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Are you looking for a good reference book that provides a comprehensive 1,000 foot view of how to design a secure network? I may have the book for you. Based on a recommendation, I read Engineering Trustworthy Systems by O. Sami Saydjari this past week. This 540-page educational text is formatted like a textbook for folks familiar with security. The list price is $60 but some online retailers have it for $45.

The content is divided into five parts:

  1. What Do You Want? (defining the problem of cyber security)
  2. What Could Go Wrong? (understanding the nature of attacks)
  3. What Are the Building Blocks of Mitigating Risk? (solutions for the problems in part 2)
  4. How Do You Orchestrate Cyber Security? (discusses principles of cyber security architecture)
  5. Moving Cyber Security Forward (where the field is headed in the author’s opinion)

The author has worked for the NSA, DARPA and NASA; this work experience shapes the book’s content. While that makes his insights interesting, it also makes his conclusions point towards larger organizations with resources devoted to information security.

For example, he dismisses the value of qualitative risk assessment in favor of the more mathematically sound quantitative approach. For smaller organizations with fewer resources to devote, a qualitative assessment may be a more practical approach.

This book was the first exposure I had to the concept of attack trees. Attack trees are thoroughly documenting the steps in different attack models to help identify the best ways to protect your network.

I appreciated how the author emphasizes the importance of the “mission” to organizations and how security employees should pursue security that furthers the mission and not security for security’s sake. Something that stood out was the author recommended no more than 10 percent of a shared expendable resource should be devoted to security, which was something I had never heard before.

In conclusion, the book was well written, has great takeaways and is a good resource to have on the shelf!

Categories: Cyber Security

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