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I'm trying to put together a list of topics in Network Security and prioritize them accordingly. A little background on the book - we are trying to gear the text towards college students, as an introduction to security, and toward IT professionals who have recently been tasked with securing a network.

The idea is to create a book that covers the most vital and important parts of securing a network with no assumptions. So, if you were a novice student interested in network security OR an IT professional who needed a crash course on network security, what topics do you feel would be of the upmost importance in such a text?

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@skaffman - thanks for the tag add –  sethvargo Jan 9 '11 at 21:58
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Why not have a look at some of the 10 gazillion other books on the subject and see what's normally covered? Yes, the subject has been well covered already. –  John Gardeniers Jan 10 '11 at 1:34
    
@John Gardeniers - because I want people's opinions. I know what's covered, I want to hear what professionals think is important. Just because certain things currently exist in textbooks doesn't mean its the best material –  sethvargo Jan 10 '11 at 2:15
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3 Answers

Some thoughts (by no means complete; also not necessarily in the best order):

  • authentication, authorization, and encryption basics
  • management of authentication and authorization information (e.g., Active Directory)
  • management of privileges ; delegation models for authorization
  • firewalls
  • network analysis tools (e.g., packet analyzers)
  • installation of security defenses in hardware (e.g., certificates)
  • some additional encryption topics:
    • symmetric/asymmetric encryption
    • digital signing
  • threats:
    • basics of malware, spyware, viruses and general defense management
    • basic injection issues (e.g., SQL injection)
    • intro to OWASP
    • users
  • recent Internet models (OAuth)
  • case studies in network security failures
    • past cases where worms, viruses, injections, etc have disabled organizations -- what lessons can be learned from them
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Here's my own list of topics that I see people keep failing at, frequently:

  • How to use crypto
  • When NOT to use crypto
  • Authentication != Authorization
  • Not understanding TCP/IP suite, especially the layering, fragmentation and reassembly
  • How to do security not compliance, and how to deal when they're at odds
  • Understanding where do problems come from, and what do mitigations really do
  • Compromising security for the sake of comfort/ignorance (e.g. installing full Xorg and desktop managers so they can add a user)
  • Protocol analysis (why is MD4 fine by itself, but WEP is horribly broken despite being built on top of MD4)
  • Distinguishing between different classes of attacks and what mechanism is being faulty/misused
  • Understanding the difference between bad design and bad implementation, and the consequences of both
  • Understanding various security mechanisms and what they really try to prevent (e.g. by now firewalls are a mindless requirement, but can most people name what type of security problem they solve?)
  • Debugging network problems--localizing the problem to software/hardware, your machine vs other machines vs network
  • Learning the difference between a solution, a mitigation, and an obscure obstacle
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+1 for authentication != authorization –  sethvargo Jan 17 '11 at 15:46
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Check out the curriculum's for certifications such as the C|EH, GPEN (and other GIAC certs), CISSP, OSCP, and many others. These are all geared towards defending networks and should be a good starting point for your book.

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Given that this is an introductory book, I would suggest adding the Security+ exam objectives as well. –  Skyhawk Jan 10 '11 at 3:51
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