Top positive review
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Excellent book on a very powerful open source tool
on October 26, 2008
I'm surprised no one has offered serious commentary on the only book dedicated to OSSEC, an incredible open source host-based intrusion detection system. I first tried OSSEC in early 2007 and wrote in my blog: "OSSEC is really amazing in the sense that you can install it and immediately it starts parsing system logs for interesting activity." Stephen Northcutt of SANS quotes this post in his foreword to the book on p xxv. Once you start using OSSEC, especially with the WebUI, you'll become a log addict. OSSEC HIDS Guide (OHG) is your ticket to taking OSSEC to the next level, even though a basic installation will make you stronger and smarter.
I have to congratulate the author team for OHG. Writing a book for Syngress with many contributors is usually a recipe for disaster. OHG features three lead authors, four contributors, and one foreword author -- and they don't step on each others' toes. Each of the main chapters was coherent and well-written, with solid Frequently Asked Questions sections at the end. The chapters are well-formatted with a mix of tables, figures, clear screen captures, and plenty of configuration examples. The authors even include a DVD with a ready-to-run VMWare image of a Linux system running OSSEC and the WebUI. Please note the .rtf packaged on the DVD mentions visiting a "osui" directory on the Linux Web server in order to view the OSSEC WebUI. The correct URL is "oswui". The Camtasia videos walking viewers through OSSEC installation are a nice touch for the visually-inclined.
I had very few issues with OHG. I think two of the references to "/tmp" on p 203 should really be "tmp/", i.e., references to the tmp/ directory in the WebUI directory. Upgrading OSSEC is trivial (it detects a previous installation and asks the user how to proceed), but I would have liked to see that process mentioned explicitly in the book.
I appreciated the citation for my first book on p 256, but I think the author (hi Anton) missed a crucial point about Network Security Monitoring (NSM): data makes the expert. A ninja with no data isn't very effective. A newbie with data may not be a ninja, but he/she will be more likely to detect and respond to intrusions than the data-less ninja.
This is a simple review to write. If you use OSSEC, you should buy OHG. You'll learn how everything works, how to move beyond the simple (yet still powerful) out-of-the-free-box OSSEC feature set, and find more suspicious and malicious activity in your enterprise. In a future edition I would like to see discussions of integrating OSSEC with other log tools like Splunk.