REVIEW: "The GSEC Prep Guide", Mike Chapple

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 10, 2003.

  1. BKGSECPG.RVW 20030918

    "The GSEC Prep Guide", Mike Chapple, 2003, 0-7645-3932-9,
    %A Mike Chapple
    %C 5353 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
    %D 2003
    %G 0-7645-3932-9
    %I John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    %O U$60.00/C$90.99/UK#41.95 416-236-4433 fax: 416-236-4448
    %P 448 p. + CD-ROM
    %T "The GSEC Prep Guide: Mastering SANS GIAC Security Essentials"

    The SANS (System administrators, Audit, Network, Security) Institute
    GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) Security Essentials
    Certification (GSEC) is supposed to be the "core" program for the
    various GIAC courses and exams.

    Chapter one covers some basic, but random, security concepts and
    topics. A list of sample questions, intended to help the
    student/candidate prepare for the GSEC exam, is given at the end of
    every chapter. If these truly represent the level and type of
    questions on the exam then getting the GSEC is a snap: quick, which
    type of situation is worse, one that has low threat and low
    vulnerability or high threat and high vulnerability? (On the other
    hand, you may have to know the party line: one question insists that
    you credit SANS with the concept of defence in depth, and there is a
    concept of "separation of privilege" that seems to be what everyone
    else refers to as separation of duties.) Security policies are
    discussed in a verbose but almost "content-free" manner in chapter
    two. Virtually nothing is said about the policy process and different
    functional types of policies. Again, there is a demand for
    idiosyncratic jargon: high level policies are "program" policies,
    whereas detailed policies (mostly procedural, given the list
    discussed) are "issue-specific." One term that might be worth
    adopting is "system-specific policy": those who deal with policies
    know that it is difficult to have exceptions documented. Using this
    term for deviations, as SANS does, may reduce the resistance to noting
    the irregularities. There are some basic ideas about risk assessment
    and management in chapter three, but most of the text reviews network
    scanning tools. Chapter four contains network nomenclature, Cisco
    equipment filtering command arguments, and miscellaneous IP (Internet
    Protocol) protocols in varying depth. There are a brief list of the
    titular "Incident Handling" factors contained in chapter five, as well
    as random legal terms. The discussion of cryptography in chapter six
    is reasonable up to the point of symmetric block ciphers, but
    subsequent material has errors (keystream data should *not* repeat
    during the course of a message), confusing diagrams, and unhelpful
    mathematics. There is no deliberation about the usage of public key
    cryptography, hashes, and digests until chapter seven, which, despite
    the title, has absolutely nothing to say about "Applications
    Security." Chapter eight provides a simple overview of firewalls and
    intrusion detection systems (IDSs) but is not overly detailed: no
    distinction is made between application and circuit-level proxies, and
    some of the statements made are clearly incorrect for circuit devices.
    There is a grab bag of malware, cryptanalysis, attack methods and more
    in chapter nine. The content on operations security is limited to
    assorted aspects and tools of Windows and UNIX that might be related
    to secure processing, in chapters ten and eleven respectively.
    Chapter twelve is a practice exam. It's pretty easy.

    The GSEC is sometimes said to be adequate preparation for the CISSP
    (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) exam, but there
    are significant gaps in GSEC's coverage of the security topic.
    Although risk assessment and policy are discussed, management issues
    and access controls get limited substance in GSEC. Security
    architecture, applications security, physical security, and business
    continuity are all missing, while operations are restricted to Windows
    and UNIX.

    This book does provide some useful direction in regard to information
    systems security, but readers should be warned that the missing pieces
    will probably be very important at some point.

    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKGSECPG.RVW 20030918


    "If you do buy a computer, don't turn it on." - Richards' 2nd Law
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    Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 10, 2003
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