On May 3, Palo Alto Networks hosted the 5th Annual Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame Awards Dinner at the beautiful Washington Oriental Hotel in D.C. It was a great crowd, including students, book lovers, Palo Alto Networks employees and customers, members of the Cyber Threat Alliance, and partner organizations that share our passion for great cybersecurity books, like the Army Cyber Institute and Cybrary.
Rick Ledgett, the former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency keynoted the event and the inductee authors all showed up to receive their awards. It was a magical night – our work on the Canon gets bigger and more visible every year.
Without further ado, here are the four books and associated authors that we inducted into the Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame at the 2018 ceremony:
Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide
by David Kennedy, Jim O’Gorman, Devon Kearns, and Mati Aharoni
Learning to think like a criminal is a requirement for all penetration testers. Fundamentally, penetration testing is about probing an organization’s systems for weakness. While the goal of Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide is to provide a useful tutorial for beginners, it also serves as a reference for practitioners. The authors write in the Preface that, “This book is designed to teach you the ins and outs of Metasploit and how to use the Framework to its fullest.” While the book is focused on using the Metasploit Framework, it begins by building a foundation for penetration testing and establishing a fundamental methodology.
Using the Metasploit Framework makes discovering, exploiting, and sharing vulnerabilities quick and relatively painless. While Metasploit has been used by security professionals for several years now, the tool can be hard to grasp for first-time users. This book fills the gap by teaching readers how to harness the Framework and interact with the active community of Metasploit contributors. While the Metasploit Framework is frequently updated with new features and exploits, the long-term value of this book is its emphasis on Metasploit fundamentals, which, when understood and practiced, allow the user to be comfortable with both the frequent updates of the tool and also the changing penetration testing landscape.
Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems
by Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Jennifer Petoff and Niall Richard Murphy
Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems is the consummate DevOps how-to manual. Where one of last year’s Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame books, The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business, discusses the overarching DevOps concepts in a novel form, Site Reliability Engineering, written by Google engineers, provides all the practical knowledge necessary for how to build your own DevOps program. The only shortcoming is that the authors don’t consider security operations as part of their SRE team and only barely mention how SRE might improve security operations. That said, this is an important book and should be part of the Cybersecurity Canon. It shows the way that we all should be thinking about deploying and maintaining our IT and security systems.
Worm: The First Digital World War
by Mark Bowden
Worm: The First Digital World War is the story of how the cybersecurity community came together to do battle with what seemed at the time to be the largest and most significant cyber threat to date: the Conficker worm. It was the time of the Estonian and Georgian distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and the Conficker botnet was growing to be the largest DDoS delivery system ever created. A white hat group of cyber übergeeks formed the Conficker Cabal to stop the worm because most of the world could not even understand it, let alone do something about it. Mark Bowden, who wrote Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, among other books, accurately captures the essence of our cybersecurity community in times of crisis. He compares us all to cybersecurity superheroes, like the X-Men of Marvel Comics fame, because of what he sees as our superhuman ability to work with computers and our desire to help each other.
Seasoned security professionals will learn nothing new here in terms of technology and craft, but they will remember that time and how we were all very worried about 1 April 2009: the day that the world thought that Conficker would come to life. I think freshmen security practitioners will get a lot out of this book, however. Bowden does a great job of simply and clearly explaining many of the key technical pieces that make the Internet run. If you’re new to the community, this book makes a great introduction. It is canon-worthy material, and you should have read it by now. (But more importantly, how can you not like a book where the author favorably compares the cybersecurity community to the X-Men? As Stan Lee likes to say, “’Nuff said.”)
Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security
by Christopher Hadnagy
The winner of this season’s Cybersecurity Canon People’s Choice Awards was “Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security” by Christopher Hadnagy. After five rounds of voting and 33 books, Mr. Hadnagy’s work emerged as the popular winner. Ben Rothke, the Cybersecurity Canon Committee member who reviewed the book, said this: “For serious readers who want to understand everything they can about the topic of social engineering, Unmasking the Social Engineer should be one of references in the cybersecurity reading arsenal.” Congratulations Christopher!
Congratulations to all the hall of fame inductees and thank you to everyone who made our Gala awards dinner a success. Head to the Cybersecurity Canon website for more on the Canon and an introduction to the 2019 Canon review season, which kicks off this month.