Contributed by George Mack, Content Marketing Manager, Check Point Software.
Cyber security is an evolving field, where trends are always changing. As a result, modern cyber security tactics may lose their effectiveness rather rapidly. What worked last year does not as well today.
While cyber security tactics are continually updated and recycled, the list of books below focus on fundamental strategies that have withstood the test of time.
This list also contains books that adopt the format of a modern thriller, hijacking your attention as you witness what it’s like to be at the forefront of digital warfare or cyber espionage. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran exec, reading the list of books below will deepen your understanding of cyber security and help you stay ahead of the pack.
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation
Author: Jon Erickson
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation has been cited as “the most complete tutorial on hacking techniques,” explaining how a hacker thinks and then providing to the reader the step-by-step process of discovering new ways to solve problems related to computer systems and applications. The book walks readers through common techniques and tools, explaining the underlying logic behind dozens of different loopholes and attacks.
The second edition of the book come with a Live CD, which provides a complete Linux programming and debugging environment. You can use it to follow the book’s examples as you gain a deeper understanding of hacking techniques.
If you want to defend your organization against hackers, then you must learn how to think like one – and this book will help you achieve that.
“This book does a great job of covering C programming, assembly programming, vulnerability discovery, and exploitation all in one. If you are going to read only one book, start here.”
—Dino Dai Zovi
The Art of Software Security Assessment
Authors: Mark Dowd, John McDonald, Justin Schuh
This is known as the “Bible” of OS-level exploitation. The Art of Software Security Assessment explains how to audit security in applications of all sizes and functions. In addition, you will find real examples of past code that were found in high-profile applications. This book covers a wide array of topics, including: code auditing, UNIX/Linux assessment, Windows-specific issues such as objects and the filesystem, IP stacks, firewalls, common application protocols, threat modeling, and more.
If you’re a beginner, this shouldn’t be your first book, as it requires proficiency with programming. However, if you’re looking to do more with software security audits, then this is a must-read.
“There are a number of secure programming books on the market, but none that go as deep as this one. The depth and detail exceeds all books that I know about by an order of magnitude.”
— Halvar Flake, CEO and head of research, SABRE Security GmbH
The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook
Author: Dafydd Stuttard
Web applications are a common attack vector into most companies, making them vulnerable to threats that steal sensitive data and compromise customer accounts. This book explores various techniques for attacking and defending the growing range of web applications. You will learn about frame busting, hybrid file attacks, cross-domain integration techniques, HTTP parameter pollution, and more.
An advantage of this book is that it breaks down the information into a straight line, building upon your understanding of a new topic from the previous one. If you’re interested in discovering and preventing web application flaws, then this book is for you.
“This is right up there with Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and quite frankly, The Bible. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it but you get the idea.”
Practical Malware Analysis
Author: Michael Sikorski
It seems that malware has always been a plague in the modern world of computers. Hackers are always looking for new ways to program malware that bypass traditional detection methods, keeping security professionals on their toes.
This is a very comprehensive book for all things malware-related. Although the topic of dissecting malware can be daunting, as it requires the ability to interpret code and understanding how internal systems work, this book does an excellent job of relaying those concepts. You will also learn how to overcome malware tricks that hackers often use such as obfuscation, anti-debugging, anti-disassembly, and anti-virtual machine techniques.
However, this book requires an understanding of Assembly and the x86 architecture, as advanced analysis happens at the assembly level.
“. . . the most comprehensive guide to analysis of malware, offering detailed coverage of all the essential skills required to understand the specific challenges presented by modern malware.”
― Chris Eagle, Senior Lecturer of Computer Science at the Naval Postgraduate School
Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking
Author: Christopher Hadnagy
Humans are the weakest link. This is a phrase that we often hear. It highlights the fact that human errors, not technical ones, are often the cause of a major cyber incident or breach. Phishing attacks successfully exploit this flaw: according to Verizon’s DBIR, 22% of data breaches involve phishing.
In Social Engineering, Christopher Hadnagy explains the steps that social engineers use to deceive you and ultimately extract information out of you. While the book does provide tools you can use, technology is constantly changing, so you have to keep in mind that what worked in the past may not work today.
However, human behavior doesn’t change. By understanding the fundamentals of “human hacking” techniques, you will be better equipped to defend your organization against these attacks.
“The result is a remarkably good read that is both informative and enjoyable. If you are security professional or simply concerned about your own security, then you really should read this book.”
The Art of Invisibility
Author: Kevin Mitnick
This book was written by Kevin Mitnick, dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Hacker.” The book’s thesis is that we are all being tracked 24/7. Whenever you use your e-mail, visit a website, call on your cell-phone, or use WiFi, you are most likely being tracked. Does your debit card have a little silver-colored, square chip on it? Have you ever wondered how much personal information it contains about you? Kevin discusses all these topics.
However, after learning all you can about privacy (or your lack thereof), he doesn’t just leave you in a state of paranoia. Kevin provides you with best practices and techniques to go “invisible,” preventing others from tracking you.
“The world’s most famous computer hacker and cybercult hero…has written a blueprint for system security based on his own experiences. Required reading for IT professionals, this book is highly recommended for public, academic, and corporate libraries.” ― Library Journal
The Cuckoo’s Egg
Author: Cliff Stoll
The vulnerabilities of a network aren’t always in the places you think they are. This is the real life story of how the author discovered what appeared to be a 75 cent accounting error that eventually revealed the presence of an unauthorized user on his system. The hacker’s code name was “Hunter,” a mysterious threat actor who infiltrated into US computer systems and extracted sensitive military and security data. The author began spying on the spy, resulting in a game of deception, satellites, and missile bases. Although this book is about an incident that occurred decades ago, it highlights the one characteristic that any security professional must have for a successful career.
“Clifford Stoll’s first book, ”The Cuckoo’s Egg,” is both a gripping spy thriller and an intriguing introduction to the futuristic world of international computer networking. It presents a rare view from inside the global village that has been created by the new technologies of data communication. Most improbable of all, this is a true story, subverting our expectations in ways too surprising to be fictitious.”
― Jed Harris
Countdown to Zero Day
Author: Kim Zetter
Countdown to Zero Day takes a deep dive into the release of Stuxnet, the world’s first digital weapon, and how it impacted an Iranian nuclear facility. Not only will you learn more about Stuxnet, but you will also gain a deeper understanding of cyber warfare in general. This is a must-read book that provides insight into the intersection of infrastructure and malware, and how high the stakes have reached in the modern world.
“Author Kim Zetter’s malware record in Countdown to Zero Day is incredible. It is a profoundly fascinating, innovative investigative story.”
We hope you enjoyed our list! These are the best cyber security books you can read as we enter 2023. This combination of books should improve not only your knowledge of the cyber world, but will also entertain you with thrilling stories of cyber espionage and warfare.
Further reading: Can iPhones get viruses from websites?