REVIEW: “The Myths of Security”, John Viega

BKMTHSEC.RVW   20091221

“The Myths of Security”, John Viega, 2009, 978-0-596-52302-2, U$29.99/C$37.99
%A   John Viega
%C   103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA   95472
%D   2009
%G   978-0-596-52302-2 0-596-52302-5
%I   O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.
%O   U$29.99/C$37.99 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104
%O   Audience i Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P   238 p.
%T   “The Myths of Security”

The foreword states that McAfee does a much, much better job of security than other companies.  The preface states that computer security is difficult, that people, particularly computer users, are uninformed about computer security, and that McAfee does a much better job of security than other companies.  The author also notes that it is much more fun to write a book that is simply a collection of your opinions than one which requires work and technical accuracy.

The are forty-eight “chapters” in the book, most only two or three pages long.  As you read through them, you will start to notice that they are not about information security in general, but concentrate very heavily on the antivirus (AV) field.

After an initial point that most technology has a poor user interface, a few more essays list some online dangers.  Viega goes on to note a number of security tools which he does not use, himself.  He then argues unconvincingly that free antivirus software is not a good
thing, unclearly that Google is evil, and incompletely that AV software doesn’t work.  (I’ve been working in the antivirus research field for a lot longer than the author, and I’m certainly very aware that there are problems with all forms of AV: but there are more forms of AV in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy.  By the way, John, Fred Cohen listed all the major forms of AV technology more than twenty-*five* years ago.)  The author subsequently jumps from this careless technical assessment to a very deeply technical discussion of the type of hashing or searching algorithms that AV companies should be using.  And thence to semi-technical (but highly opinionated) pieces on how disclosure, or HTTPS, or CAPTCHA, or VPNs have potential problems and therefore should be destroyed.  Eventually all pretence at analysis runs out, and some of the items dwindle down to three or four paragraphs of feelings.

For those with extensive backgrounds in the security field, this work might have value.  Not that you’ll learn anything, but that the biases presented may run counter to your own, and provide a foil to test your own positions.  However, those who are not professionals in the field might be well to avoid it, lest they become mythinformed.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009    BKMTHSEC.RVW   20091221