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Book Review: Practical Packet Analysis, 2nd ed

Published: 2012-02-07
Last Updated: 2012-02-07 01:18:30 UTC
by Jim Clausing (Version: 1)
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A few months ago, the good folks at No Starch Press sent me a review copy of Chris Sanders' book Practical Packet Analysis, Using Wireshark to Solve Real-world Problems, 2nd Edition.  While this isn't something we normally do here, since it has been a rather slow day at the Internet Storm Center, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a short review of the book.  As many of our regular readers are probably aware, I tend to use command-line tools such as tcpdump, snort, tshark, scapy, or even Perl to perform packet analysis.  I prefer the command-line tools because when possible I like to script my analysis and GUI tools don't lend themselves to that.

This book (actually, starting with the 1st edition) was one that had been on my list of books I wanted to read for quite some time, but I had never gotten around to buying it, so I jumped at this opportunity when it presented itself. I really wanted to love the book, but wasn't quite able to get there.  A couple of small technical errors bothered me (probably more than they should have) and I was a little confused at who the target audience was (for example, if the book is targeted at newbies, it doesn't make sense to me to introduce filters before explaining the structure of IP packets including the IP, TCP, and UDP headers; if aimed at experienced networking folks, why bother with explaining the OSI model again).  Even so, I did like the book.  Starting with chapter 8 is where I think the book really becomes worthwhile.  I especially like the  idea of using "real-world scenarios" (even if sometimes a bit contrived) to teach the features of a tool.  This is often one of the best ways to teach new techniques or concepts.  I learned some new tricks for both wireshark and tshark which itself would have made it worth the price to me.  I'm not going to give it stars or anything, but I do recommend this book to folks that aren't wireshark experts (and even those who have plenty of wireshark experience may pick up a new trick or two).

Jim Clausing, GIAC GSE #26
jclausing --at-- isc [dot] sans (dot) edu

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