited use to most

Supposedly an overview of security technologies, most of chapter three
concentrates on defining different types of firewalls (and doesn't do
a very good job with stateful inspection), with (for some odd reason)
brief mentions of public key infrastructure and two centralized
authentication systems. Chapter four lists a couple of cryptographic,
a couple of tunneling, and the secure shell protocols. An
introduction to the concept of firewalls, in chapter five, seems odd
following the more detailed catalogue previously. In contradiction to
the introduction's position, much of this content is complicated (not
assisted by a lack of structure in the writing), and also becomes more
specific to Cisco products, including pages of PIX configuration

Routers would relate to packet filtering, one would think, but chapter
six also contains content inspection and intrusion detection topics.
(The material becomes even more focussed on Cisco, reprinting a twelve
page secure IOS template.) Chapter seven, on virtual private
networks, fails to stress the difference between tunnelling and
encryption, does a very poor job of explaining IPSec (also seems to
confuse the discrete log problem used by the Diffie- Hellman algorithm
with the prime factoring used by RSA), and spends a large section at
the end listing commands for configuring IPSec on Cisco products. The
ordinary wireless security topics are in chapter eight. Chapter nine
looks primarily at intrusion detection, and a little bit at honeypots.
A list of attacks, more specific than those in chapter one, and some
vulnerability scanning tools, are outlined in chapter ten.

In relation to the attempt to make the material simple, the author
seems to assume that understanding equates with entertainment, and
tries to provide humour. The attempts at witticisms are irrelevant
and distracting. The student will find this text too facile, and of
questionable accuracy in a number of places. The professional will
find the work too disorganized to act as any kind of reference, and
the content lacking in both analytical and implementation

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2005 BKNTSCFS.RVW 20051106

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be
thrown with great force. - Dorothy Parker or

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