Information Warfare and Security, Dorothy E. Denning, ISBN 0-201- 43303-6, Addison-Wesley, 1999.

[Originally published in Cisco's The Internet Protocol Journal, September, 1999.]

It has been said that “information is power,” and they who control the information control the power. Whether the information is broadcast on the evening news, printed in a newspaper, etched on stone tablets, or published on a USENET newsgroup or Internet Web page, we rely on information in our daily lives, and trust that most of the information we receive and process is accurate.

“Information warfare.” What images does it conjure up for you? Propaganda wars via pamphlets dropped from airplanes, or “cyber-terrorists” versus the FBI on the Internet—or something else entirely? Dr. Denning covers all bases in this, her latest book. The “warfare” of the title is specifically the battle between the good guys and “information terrorists.”

This book is a textbook for a course by the same name at Georgetown University. No one, however, should be scared off by this knowledge. This book is incredibly approachable, intended for a broad audience. It is an introduction to information warfare, but really concentrates on computer- and network-based information. Anyone involved or inter-ested in computer and network security would benefit from this book. Many sections are self-contained, so a reader can jump back and forth among the sections. All the sections are interesting and informative, and should be to both the highly technical reader as well as those for whom technology is peripheral to their jobs, but who require or desire deeper and broader knowledge of information warfare.

About the Author

Dorothy E. Denning is Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. She is a well-known expert in the areas of computer security and cryptography, and has been called as an expert witness to testify before the U.S. Congress. She is the author of over 100 papers on computer and Internet security, and has written three other books in addition to this one: Cryptography and Data Security, Rights and Responsibilities of Participants in Networked Communities, with Herbert S. Lin, and Internet Besieged: Countering Cyberspace Scofflaws (coeditor with Peter Denning). She is also a frequent contributor to security-related publications.


Information Warfare and Security has three parts. Part 1 starts with a very exciting (and still timely) discussion of the role information war-fare played in the Gulf War in the early 1990s. The tone and flavor of this opening chapter continues throughout the book. Randomly put your finger in the book and you will be able to start an enjoyable and in-teresting read (though I recommend reading beginning to end). Part 1 introduces basic concepts upon which the work is built. Chapters 2 and 3 present a taxonomy of information warfare, relating it to information security and assurance, and suggesting four arenas of activity: play, crime, individual rights, and national security. The author discusses goals, motivations, culture, and concerns. Included is the no-doubt apoc-ryphal, but always fun, quote attributed to Secretary of State for War Henry Stimson, upon the 1929 “discovery” of the Black Chamber code-breaking operation: “Gentlemen, do not read one another’s mail.” Part 2 focuses on offense. This section covers topics that, for the most part, will be new to many readers. The chapters cover open source mate-rial and privacy (and piracy of information), “social engineering,” and its kin. The threat from insiders—legitimate and those who have broken in, gets a thorough treatment. Eavesdropping also is examined, from cel-lular and pager intercepts, to the mysterious-to-most-people area of traffic analysis, to surveillance, packet-sniffing, and other electronic eavesdropping attacks.

Chapter 8 looks in detail at well-known computer hacking techniques and the tools that implement the attacks. Chapter 9 discusses identity theft, including forged e-mail and stolen accounts, IP-spoofing (stealing the identity of a computer), and Trojan Horse attacks. Finally, Part 2 ends with a chapter dedicated to computer viruses, both real and hoaxes.

Topics discussed in Part 3, “Defensive Information Warfare,” will be fa-miliar to most readers who understand computer and network security. Chapter 11 not only describes cryptographic techniques for protecting information, but also covers steganography, or “the practice of hiding a message in such a manner that its very existence is concealed”—and an-onymity. Chapter 12, “How to Tell a Fake,” deals with methods for determining identity or trustworthiness of entities or information. Chap-ter 13 talks about access control mechanisms, including firewalls, and intrusion detection. Covering vulnerability monitoring and analysis, risk analysis, risk management, and incident response, Chapter 14 possibly should have started Part 3. Devices, mechanisms, and methods should be deployed after an understanding of what is contained in this chapter. Part 3, and the book, end with a chapter dedicated to discussing the role of government in defensive information warfare. Also included are de-scriptions of recent (1990s) actions, laws, and initiatives of the U.S. Government in this area.

Throughout, the book is seasoned with stories—infowar stories, if you will—and background information, allowing the novice not only to un-derstand, but also to enjoy learning what is contained within.

A Book for the Lecture Hall or Armchair

It is not surprising that Information Warfare and Security so thoroughly covers the space of information warfare theory, measures, and countermeasures, not because it weighs in at over 500 pages, but because it was written as a text for a course that had to cover all of this material. What may be surprising to readers unfamiliar with Dr. Denning is that such complete coverage could be done in such an easy-to-read way. I have no doubt that this book is and will continue to be useful and effective in the classroom. In addition, the reader studying for accreditation in a field requiring this knowledge, or the professional wanting to “brush up,” “fill in,” or just “kick back,” will find much here to commend itself.