Network Security Assessment
by McNab, Chris

O'Reilly 2004.
ISBN 0-596-00611-x. 371 pages. $39.95. Index,two appendices

Reviewed by  Robert Bruen   May 17, 2004 

In Security Assessment by Miles Greg, et al., the first of three parts of the National Security Agency (NSA) INFOSEC Assessment Methodology (IAM) assessment was covered. The three levels for assessing IP-based networks are: (1) Assessment (2) Evaluation and (3) Red Team. Greg's book covered level 1, assessment and McNab's book covers levels 2 and 3, making the two books a nice pair. The first level is concerned with policy, procedures, etc. The other two involve hands-on techniques such as scanning and penetration testing.

Out of necessity, there is a certain amount of overlap with hacking techniques and open source tools, but the context of the book creates nuances that increase the value of the techniques and tools. Not only are the tools explained and used, but the output is used to go even further in the acquisition of more information. The use of real sites, like the NASDAQ and EBay as examples is a nice touch. NASDAQ still has the same information obtained for the book from the HTTP/HEAD against Microsoft IIS. EBay has upgraded from 4 to 6, so it no longer shows the address of the internal server. In addition, the exposed statistics page at BT Corp has disappeared.

The tools, naturally, run the gamut from built in unix commands to cools tools of of kinds. One of the great features of the book is the broad range of what is assessed and the tools that accompany them. The explanations are some of the best around. This is good place to start for any pen tester, ethical or otherwise. Network Security Assessment almost reads like a cracking dictionary of techniques, tools and how-tos. In spite of the clear instructions and diagrams, the reader will still be required to have a good general technical understanding of software. It will not be enough to use whois to look up a site's owner or to use a tool like vncrack to brute force a password.

McNab has a lot of knowledge which he is transferring to the rest of us. Given that we all know that no software, operating systems, application,or otherwise is perfect, then we know that all of it is vulnerable. The best we can do seems to be to figure the problems before someone else does.

This is a highly recommended book, hacker friendly and full of of good stuff.