Silence on the Wire

  • Michal Zalewski
  • No Starch Press
  • 1593270461

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This is billed as a security book, and yes, that is its focus, but that isn't why you should read it. First: this is ultra-heavy geek territory, but it's not necessarily computer geeks only. What I mean is that although this is all computer and networking related, any general engineering geek-type will probably enjoy it. It is emphatically NOT about buffer overflows and the like; it's about the really esoteric stuff, and therefore interesting even if you aren't that interested in deep level security topics.

What I particularly liked is the author's attention to detail. I'd start reading a chapter and think "Yeah, I know this", but then realize that he was just leading me through the basics because he had something important and interesting to say that I probably did NOT know.. and that was usually true.

And although there is a lot of ink devoted to explaining the background of things you may already know, I didn't mind it because the author has style and wit and presents things with a slant that made it fun to read even when I already knew everything. For example, he explains in detail how Boolean logic works and why you can use a NAND or NOR gate for any kind of logic circuit. It's an excellent and entertaining review, but it leads you to a fascinating excursion into how differences in execution time can reveal data in ways you never would have imagined. Similarly, a review of networking from the ground up leads to more than you ever would have expected, both in terms of security and other fascinating ideas.

The really odd thing about this book is that there's so much packed into less than three hundred pages. It's like eating a handful of popcorn and feeling like you just had a big holiday dinner - it's extremely filling.

Before I was done with this, I cornered my geek son-in-law and had him read the section on capturing network traffic by watching the led's flash. He's very busy right now, and hasn't had time to read two other books I gave him last month. He read the chapter and I said "You want this when I'm done, right?". He said "Oh, yeah. Definitely". Well, he may have to wait: I want to read this again myself before I pass it on to him.

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