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REVIEW: "Malware: Fighting Malicious Code", Ed Skoudis

Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor
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"Malware: Fighting Malicious Code", Ed Skoudis, 2004, 0-13-101405-6,
%A Ed Skoudis
%C One Lake St., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
%D 2004
%G 0-13-101405-6
%I Prentice Hall
%O U$44.99/C$67.99 +1-201-236-7139 fax: +1-201-236-7131
%P 647 p.
%T "Malware: Fighting Malicious Code"

Chapter one introduces, but also mixes up, all kinds of malware,
attack tools, and attacks. It does eventually provide a table of
types of malware, but the definitions are not very clear or explicit.
Chapter two has wide ranging, but careless, information about viruses.
The strictly Cohenesque definition eliminates boot sector infectors
from consideration, which is rather ironic given the prominence that
they are given in the chapter. There is a confused outline of
infection mechanisms. Many of the assertions made are based on
questionable analysis: Strange Brew is stated to be potentially
dangerous because of platform independence, but there is no mention of
the fact that it fails as an applet, which is the most mobile form of
Java code. Random thoughts on worms are in chapter three, with
defence measures seemingly a vague afterthought. Malicious mobile
code is limited to active content for Web pages in chapter four.
Chapter five confuses maintenance hooks and rootkits, but mostly
describes remote access trojans. Trojans, or trojan horse programs,
are the broadest class of malicious software, so it is not surprising
that chapter six is an unfocused grab bag: what is odd is that there
is so much content that is a repeat of earlier material. Chapter
seven deals with "user-mode" rootkits, providing lengthy examples
which are nonetheless vague on concepts. "Kernel-mode" rootkits, in
chapter eight, goes into excruciating operating system internals
detail about how such software can be inserted into the system. Both
chapters concentrate heavily on UNIX, with only limited mention of
Windows, and both are primarily concerned about how to attack, with
little attention paid to defence. ("Harden systems and apply
patches.") Chapter nine theorizes about BIOS (Basic Input/Output
System) and microcode malware, managing to confuse not only the two
concepts with each other, but also with standard rootkits. A number
of fictional attacks are outlined in chapter ten, although the
"mistakes" pointed out do suggest some protective measures that might
be of use. Chapter eleven lists hardware and software for building a
setup to analyze malware. The book concludes with some opining in
chapter twelve.

The text is much more verbose than it really needs to be, and
sensational rather than precise. There is a lot of specific detail in
some areas, particularly for those interested in UNIX system
internals, but the material on malware itself tends to be careless,
and the author is obviously much keener on attacking than defending.
This work does not offer much help to those who want to fight
malicious code.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKMLWFMC.RVW 20031202

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