honestpuck writes "Security has long been a concern for Unix administrators who find themselves connected to the sometimes dark and dirty world of the Internet. With the advent of personal operating systems with file sharing, remote login and built-in web servers, and the spread of broadband networks with their always-on connectivity, it should now be a concern for everyone." Specifically, honestpuck is talking here about Mac OS X; read on for his review of Sams Publishing's Mac OS X Maximum Security.
It really didn't concern me until one day when I was checking the logs on my Mac OS X box while developing a web app and discovered dozens of entries from all over the globe probing my box to see if it was an insecure IIS server. I then decided I needed to pay attention to security alerts and the help of a book like Macintosh OS X Maximum Security to help me understand and fix any holes.
The book is divided into four sections. Part 1 is about learning to think about security, covering such topics as physical security and protection from your users and bad guys. Part II, 'Vulnerabilities and Exposures,' covers the various sorts of attack such as password attacks, trojans and worms, sniffers and spoofing. Part III, 'Specific Mac OS X Resources and How To Secure Them,' covers just that, the various servers such as FTP, mail, Apache and SSH and how to go about making them safe. The final part covers attack prevention, detection, reaction and recovery with topics such as firewalls, alarm systems, logs and disaster planning.
Macintosh OS X Maximum Security is a large, extremely comprehensive volume. For the average person who wants to protect a small home network the information it provides is probably overkill. To make matters worse, the style is fairly verbose, particularly in the first section. Of course, if you want to secure a company network then you may need to know all the information -- and so all this background material is useful, if only so you can reach the right level of paranoia and suspicion.
The book is not a 'recipe' book that tells you "take these steps and you will have a secure machine"; rather it takes you through the possible holes and how to fix them. This approach seems much better for security, since it teaches you a respect for the places you have to open up and a methodical approach to doing so that will hopefully carry over beyond the specifics addressed. Any recipe is bound to have flaws since the operating system and the services are all changing, I'm hoping the methods and style this book have imparted to me will last beyond any changes.
The book also deals well with all the Macintosh-specific stuff, informing you well about such topics as Rendezvous, Apple Remote Desktop, using NetInfo and the like. One aspect that isn't well covered is Airport; securing an 802.11 network is barely touched on.
The information provided in all areas of the book is quite detailed, and includes many links to further places to look for more (and more recent) information. Once again, for a book in an ever-changing field like security, this is a huge benefit. I would have appreciated some sort of a small website devoted to the book with the links mentioned gathered together and perhaps some notes on how things may have changed since the book's publication. Unfortunately the Sams Publishing site has a broken link to the book and while the authors say "we are creating a security section for the www.macosxunleashed.com website," no such section exists as I was writing this review. Frankly I am disappointed at this, I think with a book on this sort of topic it behooves either the publisher or author to provide a place for errata, discussion and notes. The best you can do is go to Amazon where you can see the Table of Contents and one chapter. [Ed. Note: The site's errata section is currently up and running.]
My only real complaint with the book itself is the huge size, and the long-winded nature of some of the material. I found the first two sections in particular almost tedious and definitely lecturing in tone. I would have rated this book higher if the editors at Sams had taken a large red pencil to slabs of the first section. Overall, I'd say that while not a 'must buy,' this book will have to do till I find something better, and I expect to loan my copy to several friends.
You can purchase Mac OS X Maximum Security from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.