Stealing the Network: How to Own an Identity
As is often the case with successful products, especially a book series, follow-up titles are hotly anticipated by fans of the originals. This was the case when I heard about Syngress third addition to its amazing Stealing the Network series. Readers may recall my effusive 5 star review of the second book in the series, How to Own a Continent. Needless to say, my anticipation for How to Own an Identity was at an all-time high.
What makes the Stealing the Network titles so compelling to read is the amalgamation of entertaining spy-novel fiction writing and real-world exploitation of computer and network security flaws. This latest book continues this practice, and re-introduces the characters and plotlines from How to Own a Continent. While it s not necessary to have read that book before this one, those who have will appreciate the recursion of story elements, as well as the recognition that cyber crimes and murders don t go magically unnoticed for long in the real world.
How to Own an Identity reintroduces Bob Knuth, the main antagonist from How to Own a Continent. Readers learn about his real name (Robert Knoll), his wife, son and daughter, and, ultimately, about his NSA background. As with the other Stealing the Network titles, each chapter is written by a different author, each introducing different types of security exploits focusing on identity theft.
Throughout the course of the story, readers will become more paranoid about so-called trusted technologies, such as DNS, SSH, and SSL, as well as learn about how Cisco routers hold a treasure trove of information and even how to, with a few sequenced front panel button presses on the device, turn an Apple iPod into a firewire drive (not just the section of the drive intentionally partitioned for HD access) for full extraction and disk imaging of its entire contents. Even stenography and playful number games between father and son ( la Dan Brown s DaVinci Code Fibonacci flashback device between that book s primary parent and child characters) make appearances.
The book s ending, while offering a few surprising twists, didn t quite have the visceral impact of How to Own a Continent. In fact, How to Own an Identity seemed rushed and failed to tie up a lot of loose ends. I had to re-read the last two chapters just to make sure I didn t miss anything between the lines. Did Knoll s son eventually meet up with his father? Did hacker Forbes succeed with her Plan B ? What became of the hacker Flir, who had been duped by Knuth in How to Own a Continent and was now hot on Knuth s trail? And what the heck happened to Knuth/Knoll s wife? If Syngress advertised that the next book in the series would be forthcoming with these answers it would be easier to defer these questions, but without this promise, it just feels like multiple authors introduced too many characters who were forgotten about or sacrificed for the sake of demonstrating a technical exploit.
Even with the discombobulated ending, Stealing the Network: How to Own an Identity continues Syngress excellent merger of suspenseful fiction with real-world examples of exploiting computing technology vulnerabilities. I just hope that the next book in the series examines exploits at the technical extremes while tying up the story s loose ends.
Title: Stealing the Network: How to Own an Identity
Author: Raven Adler, Jay Beale, Riley Eller, Brian Hatch, Chris Hurley, Jeff Moss, Tom Parker, Ryan Russell, Timothy Mullen, Johnny Long
Page Count: 336 pages