Hardening Linux by John Terpstra, Paul Love, Ronald P. Reck and Tim Scanlon

by Tarun Agnani

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

ISBN: 0072254971

Price: $39.99

Hardening Linux sets out to show average users how to secure a Linux server or desktop in a step-by-step manner. From the outset the book assumes you have installed a Red Hat or SuSE Linux server product. Users of other flavors of Linux need not fret, though; they still can implement the security suggestions in the book.

The bulk of the book is spent describing how to implement preventive measures to avoid being attacked. The first step is to secure all networking before connecting to the Internet. The rest of the book goes about installing and configuring firewalls, logging and monitoring tools, encrypted filesystems and so on. The information presented is well detailed, and screenshots are provided when needed.

In a number of instances, however, the authors don't seem to respect the reader's intelligence; as a result, the information sometimes seems a little too dumbed down. I suppose more information is better than less, though. Many example configurations are included, such as one for the iptables firewall. However, configuration files are not provided on-line or on a CD, which means readers have to type them in manually.

The book is littered with tips and tricks for discovering whether your system has been attacked and what to do if it has been. Thanks to the book, I now am able to understand better a lot of the log files on my server. I also implemented a much tighter firewall scheme. My configuration is trimmer now, because I have removed unnecessary services and software, as recommended in the book. Overall, I am much happier with the security of my server.

The material in Hardening Linux is tailored to a corporate environment, and two chapters are devoted to working with management to implement and enforce a security policy. Almost all chapters remind you of costs and real-world concerns.

Hardening Linux is a good, comprehensive book, but like a lot of technical books, it may suffer from a short shelf life because it focuses on two specific distributions, Red Hat Enterprise and SuSE. I would recommend this book to a novice administrator who would like to learn how to deal with the gamut of confusing and overwhelming security issues. However, an advanced administrator also would benefit by discovering new ways of securing Linux and making sure all bases are covered.

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