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The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense (Symantec Press) Paperback – 3 Feb 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 744 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (3 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321304543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321304544
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 4.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

"Of all the computer-related books I've read recently, this one influenced my thoughts about security the most. There is very little trustworthy information about computer viruses. Peter Szor is one of the best virus analysts in the world and has the perfect credentials to write this book."

―Halvar Flake, Reverse Engineer, SABRE Security GmbH

Symantec's chief antivirus researcher has written the definitive guide to contemporary virus threats, defense techniques, and analysis tools. Unlike most books on computer viruses, The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense is a reference written strictly for white hats: IT and security professionals responsible for protecting their organizations against malware. Peter Szor systematically covers everything you need to know, including virus behavior and classification, protection strategies, antivirus and worm-blocking techniques, and much more.

Szor presents the state-of-the-art in both malware and protection, providing the full technical detail that professionals need to handle increasingly complex attacks. Along the way, he provides extensive information on code metamorphism and other emerging techniques, so you can anticipate and prepare for future threats.

Szor also offers the most thorough and practical primer on virus analysis ever published―addressing everything from creating your own personal laboratory to automating the analysis process. This book's coverage includes

  • Discovering how malicious code attacks on a variety of platforms

  • Classifying malware strategies for infection, in-memory operation, self-protection, payload delivery, exploitation, and more

  • Identifying and responding to code obfuscation threats: encrypted, polymorphic, and metamorphic

  • Mastering empirical methods for analyzing malicious code―and what to do with what you learn

  • Reverse-engineering malicious code with disassemblers, debuggers, emulators, and virtual machines

  • Implementing technical defenses: scanning, code emulation, disinfection, inoculation, integrity checking, sandboxing, honeypots, behavior blocking, and much more

  • Using worm blocking, host-based intrusion prevention, and network-level defense strategies

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Peter Szor is security architect for Symantec Security Response, where he has been designing and building antivirus technologies for the Norton AntiVirus product line since 1999. From 1990 to 1995, Szor wrote and maintained his own antivirus program, Pasteur. A renowned computer virus and security researcher, Szor speaks frequently at the Virus Bulletin, EICAR, ICSA, and RSA conferences, as well as the USENIX Security Symposium. He currently serves on the advisory board of Virus Bulletin magazine, and is a founding member of the AVED (AntiVirus Emergency Discussion) network.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Hudson on 9 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
I am a home user of intermediate ability and this book was clearly intended for computer experts.

When I bought this book, I knew absolutly nothing about computer viruses.

I probably only understood about 20% of this book, but I still managed to give myself a good outline understanding of the subject.

I am thoroughly pleased with what I have learned from this book.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 April 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are already several customer reviews on the Amazon USA site: all 5 stars and with good reason - this book is *really* excellent. Anyone with an
interest in computer security - and these days that should mean most IT professionls - should order this book now ! It is very readable and appears to be detailed and accurate techically, In addition it has been well typeset and produced by the publisher.
[My Rating: Content 10/10, Production 10/10, Value For Money 10/10]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
One of the best technical books I've ever read 27 Feb. 2005
By Richard Bejtlich - Published on
Format: Paperback
Peter Szor's 'The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense' (TAOCVRAD) is one of the best technical books I've ever read, and I've reviewed over 150 security and networking books during the past 5 years. This book so thoroughly owns the subject of computer viruses that I recommend any authors seeking to write their own virus book find a new topic. Every technical computing professional needs to read this book, fast.

I read this book from cover to cover. The author does not lie when he says acquiring the same amount of information requires digging in obscure virus journals and analyzing malicious code. TAOCVRAD's single most powerful aspect is the author's persistence in naming one or more sample viruses that exemplify whatever concept he is discussing. In other words, all of his theory is backed by, or builds on, real-life examples. Each chapter contains moderate end-notes that provide pointers for additional research.

A truly great book has the power to change deeply-entrenched opinions, or make readers look at old problems in a new light. In my case, I altered my perception of the virus problem and ways to fight it. First, I changed my concept of viruses and worms. Peter builds on Fred Cohen's virus definition to say 'a computer virus is a program that recursively and explicitly copies a possibly evolved version of itself.' He calls worms a 'subclass of computer viruses.' I used to disagree with Peter; I believed a virus infects files and requires user interaction, and a worm spreads by itself via the network. Now I agree with Peter's viewpoint: 'worms are network viruses, primarily replicating on networks... If the primary vector of the virus is the network, it should be classified as a worm.' The distinction is subtle, but it makes sense to consider worms a subclass of viruses given Peter's extensive analysis of both types of malware.

Second, I recognized I held an opinion Peter considers unfortunate: 'some computer security people do not seem to consider computer viruses as a serious aspect of security, or they ignore the relationship between computer security and computer viruses.' I was guilty as charged. I used to positively detest viruses because they seemed like mindless automated code that did little but replicate. After reading about scores of real viruses, I have a profound appreciation for virus technology. Viruses introduced techniques for obfuscation, stealth, and exploitation a decade earlier, in some cases, than the single-shot exploit code we see today.

Third, Peter put a human face on the problems associated with closed-source operating systems like Microsoft Windows. Many so-called Native API calls are undocumented, and as such make life difficult for anti-virus developers. (Virus writers tend to know them.) With Microsoft entering the anti-virus market, will it leverage these secrets to outperform competitors lacking this internal knowledge?

Readers of Ed Skoudis' 'Malware' or Jose Nazario's 'Defense and Detection Strategies against Internet Worms' will find this new book greatly complements those two works. Those wishing to get the most value from TAOCVRAD should have Intel assembly coding skills and several years of hands-on security experience.

I had almost no issues with this book, which is striking given it is nearly 700 pages long. In a few places I found the language a little rough, but not enough to bother me. I believe a code listing on p. 372 should show a '<=' instead of '=', but I may be wrong. Although the author works for Symantec, I did not see an undue amount of Symantec-centric material. Chapter 13 is somewhat of an exception, but I do not fault the author. I felt the network section (ch 14) could have been stronger, since advice to block all IP fragments or ICMP at border routers isn't necessarily wise. I can't personally vouch for all of the author's virus analysis as his skill level exceeds mine by an order of magnitude.

TAOCVRAD is the must-buy security book of 2005. You could spend weeks learning from this book. Readers should be thankful Peter decided to share so much of his knowledge with us in an accessible and educational format.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Superb and exceptional book! 1 April 2005
By Dr Anton Chuvakin - Published on
Format: Paperback
If the phase "a bible of malware" weren't a cliché, I would have used it to describe this book without hesitation. I read a lot of security (and specifically, malware) titles, but I have never seen a book that comprehensive and detailed, period.

The author appears to know _everything_ that was going on in the malicious software space since the 80s (for example, who knew that there were viruses written in DEC's DCL language)... A lot of effort is spent classifying various infection, in-memory, self-protection, payload and other virus strategies. I loved the section on malware self-protection, such as anti-debugging and anti-disassembly tactics and even self-brute-forcing virus code (I never knew there are sooo many of those tricks). Nowhere else I saw the detailed explanation of oligomorphic, polymorphic and metamorphic viruses... Note that while the book does cover the fun historical viruses, its coverage extends all the way to phishing attacks of the 2004-2005.

My other favorite part is the chapter on worms. "Vanilla" viruses often feel like the creatures of the past, and the worms steal all the glory. The other holds a view that worms are just a type of viruses that he justifies fairly well. Indeed, there is no accepted definition of a "worm".

The book is obviously aimed towards virus defense, although both sides are covered in [at times] excruciating detail. The entire part is dedicated to history and technology of virus scanning. Personally, I never saw it covered with that level of detail. Finally, I had a chance to learn what `heuristic detection' means. On the defense side, the book also covers behavior blocking and host intrusion prevention, which has a chance of emerging as the main approaches of virus fighting, supplanting pure signature-based scanning. Similarly fun was a section on network-level defense strategies (such as using ACLs, firewalls, etc).

A surprisingly small chapter covers malicious code analysis techniques. I would have appreciated a more detailed info on using VMware for malware analysis.

Overall, the book is very technical, but (if need be) can be read without diving too deeply into PDP11 assembly  , just to get familiar with all the malware classifications, infection methods and other tricks. Highly recommended for technical security professionals, might also benefit others in IT and beyond. I think it will also fit the textbook profile for an advanced computer security course.

Anton Chuvakin, Ph.D., GCIA, GCIH, GCFA is a Security Strategist with a major security company. He is an author of the book "Security Warrior" and a contributor to "Know Your Enemy II". In his spare time, he maintains his security portal
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Well written book about analyzing malicious software.. 10 Aug. 2005
By r2d3_ge - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in historical details about viruses/malware, if you are searching for details about various techniques getting used by malicious software and if you are interested how people in the AV industry work... This book is definatly THE reference. Peter, a very competent virus researcher, who is known through his various articles in the Virus Bulletin magazine shows you all the techniques you need to analyse, to detect and to remove malicious software. His technical overview includes the entire history of computer viruses and is written in a very impressive and entertaining style. While I have read many books and articles about exploiting software, he also serves the most understandable definition of exploiting techniques like the classical stack overflow etc. I must say that his style impressed me so much that I read through the book in one day, something normally happening to me when reading thrillers of James Patterson. But this book is so well written, that you can rarely lay it out of your hands. You just want to know where Peter leds to, the next step in the voyage through the malicious world of computer viruses and malware. This book is geared through everybody trying to understanding what's happening in the malicious code polluting the Internet. For me well worth the money I spent on it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Must-Read on Computer Virus 12 Aug. 2005
By Cody Wu - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was wondering in the bookshop trying to find some in-depth books on Computer Virus and Network Security and suddenly I came across this book. In a few pages the book lit up my eyes and the author successfully attracted my attention and I was simply amazed by his solid background and rich knowledge and also his effort in presenting all the materials in an orderly and logical way that has successfully flatten the learning curve for people fresh to the area.

Well, some people may complain that this is a disappointing book in that it hasn't gone far enough to illustrate the necessary virus writing skills and they believe only in this way can one speciallized in virus defense benefit most. Again, this is not the truth as far as I see. If one simply want to write virus by following existing codes he can only gain a narrow horizon by focusing upon one or two popular virus. But as the old idiom goes, you will miss the forest by seeing a tree only. New virus are produced by those high-intelligent poeple everyday and promises to continue to come in the forseeable future. New technologies too, emerge and then disapper with the patch or hot fixes. But as long as you have a comprehensive knowledge of the basic of virus research and defense you will never lose in this battle against virus. I think the author has trying to model his book to be some thing beyond the mere technology collection but to present to us how one might equip himself with the fundamental knowledge of the virus's history, main ideas, or even try to give definition in some places. So this is why the author names his creation to be "Virus research & defense" instead of "virus writing & defense". And as far as I see, his attempt has been a huge success.

And what's more, even for people who are crazy about writing virus this book is not such a disappointment. It incorporate many code snippet into the book and these code has actually reveal the dark side of the virus and one smart enough and with some knowledge in coding will be able to rebuild the complete viruses. Those who complain about the lack of virus writing skills might better try to figure out the reason in themselves. Anyway, there are a lot of sample virus within your easy reach on the internet. So why take the trouble to reproduce it here?

And finally I would like to show my thanks for the great effort Peter has spent on this book. For me this book has brought to me great pleasures and it has helped to orgnize my knowledge about computer virus in a more systematical manner. For those either new to the area or those professionals this is a must read and you shouldn't miss it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Incredible resource 21 Feb. 2005
By Anthony Lawrence - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is simply incredible - over 700 pages of detailed analysis of viruses from the general to the specific. Their history, the trends, the future, how they work - it's all here.

This can be heavy geek territory. If you aren't fascinated by the details of executable programs and the like, some of this will be hard sledding. But if you are the type who likes to take things apart to see how they work, this is for you: Peter Szor, Symantec's chief antivirus researcher, who saw his first virus before he even knew how to read assembly language, carefully explores this subject from beginning to end.

A lot of this is, of course Windows related, but there is also coverage of Linux viruses and worms. All sorts of virus types are explored and laid out in general, and certain specific instances are explored in detail.

I read through this quickly in an hour or so to get the big picture, but it will be sitting close at hand for several weeks as I spend more time in specific sections. It's really an encyclopedic piece of work.

Recommended mostly for the curious geek or serious security professional only, but highly, highly recommended for that audience. For the less geeky, this would still be of interest because the historical and more general overviews it contains.
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