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on September 19, 2011
Jesse Varsalone hits this one out of the park. Jesse leverages his depth of knowledge and experience with his years of teaching experience to get right down to business.
He leads the computer forensics/hacker n00b through the nuts and bolts of vulnerabilities. He jumps right in and demonstrates in the first 3 pages what a hacker can do using descrete vulnerabilities and keeps up the pace throughout the rest of the book. He always demonstrates how vulnerabilities are exploited and what to do to stop them or discover them.
Jesse is a seasoned CF professional and instructor and this is obvious in the logical step by step manner the book is written. I found the explanations of the "how and why" of safely and legally testing the techniques he covers quite relevant and important to newcomers. These also serve as good reminders for those who may dabble in hacking and penetration testing.

The Table of Contents reads like a syllabus for a anti-forensics and computer security college class. It starts with the basics of Windows exploits and how to defend against them and steps the reader through each attack like a lab exercise, and then steps the reader though the defensive tools. This cookbook, lab-type presentation enables the reader to see and do the attack and understand the defense. The reader can literally follow the steps on their own test setup.
At just shy of 400 pages it isn't a enormous 10 pound tomb of knowledge, but a readable, doable guide of the Black Arts of computer hacking and anti-forensics.

This book would serve well as a college text for a Basic Anti-Forensics or Intro to Computer Security courses. It provided up-to-date, relevant CF concepts and exercises that are the foundation for a computer security or Computer Forensic tech. This is also a handy reference of the more common exploits, how they are utilized, detected and thwarted.

I found the contents to be current and timely, combining discussions of the newest techniques with old school hacks that are still relevant today. The content is tight and without extra fluff and easy to either browse through or to follow page by page, front to back.
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on January 4, 2012
This book provides an excellent overview to current practices and tools used in network forensics and vulnerability testing. It provides a particularly accessible overview of SQL and XSS techniques and relevant vulnerability testing, and serves as a good introduction to the use of tools such as Wireshark and Metasploit.

Unfortunately the presentation is somewhat lacking. The author occasionally breaks from his engaging discussion of the actual issues to spend pages on the sort of buttonology ("Then enter the IP address into the field labeled 'IP Address'" and that sort of thing) better suited to a software-specific user manual; these sections could easily have been dropped from a book that is long enough without them. The book also could have used more careful editing, as there are sections which are simply not written in grammatically correct English and consequently very difficult to understand.

Finally, there is a bug in the eBook version of this book that makes it impossible to advance through the entire section in Chapter 5 concerning XSS. The only workaround is to skip to the next section, which irritated me since the section concerning XSS was one of the major highlights of the entire book. Amazon tech support was unable to solve this problem, and so I would suggest folks avoid the ebook version until this issue is resolved.
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on August 20, 2015
Too outdated in 2015 to be of much real use. Most of the book appears to be written and directed at Windows XP hacks which have virtually disappeared. Almost no information for Windows 8, much less Windows 10. Wish I had bought it in 2012 when it came out, and not bought it in mid 2015 when I discovered it.

Good information, just not particularly relevant in August of 2015.
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on December 21, 2011
If there ever was a book that should not be judged by its title, Defense against the Black Arts: How Hackers Do What They Do and How to Protect against It, is that book.

According to Wikipedia, black art can refer to:
* art forms by persons of African descent
* black magic
* optical effect in stage magic
* typesetting
* process that is mysterious or difficult to master or describe

Even if one uses the definition in The New Hacker's Dictionary of "a collection of arcane, unpublished, and (by implication) mostly ad-hoc techniques developed for a particular application or systems area", that really does not describe this book.

The truth is that hacking is none of the above. If anything, it is a process that is far from mysterious, and rather either to describe. With that, the book does a good job of providing the reader with the information needed to run a large set of hacking tools.

Defense against the Black Arts is another in the line of hacking overview books that started with the first edition of Hacking Exposed. Like Hacking Exposed, the book walks the reader through the process of how to use hacking tools and how to make sense of their output.

Defense against the Black Arts is written for the reader with a good technical background who is looking for a nuts and bolts approach to ethical hacking. Its 14 chapters provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, with an emphasis on Windows.

But for those looking for an introductory text, this is not the best choice out there. The book is written for the reader that needs little hand-holding. This is in part due to its somewhat rough around the edges text and the use of more advanced hacking tools and techniques.

By page 4, the author has the reading downloading BackTrack Linux. BackTrack is a Ubuntu distro which has a focus on digital forensics and penetration testing. BackTrack is currently in a 5 R1 release, based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and Linux kernel BackTrack comes with a significant amount of security and hacking tools preloaded, which the authors reference throughout the book.

After showing how to install BackTrack, chapter 1 shows how to log into Windows without knowing the password. Much of that is around the Kon-Boot tool, which allows you to change the contents of the Windows kernel in order to bypass the administrator password. Tools like Kon-Boot though will only work when you have physical access to the machine.

Chapter 3 gets into the details of digital forensics and highlights a number of popular tools for forensic imaging. While the book provides a good overview of the topic, those looking for the definitive text on the topic should read Digital Evidence and Computer Crime: Forensic Science, Computers and the Internet.

Chapter 5 deals with web application penetration testing. The authors describe a number of tools that can be used to assess the security of web sites, and offer ways to attempts to manipulate data from a web page or web application.

One is likely hard pressed to find a large web site that will be vulnerable to such web attacks, given that most of them have already checked for those errors via validation control testing. Smaller vendors may not be so proactive, and find out that those $99- items are being sold for .99 cents. With that, the chapter details a number of tools developers can use to test for SQL injection, XSS and other types of web vulnerabilities.

Chapter 8 is about capturing network traffic. There are two perspective to collecting traffic. For the attacker, it is about identifying holes and avenues for attack. For those trying to secure a network, collecting network traffic is an exercise in identifying, thwarting and defending the network against attacks.

Chapter 10 provides a brief overview of Metasploit. For those looking for a comprehensive overview of Metasploit, Metasploit: The Penetration Tester's Guide is an excellent resource. This chapter like many of the others provides the reader with detailed step-by-step instructions, including screen prints, on how to use the specific tool at hand.
Chapter 11 provides a long list of attack and defense tools that can be used as a larger part of a penetration tester's toolkit.

Chapter 12 is interesting is that it details how social engineering can be used. The authors show how public domain tools like Google Maps can be used in to mount an attack.

Chapter 13 - Hack the Macs - is one of the shorter chapters in the book and should really be longer. One of the reasons pen testers are increasingly using Macs is that the newer Macs run on the Intel platform, and can run and emulate Windows and Linux. The increasing number of tools for the Mac, and significant Mac vulnerabilities, mean that the Mac will increasingly be used and abused in the future.

Just last week, Dr. Mich Kabay wrote in Macintosh Malware Erupts that malware specifically designed for Mac is on the rise. This is based on progressively more and more serious malware for the Mac since 2009 where given that Apple products have been increasing their market share for laptops and workstations but especially for tablets and phones.

The article notes that one of the reasons Mac OS X is perceived as superior to Windows is because of its appearance of having integrated security. But although the design may be sound, the operating system does not prevent people from being swayed into thinking that the malicious software they are downloading is safe. With that, Apple will have to concentrate more on security and vulnerability within their operating system.

The book ends with about 30 pages on wireless hacking. The chapter provides an overview of some of the weaknesses in Wi-Fi technology and how they can be exploited. The chapter focuses on the airmon tool, part of BackTrack that you can use to set your wireless adapter into monitor mode, to see all of the traffic traversing the wireless network.

Overall, Defense against the Black Arts: How Hackers Do What They Do and How to Protect against It is a really good reference for someone experienced in the topic who wants to improve their expertise.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 22, 2013
A fascinating catalog of the techniques hackers use to get information from networks and computers, this book is largely geared toward Windows PC environments, especially the sections on how to get into operating systems, capture passwords, and extract information from disks using forensics methods. The tools used to get this information are typically based on Linux systems, predominantly Backtrack Linux.

Computer security has always been a fascinating topic for researchers, academics, and hackers. This book portrays hackers as people who break into systems for fun or evil purposes. A more proper term for such people is cracker. Since the book uses hacker in this sense, this review will use that term for consistency purposes.

With the proliferation of connected devices and the number of passwords we use daily, security must be given utmost importance. For example, I just took a look at how many Internet protocol (IP) addresses my home router has assigned to various devices, and it was over 20! This book explores how hackers try to exploit computer systems and how researchers and security professionals try to prevent it. It is always a cat-and-mouse game, with the hacker trying to outsmart the security engineers and vice versa.

Plenty of screen shots and command line examples are presented. They are easy to follow and show what one needs to do to prevent such attacks. Once the hackers know these techniques are out in the wild, and that computer systems are hardened against them, they will move on to new techniques. Therefore, this book is time sensitive; in a few years, these methods will not be relevant.

The book reads like a fictional thriller novel, going from one plot point to the next with simple tools and techniques like traceroute, tcpdump, snort, metasploit. People who follow the instructions must have a separate test laboratory with machines connected in a local area network (LAN) environment and not connected to the Internet for the obvious reason that many of the attacks are not legal. Knowing how hackers think and work will enlighten people to take preventive actions. Hackers are always trying to exploit weaknesses in systems by doing penetration tests.

The book covers wireless attacks only briefly and neglects the cellular 3G/4G networks altogether. Simple routers such as Linksys Linux-based routers can be easily tweaked to launch wireless attacks, as well as to detect them. Apple platforms are given very little coverage, and the Android/Windows Phone environments are completely missing. In my opinion, these topics are of great interest to the security research community.

In spite of these shortcomings, the book is one of the first to explain these concepts in a coherent manner; the authors should be applauded for their effort to explain them very clearly with plenty of illustrations. Computer science students, researchers, developers, and anybody curious about the magic of hacking (in both the positive and negative senses) will benefit immensely from this book.
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on June 21, 2013
Here is one thing I have to point out, Jesse Varsalone was my professor for my A+ Class at CCBC Essex (Im still a college student and I see him occasionally) . I enjoyed him teaching me the various OS's and troubleshooting. It was a very good experience. I just ordered this book because he was telling us about it so I'd thought I outta check it out. Jesse is one of the professors that run the Cyberclub that I use to attend. I wish I can go back to the club but I have to stay ontop of my game with these classes. I always wanted to learn hacking (for defense purposes, the title tells is all). I would recommend this product for someone who wants to really learn the concept of this book and to devote time to it. Trust me. The order came today, one time, that's what I like. :) Because it said it would come by 8pm but I think that was a prediction. But it came today and today was the day it was suppose to come. 5/5 stars
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on January 5, 2012
I had mixed feelings when I began to digest the content of this book. Some parts of it are great, step-by-step tutorials on how to do various tasks, such as installing kon-boot. Other aspects made this a sign to point you in the direction, like the SQL section, is very vague. Overall, this is mainly a tour guide, he won't tell you all you might want to know, but it goes into enough depth is several different topics that you should have some understanding, and also know where to go from this book, to more specific ones. I did learn a lot, really I did. But it was so spread out over a varity of topics, each topic I didn't learn to much about. So this is good for broad understanding of various concepts, which I belive was the goal of the book, now I know for example, that now I am more prepared for other more specific books.
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on February 1, 2012
Right from the first chapter, the author *extensively* shows you how to hack, then how to block that hack. I'm not yet even halfway, but so far it's one of the most genuinely informative books I have ever read. So many knowledge gaps filled! As a SysAdmin, I have found hack tutorials to be the best source of technical gold nuggets, and this one rules the roost. Definitely five stars for me.
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on January 4, 2013
Weather you are new to the field or an old pro, this book is a must have. The book shows you how easily someone can gain access to just about any network and retrieve any and all information he/she may be interested in. "Defense Against the Black Arts" is a guide into the minds of those who wish to do us harm. It teaches you how recognize unwanted activity as well as how to prevent it. Also it teaches how to find information on your own using the mass resources available to us online with more effective search techniques. This is the hackers "bible" and must be used for good only.
"With great power comes great responsibility!"
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on January 29, 2012
I have not finished reading this book, but I already like the detail that this book goes into explaining how to do different things. I don't see any obvious mention of viruses and root kits which I find suprising.
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