Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hacking Exposed Web 2.0 Book Review

Hacking Exposed Web 2.0: Web 2.0 Security Secrets and Solutions by Rich Cannings, Himanshu Dwivedi, Zane Lackey, and Alex Stamos

Reliance on author's tool detracts from books potential

3 Stars

Thanks to McGraw-Hill for my review copy.

Based on my review criteria: this book should have easily been a 4 or 5 star book, but I gave it 3 stars for its major flaw. Its major flaw is that it only talks about iSec partner's SecurityQA Toolbar as a tool for testing for the different types of web application vulnerabilities. Only discussing one closed source, for pay tool, that only runs on Windows is really disappointing from a security professional standpoint. I really expected a good snapshot in time on the DIFFERENT tools and techniques for doing web 2.0 auditing. There are tons of “for-pay” and more importantly FREE web application scanners and tools that look for the same vulnerabilities discussed in the book and the fact that they don't mention any other tools or methods is very disappointing.

Now that the above is out of the way...lets get on with the likes and dislikes.

-The analysis of the samy worm is excellent. They break the code apart and really analyze what's going on and why it worked at the time.
-The chapter on ActiveX security is excellent. It covers a lot of ground on why ActiveX controls are bad, how to fuzz them and how to defend against them.
-The whole first part of the book on Web 1.0 vulnerabilities is well written, I had just finished XSS attacks and having that background helped a lot with the relevant chapters in HE Web 2.0.

-The book is short, about 246 pages, that's probably too short for the price for a security book.
-A good chunk of the chapters cover over and over installing and using their SecurityQA Toolbar, I only need it once, if that.
-I think the book stops a bit short of actually exploiting Web 2.0 vulnerabilities. It talks a lot about identifying which 2.0 framework an application was built with and identifying different methods in that application, if debug functionality is enabled, and finding hidden URLs but how I exploit SQL injection issues or XPATH injection or LDAP injection issues IN web 2.0 applications is missing. That was the core problem with web 1.0, its still a valid and dangerous entry point for web 2.0 and should have been covered. Hacking Exposed is generally about exploiting vulnerabilities and not stopping at identifying them which is where the book seems to have stopped.

Overall the authors are obviously very knowledgeable about the subject. One of the other reviewers mentioned that it goes from technically very easy to very difficult even within chapters and I think this is true. The code sample for the examples they give are great and their explanations of web 1.0 and the web 2.0 threats is very well written with good examples. Like I said, had it not been for their fixation with their own tool as the only option we have for web 1.0 and 2.0 testing this would have easily been a 4 star book. For those a bit more interested in web 2.0 I would recommend checking out Shreeraj Shah's Web 2.0 Security and Hacking Web Services books and his website which has free web 2.0 auditing tools.


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