R IN ACTION: Data Analysis and Graphics with R, 2nd Edition – #bookreview

R in Action

Data Analysis and Graphics with R

Robert I. Kabacoff

Manning – paperback

Whether data analysis is your field, your current major or your next career-change ambition, you likely should get this book. Free and open source  R is one of the world’s most popular languages for data analysis and visualization. And Robert I. Kabacoff’s updated new edition is, in my opinion, one of the top books out there for getting a handle on R. (I have used and previously reviewed several R how-to books.)

R is relatively easy to install on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux machines. But it is generally considered difficult to learn. Much of that is because of its rich abundance of features and packages, as well as its ability to create many types of graphs. “The base installation,” Kabacoff writes, “provides hundreds of data-management, statistical, and graphical functions out of the box. But some of its most powerful features come from the thousands of extensions (packages) provided by contributing authors.”

Kabacoff concedes: “It can be hard for new users to get a handle on what R is and what it can do.” And: “Even the most experienced R user is surprised to learn about features they were unaware of.”

R in Action, Second Edition, contains more than 200 pages of new material. And it is nicely structured to meet the needs of R beginners, as well as those of us who have some experience and want to gain more.

The book (579 pages in print format) is divided into five major parts. The first part, “Getting Started,” takes the beginner from an installing and trying R to creating data sets, working with graphs, and managing data. Part 2, “Basic Methods,”focuses on graphical and statistical techniques for obtaining basic information about data.”

Part 3, “Intermediate Methods,” moves the reader well beyond “describing the relationship between two variables.” It introduces  regression, analysis of variance, power analysis, intermediate graphs, and resampling statistics and bootstrapping. Part 4 presents “Advanced Methods,” including generalized linear models, principal components and factor analysis, time series, cluster analysis, classification, and advanced methods for missing data.

Part 5, meanwhile, offers how-to information for “Expanding Your Skills.” The topics include: advanced graphics with ggplot2, advanced programming, creating a package, creating dynamic reports, and developing advanced graphics with the lattice program.

A key strength of R in Action, Second Edition is Kabacoff’s use of generally short code examples to illustrate many of the ways that data can be entered, manipulated, analyzed and displayed in graphical form.

The first thing I did, however, was start at the very back of the book, Appendix G, and upgrade my existing version of R to 3.2.1, “World-Famous Astronaut.” The upgrade instructions could have been a little bit clearer, but after hitting a couple of unmentioned prompts and changing a couple of wrong choices, the process turned out to be quick and smooth.

Then I started reading chapters and keying in some of the code examples. I had not used R much recently, so it was fun again to enter some commands and numbers and have nicely formatted graphs suddenly pop open on the screen.

Even better, it is nice to have a LOT of new things to learn, with a well-written, well-illustrated guidebook in hand.

Si Dunn

 

The Practice of Network Security Monitoring – You’re compromised, so deal with it. #security #bookreview

The Practice of Network Security Monitoring

Understanding Incident Detection and Response
Richard Bejtlich
(No Starch Press – paperback, Kindle)

Security expert Richard Bejtlich’s focus in his new book is not on “the planning and defense phases of the security cycle.” Instead, he emphasizes how to handle “systems that are already compromised or that are on the verge of being compromised.”

His well-organized, well-written, 341-page book aims to help you “start detecting and responding to digital intrusions using network-centric operations, tools, and techniques.”

Bejtlich has long emphasized a “detection-centered philosophy” built around a straightforward central tenet: “Prevention eventually fails.” No matter how many digital walls and moats you build around your network, someone will find a way to tunnel in, parachute in, or sneak in via an unsuspecting employee’s $9.95 thumb drive.

“It’s becoming smarter,” he writes, “to operate as though your enterprise is always compromised. Incident response is no longer an infrequent, ad-hoc affair. Rather, incident response should be a continuous business process with defined metrics and objectives.”

You may recognize some of Bejtlich’s previous books on network security monitoring (NSM): The Tao of Network Security Monitoring; Extrusion Detection; and Real Digital Forensics.

The Practice of Network Security Monitoring is tailored toward two key audiences: (1) security professionals who have little or no experience with NSM; and (2) “more senior incident handlers, architects, and engineers who need to teach NSM to managers, junior analysts, or others who may be technically less adept.”

Readers, he add, should understand “the basic use of the Linux and Windows operating systems, TCP/IP networking, and the essentials of network attack and defense.”

The examples in Bejtlich’s book rely on open source and vendor-neutral tools, primarily from Doug Burks’ Security Onion (SO) distribution.

The 13-chapter book is organized into four parts:

  • Part I: Getting Started – Introduces NSM and sensor placement issues.
  • Part II: Security Onion Deployment – Shows how to install and configure SO.
  • Part III: Tools – Examines the “key software shipped with SO and how to use these applications.”
  • Part IV: NSM in Action – Looks at “how to use NSM processes and data to detect and respond to intrusions.”

Following the technical chapters, Bejtlich offers some concluding thoughts on network security management, cloud computing, and establishing an effective workflow for NSM. “NSM isn’t just about tools,” he writes. “NSM is an operation, and that concept implies workflow, metrics, and collaboration. A workflow establishes  a series of steps that an analyst follows to perform the detection and response mission. Metrics, like the classification and count of incidents and time elapsed from incident detection to containment, measure the effectiveness of the workflow. Collaboration enables analysts to work smarter and faster.”

He also observes: “It is possible to defeat adversaries if we stop them before they accomplish their mission. As it has been since the early 1990s, NSM will continue to be a powerful, cost-effective way to counter intruders.”

Si Dunn

Ethics of Big Data – Thoughtful insights into key issues confronting big-data ‘gold mines’ – #management #bookreview

Ethics of Big Data
Kord Davis, with Doug Patterson
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

“Big Data” and how to mine it for profit are red-hot topics in today’s business world. Many corporations now find themselves sitting atop virtual gold mines of customer information. And even small businesses now are attempting to find new ways to profit from their stashes of sales, marketing, and research data. 

Like it or not, you can’t block all of the cookies or tracking companies or sites that are following you, and each time you surf the web, you leave behind a “data exhaust” trail that has monetary value to others. Indeed, one recent start-up, Enliken, (“Data to the People”), is offering a way for computer users to gain some control over their data exhaust trail’s monetary value and choose who benefits from it, including some charities.

Ethics of Big Data does not seek to lay down a “hard-and-fast list of rules for the ethical handling of data.” The new book also doesn’t “tell you what to do with your data.” Its goals are “to help you engage in productive ethical discussions raised by today’s big-data-driven enterprises, propose a framework for thinking and talking about these issues, and introduce a methodology for aligning actions with values within an organization.”

It’s heady stuff, packed into just 64 pages. But the book is well written and definitely thought-provoking. It can serve as a focused guide for corporate leaders and others now hoping to get a grip on their own big-data situations, in ways that will not alienate their customers, partners, and stakeholders.

In the view of the authors: “For both individuals and organizations, four common elements define what can be considered a framework for big data:

  • “Identity – What is the relationship between our offline identity and our online identity?”
  • “Privacy – Who should control access to data?”
  • “Ownership – Who owns data, can rights be transferred, and what are the obligations of people who generate and use that data?”
  • “Reputation – How can we determine what data is trustworthy? Whether about ourselves, others, or anything else, big data exponentially increases the amount of information and ways we can interact with it. This phenomenon increases the complexity of managing how we are perceived and judged.”

Big-data technology itself is “ethnically neutral,” the authors contend, and it “has no value framework. Individuals and corporations, however, do have value systems, and it is only by asking and seeking answers to ethical questions that we can ensure big data is used in a way that aligns with those values.”

At the same time: “Big data is pushing corporate action further and more fully into individual lives through the sheer volume, variety, and velocity of the data being generated. Big-data product design, development, sales, and management actions expand their influence and impact over individuals’ lives that may be changing the common meanings of words like privacy, reputation, ownership, and identity.”

What will happen next as (1) big data continues to expand and intrude and (2) people and organizations  push back harder, is still anybody’s guess. But matters of ethics likely will remain at the center of the conflicts.

Indeed, some big-data gold mines could suffer devastating financial and legal cave-ins if greed is allowed to trump ethics.

Si Dunn

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition – Welcome to the new, improved & BIGGER Internet – #bookreview #microsoft #windows

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition
Joseph Davies
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

The Internet can now expand into a much bigger realm than was possible before the worldwide launch of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) on June 6, 2012.

The web most of us use has long relied on IPv4, the circa-1981 Internet Protocol built around 32-bit addresses. This scheme can accommodate approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses worldwide. On a planet where (1) the population now has surpassed 7 billion and (2) many of us now have multiple devices connected to the Web, Internet Protocol version 4 recently has been in dire danger of running out of unique addresses.

IPv6 will fix that problem and offer several important new enhancements, as long as we don’t find ways to expand the Internet to parallel universes or to the people on a few trillion distant planets. IPv6 uses a 128-bit addressing scheme that can accommodate more than 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses. So go ahead. Get online with that second iPad, third smart phone or fourth laptop.

IPv4 and IPv6 are now running in a dual stack that supports both addressing schemes. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is not seamless, however. A lot of work remains to be done by major Internet service providers (ISPs), web companies, hardware manufacturers, network equipment providers and many others to enable IPv6 on their products and services.

Joseph Davies, author of Understanding IPv6, has been writing about IPv6 since 1999. His new 674-page third edition provides both a detailed overview of IPv6 and a detailed focus on how to implement it, within a limited range of Windows products.

“There are,” he notes, “different versions of the Microsoft IPv6 protocol for Windows….I have chosen to confine the discussion to the IPv6 implementation in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.”

This well-written and well-organized book is not for beginners. Its intended audience includes:

  • Windows networking consultants and planners
  • Microsoft Windows network administrators
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) and Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs)
  • General technical staff
  • Information technology students

Davies and Microsoft offer downloadable companion content for this book: Microsoft Network Monitor 3.4 (a network sniffer for capturing and viewing frames); and PowerPoint 2007 training slides that can be used along with the book to teach IPv6.

If you need a guide to best practices for using IPv6 in a Windows network, definitely consider getting Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition.

Si Dunn

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users – #bookreview #in

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users
Mitch Tulloch
(Microsoft Press,
paperback, list price $9.99; Kindle edition, $0.00)
 

If you work for a company that uses Microsoft Office products, or if you have them in your own business, you may be concerned about security and privacy as you publish documents, download documents or collaborate on projects online. Indeed, there may be formal security and privacy restrictions in place.

At the same time, because of workload, you may have little time for formal training in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. And you may not get much guidance on how you are supposed to comply with your employer’s restrictions. Indeed, you may be required and expected to just learn this stuff on your own.

This handy 84-page guidebook can help. Using typical office scenarios, it covers a number of everyday topics. These include working with Protected View, removing private information from documents, signing documents digitally, marking documents as final so they can’t be modified, encrypting documents, password-only access to documents, and restricting who can edit a document.

Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users is recommended for intermediate-level users of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. But the examples and illustrations are clear enough for Microsoft Office newcomers, as well.

Si Dunn

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Inside Cyber Warfare, 2nd Edition – You’re at the front line & you can’t retreat – #bookreview

Inside Cyber Warfare (2nd Edition)
By Jeffery Carr
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

A global war for survival is in full battle, and you — or at least one or more of your computers — may now be right at the front line, already in the fight.

Actually, in cyber warfare, there is no “front line.”  As this important book makes unnervingly clear, attacks on business and military data, on financial systems, and on personal information now can — and do — come at any time from anywhere on the planet.

The attackers can be governments, military units, criminal groups, terrorist organizations, hacker gangs, lone-wolf thieves and even mischief makers with little or no agenda except chaos. And what seems to be a damaging infiltration from one nation actually may be controlled by, and coming from, computers in several other nations.

Indeed, some recently successful and damaging attacks against supposedly well-secured systems have been launched from sites very difficult to identify, using networks of infected computers scattered across several continents, including the United States. And the owners of the infected computers had no idea their machines were involved.

Jeffrey Carr’s updated book is aimed at political and military leaders, policy makers,  and corporate executives responsible for securing data systems and sensitive information. Yet everyday computer users need to read it, too, to have a clearer sense of what we are all up against now. We must understand the risks well enough to help pressure lawmakers, corporate leaders and others to make good choices regarding data security and protecting intellectual property.

The author is a cyber intelligence expert and consultant whose specialty is investigating “cyber attacks against governments and infrastructures by state and non-state hackers.”

Carr’s well-written second edition covers such topics as: the cyber-warfare capabilities of a wide range of nation-states, from Australia and Nigeria to China, the Russian Federation and the United States; how organized crime operates and profits in cyberspace; the difficulty of responding to international cyber attacks as acts of war; and national and international legal issues that affect cyber warfare.

Some foreign governments, Carr points out, are believed to condone and even sponsor cyber attacks. Others are well aware of the digital lawbreakers operating within their borders, yet prosecute only a selected few cases. For example, Carr notes, “in the Russian Federation, the police are interested only in arresting hackers for financial crimes against Russian companies. Hacking attacks cloaked in nationalism are not only not prosecuted by Russian authorities, but they are encouraged…” through a variety of proxies.

Against technically savvy, well-funded and government-coddled hackers, your outdated virus protection software and your dogs’-names passwords are very thin, very porus shields, indeed. 

Carr offers a number of recommendations to American policymakers who must wrestle with Internet and data security issues, plus protection of intellectual property. One of his strongest recommendations is a call for the Department of Defense to throw Windows out the Pentagon’s windows and replace it with Red Hat Linux.

“Red Hat Linux,” he writes, “is a proven secure OS with less than 90% of the bugs found per 1,000 lines of code than in Windows. Many decision makers don’t know that it is the most certified operating system in the world, and it’s already in use by some of the US government’s most secretive agencies.” He adds: “Linux certainly has its vulnerabilities, but the math speaks for itself. Shoot Windows and eliminate the majority of the malware threat with one stroke.”

He also wants sharp crackdowns on “US companies that provide Internet services to individuals and companies who engage in illegal activities, provide false WHOIS information, and other indicators that they are potential platforms for cyber attacks.”

But anyone who connects a computer to the Internet and is active on social media needs to be aware of the risks and high stakes involved in the cyber warfare now being fought between and among governments, criminal groups, terrorist organizations, hacker gangs and lone-wolf troublemakers.

Even as you read this, your personal computer or your company’s servers may be secretly helping North Korea, Iran, China, a drug cartel or a lone, bored hacker launch a cyber attack somewhere else in the world.

You may not be a high-value data target. Yet, even with just one laptop computer, you can become an unwilling and unknowing foot soldier for the wrong side.

These are scary thoughts, and you can’t wish them away. Read this important book to get the big, unnerving picture.

Then start thinking–fast–of ways to better protect your computers, data, intellectual property and personal information.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer, and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications – #programming #bookreview

The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications
By Michal Zalewski
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $49.95 ; Kindle edition, list price $31.95)

When Michal Zalewski writes, people listen. And many software programmers pay — or should pay — very close attention to what he recommends.

Zalewski is an internationally respected information security expert who has uncovered hundreds of major Internet security vulnerabilities

“The dream of inventing a brand-new browser security model,” he states in The Tangled Web, “is strong within the community, but it is always followed by the realization that it would require rebuilding the entire Web. Therefore, much of the practical work focuses on more humble extensions to the existing approach, necessarily increasing the complexity of the security-critical sections of the browser codebase.”

Today’s Web indeed is a mess, a complex morass of “design flaws and implementation shortcomings” within a technology “that never aspired to its current status and never had a chance to pause and look back at previous mistakes,” he says. And: “The resulting issues have emerged as some of the most significant and prevalent threats to data security today….”

In his well-written new “Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications,” Zalewski states that “a substantial dose of patience, creativity, and real technical expertise is required from all the information security staff.”

Anyone who works with the Web application stack needs to clearly understand its built-in security vulnerabilities and the consequences that can occur when unwanted penetrations occur.

Zalewski’s 299-page book is structured into three parts – Anatomy of the Web, Browser Security Features, and A Glimpse of Things to Come — and 18 chapters:

  1. Security in the World of Web Applications
  2. It Starts with a URL
  3. Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  4. Hypertext Markup Language
  5. Cascading Style Sheets
  6. Browser-Side Scripts
  7. Non-HTML Document Types
  8. Content Rendering with Browser Plug-ins
  9. Content Isolation Logic
  10. Origin Inheritance
  11. Life Outside Same-Origin Rules
  12. Other Security Boundaries
  13. Content Recognition Mechanisms
  14. Dealing with Rogue Scripts
  15. Extrinsic Site Privileges
  16. New and Upcoming Security Features
  17. Other Browser Mechanisms of Note
  18. Common Web Vulnerabilities

Zalewski’s other published works include Silence on the Wire and Google’s Browser Security Handbook.

Despite the software industry’s many efforts to find security “silver bullets,” Zalewski contends that “[a]ll signs point to security being largely a nonalgorithmic problem for now.” What still works best, he says are three “rudimentary, empirical recipes”:

  1. Learning from (preferably other people’s) mistakes
  2. Developing tools to detect and correct problems
  3. Planning to have everything compromised.

“These recipes are deeply incompatible with many business management models,” he warns, “but they are all that have really worked for us so far.”

Zalewski’s book puts a bright, uncomfortable spotlight on the fundamental insecurities of Web browsers, but it also shows you how to improve the security of Web applications.

Whether you program Web apps, or manage Web app programmers, or are studying to become a Web app programmer, you likely need this book.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle. He is a freelance book reviewer for the Dallas Morning News and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA tester.