When I received a review copy of Security Log Management (SLM) last month, I was eager to read it. I saw two very powerful but seldom discussed tools -- Argus and Bro -- mentioned in the table of contents. This indicated some original thinking, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, SLM did not live up to my expectations. When you strip out the pages of scripts and code and the three reprinted chapters, you're left with a series of examples of output from the author's deployment of several tools. Aside from a few examples mentioned in this review, I don't think readers will learn much from SLM.
The first problem with SLM is a lack of competent editing. Prior to publication, someone should have read the book from the reader's perspective, asking "what is the reader expected to learn from this section/chapter/book?" In other words, the editor should have asked "how is the reader supposed to implement these recommendations?" For example, Ch 2 mentions using the Bro IDS. Nothing about setting up Bro is included, which would be acceptable if a reference to an online guide or another book was given. That is not the case; the author just assumes readers know about Bro and have it running. The number of Bro users is probably less than 100. If you're one of them, you don't need to read this book!
Bro's DNS and SMTP logging modules are casually demonstrated with no regard for showing the reader how to deploy them. The Web module at least shows a sample mt.bro file, if the reader can figure out what that is or how it fits into the picture. The situation gets worse on p 101 when the author says "the SMTP module can be very powerful in helping to identify several of the 'Marcus Ranum' top mail-related statistics (Chapter 1)." Marcus Ranum is not mentioned at all in Ch 1.
SLM demonstrates two other features that are becoming increasingly common and frustrating in Syngress books, for which I detracted stars from the review. First, the editing is rough. I am perplexed by the inability to standardize on references to tools; e.g., is it bro, Bro, or BRO? Second, and far more worrisome, the last three chapters (7, 8, and 9) of SLM are reprints of chapters 6, 7, and 5 from the Feb 2005 Syngress book Microsoft Log Parser Toolkit. On the positive side, SLM did not have as many fuzzy screen shots as sometimes appear in recent Syngress books. The unexplained small, fuzzy, NetForensics screen shot on p 31 is one unwelcome exception.
In terms of stating a clear purpose and delivering material in a coherent manner, the best chapter in SLM is Ch 6 -- Scalable Enterprise Solutions. I thought the author of this chapter stated his purpose, and then delivered material that readers could use. My only problem with the chapter was reading the definition of ESM 5 times -- on pp 195, 196, 205, 237, and 238!
My favorite part of SLM was the material showing how to put Argus records into a MySQL database. This is not that common, so I was glad to see how the author implements that function.
I'm sorry I can't recommend reading SLM in its current form. Three stars means there is some value, but you could get what you need browsing in the book store. I would like to see a second edition of SLM cut out the reprinted chapters. That cuts the book down to 241 pages. If the 70 or so pages of code are moved online, that reduces the book to 171 pages. That leaves plenty of room to add material that meets readers' needs. An example of a very strong Syngress book on a related (host-based) topic is Host Integrity Monitoring Using Osiris and Samhain by Brian Wotring.