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Security Data Visualization: Graphical Techniques for Network Analysis 1st Edition

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1593271435
ISBN-10: 1593271433
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Greg Conti, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., has been featured in IEEE Security and Privacy magazine, the Communications of the ACM, and IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications magazine. He has spoken at a wide range of academic and hacker conferences, including Black Hat, DEFCON and the Workshop on Visualization for Computer Security (VizSEC). Conti runs the open source security visualization project, RUMINT,


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593271433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593271435
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Security Data Visualization (SDV) is a great book. It's perfect for readers familiar with security who are looking to add new weapons to their defensive arsenals. Even offensive players will find something to like in SDV. The book is essentially an introduction to the field, but it is well-written, organized, and clear. I recommend all security analysts read SDV.

I give five star reviews to books that meet certain criteria. First, the book should change the way I look at a problem, or properly introduce me to thinking about a problem for which I have little or no frame of reference. Although I have been a security analyst for ten years, I have little visualization experience. Author Greg Conti spent just the right amount of time explaining the field, describing key terms (preattentive processing, occlusion, brushing) and displays (star plots, small multiples, TreeMaps). I loved the author's mention of Ben Shneiderman's visualization mantra: "overview first, zoom and filter, details on demand" (p 14).

Second, a five star book should have few or no technical errors. SDV was as sound as they come, at least as far as the security and networking information goes. I can't comment on the author's synthesis of the visualization community. I also liked the case studies in Chs 3, 4, and 5. I liked reading the visualization methodology introduced in the chapter on analyzing firewall logs (Ch 7).

Third, a five star book will make the material actionable. I finished SDV thinking I could try at least some of what I read on my own network. Ch 10 talked about how to build your own visualization tool. I would have liked additional detail on using some of the tools in the book, so perhaps a future edition will expand on that point.
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Format: Paperback
If you want to get into security visualization this is the book for you. This book gives you everything you need to get started in the field. You may be asking yourself why you should care or want to be interested in Security Visualization. In Chapter 1 the author sums it up nicely. "Visualizations make abstract data more coherent...In many cases, visualizations seek to display large amounts of information in a compact but useful way."

Before we get into the review, I'll disclose that I know the author and he gave me a review copy. I don't think this makes it easier for the author to get a good review, in fact, I think it makes it harder because I expect a lot from the author. Its his fault I'm into computer and information security and I have taken courses that he taught, so he had high expectations to meet.

The first three chapters, An Overview of Information Visualization, The Beauty of Binary File Visualization, and Port Scan Visualization give you all the background you need to get started and introduce you to the author's visualization tool, RUMINT. It was interesting to see the difference between nmap and unicornscan and paves the way to create signatures for all types of port scanners based on their default behavior. Chapter 4, Vulnerability Assessment and Exploitation, walks us through analyzing a dataset with an attack using the Metasploit Framework, very interesting and shows us that even with metasploit's built-in IDS evasion, in the end it must create sockets and connections and those can be seen with visualization tools (with the proper tweaking and analysis). I read the sample chapter available (CH 5, One Night on My ISP) before I read the whole book, and it was certainly easier to follow after reading the previous chapters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Oleg Kolesnikov on October 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I found the "Security Data Visualization" to be well written and full of useful information. The book provides a snapshot of the state-of-the-art in security data visualization, which includes the latest academic work as well as open source and commercial tools.

I particularly liked the examples in Chapter 3 comparing visual representations of port scans from Nmap and the Unicornscan. The differences between the two port scans stood out very clearly even before reading the corresponding explanation.

I also enjoyed the hands-on examples of dissecting visual representations of Nessus and Metasploit attacks in Chapter 4. Among the other things I liked about the book were the examples of using TreeMaps to visualize alert logs from Snort and to perform detailed analysis of alerts described in Chapter 8. (Make sure you read the first chapter because it explains many of the fundamental concepts.)

Also, for those who like reading chapters out-of-order (like myself :) - to save time, I'd recommend reading the first three chapters before reading anything else. I found that it is much easier to understand the rest of the examples in the book that way.

Overall, the book provides practical insights into a very interesting emerging area of information security--security data visualization. I would recommend this book to all security professionals.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Luebbe on November 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
To those in the information assurance or network security fields, Security Data Visualization by Greg Conti is a must read title due to the fact that it represents the first significant text to analyze its namesake of its title. For those unfamiliar with the utility of visualization systems, the text provides excellent examples on the graphical presentation of information to aid analysis, and how human intuition can be far more effective than standard machine processing. After establishing the basics early on, the book dives into security applications very quickly. By the end of Chapter 2, Conti has already shown enough so that the reader can see how to find a security vulnerability in the file structure of Microsoft Word documents via visualization techniques. As the book progresses so do the applications covered, which include network traffic visualization, visualization of firewall logs, and a handful of other topics. The work presented is extremely eye-opening, as it really has not gotten much attention outside of research and conferences. Security-minded readers unacquainted with this niche field will find the book impossible to put down.

This title is not without its drawbacks, which unfortunately are numerous. In writing Security Data Visualization, Mr. Conti seems to have lacked a clear opinion regarding the identity of his average reader. From the title, it might seem that this would be an advanced/applied topics book on Computer Security, which would imply an assumed basic knowledge level of the reader. Some chapters seem to make this assumption and waste no time getting to the heart of the matter associated with their chapter titles, whereas others get bogged down with extremely unnecessary levels of detail regarding information that does not belong in a book like this.
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