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Network Security for Dummies: A Reference for the Rest of Us!    by Chey Cobb order for
Network Security for Dummies
by Chey Cobb
Order:  USA  Can
John Wiley & Sons, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having been intrigued by the Dummies series for some time, and also curious and concerned about network security issues, Network Security for Dummies seemed like a relevant read. Its initial Cheat Sheet includes clever tricks for creation of a secure password; common threats to network security; commandments like 'Thou shalt install security fixes for operating systems ...'; information on how hackers get in; and what can be lost. The author should know, based on an impressive career in information security.

She discusses security holes that are inadvertently created in software and those that are social engineered via human communication; explains the importance of understanding the connections involved in your system, whether a single modem connection, a home, small business or corporate network; gives comprehensive guidelines for documenting and securing your network; and discusses potential liability. Available products discussed range from Antivirus scanners to Firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems.

The information on how hackers operate, and on their types and motivations, is especially interesting. Hackers' use of tools like 'demon dialers' and techniques like 'dumpster diving' are discussed, and readers are encouraged to 'Know Your Enemy'. Analogies (like that of network documentation to landscape planning, or risk assessment to decision making on car insurance) communicate clearly why approaches should be taken.

There are specific chapters on the various platforms - Unix, MS Windows, Mac - on Private and Wireless Networks, and on requirements for secure e-commerce. How does the author explain the latter? 'Conducting business on the Internet with Web-based products is like reading a sales ad in the newspaper and then sending your next-door neighbor's ten-year-old boy to the address with a box full of money ... So much could go wrong but, remarkably, it usually goes alright.'

Though this Dummies handbook is most useful for anyone dealing with corporate network security (with suggestions ranging from the importance of selling what needs to be done to management, to the idea of distributing policy summaries on mousepads), there is much of interest to small businesses as well, especially for those involved in e-commerce. The value of the manual is in its thoroughness, detailed checklists, and systematic tools for decision making and disaster response.

Whether you have a responsibility for network security, or simply an interest in topics like digital signatures, browser insecurity, e-mail filtering, privacy laws or use of cookies, Network Security for Dummies is an excellent introductory reference manual.

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