Open Source Security Tools. A Practical Guide to Security Applications
by Howlett, Tony

Prentice Hall 2005.
ISBN 0-321-19443-8. LoC QA76.9A25H6985. Index, CDROM, 5 appendices, References List

Reviewed by  Robert Bruen   November 17, 2004 

This book fills a gap in the literature by bringing all the important Open Source security tools into one place. Several other books have done justice to Open Source security tools as part of their overall objective, but Howlett started with Open Source and worked from that point. Moreover, he has done an excellent job of collecting then presenting the tools.

For the cost of the book, the reader gets as complete a suite of tools as necessary to engage in all areas of security, from encryption to mapping to sniffing to preparation and VPNs. Wireless is even included. Open Source Security Tools is not just about free stuff. It is a comprehensive collection of mature tools which provide the capability to cope with the security demands of today. The Open Source community is able to compete with the closed source companies, as is shown by this book. We are seeing an increasing number of Windows open source tools, which may turn out to be a Trojan Horse for Microsoft and the closed source industry.

This collection of tools, the book's organization and the explanations are the best yet. Many good books exist for some of these tools, such as Snort and Nessus, but not for most of the tools. They are scattered in other good books. Many of these other books bring in scanners and sniffers, but have left out forensics tools or intrusion detection. Some of the older books had not yet come across wireless issues just because of when they were written, making Howlett's book more up to date. Mainly a defensive book, it does cover Wipe and some of its relatives.

The tools represent a fairly comprehensive approach to security, including log file analysis, preparation for incidents, disaster recovery planning and security management. There are enough tools across a broad enough spectrum to consider the book as a tool itself to securing a site. It is also an excellent source for learning security because of the explanations. After presenting the reasoning behind a category of tools he delves into several tools for each category.

The last chapter deserves special mention. Although short, it does make a pitch for Open Source Software, highlighting the Free Software Foundation, SourceForge and the others.

A highly recommended book, that goes on my shelf next to Snort 2.1, Nessus and Building Open Source Network Security Tools. Open Source Security is building an impressive library of quality books. I am looking ahead to the next one.