15 Must read books if you want to work on Cyber Security

Motivation

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by my students: What books should I read if I want to work in Cyber Security?

So I reviewed what I have read so far, talked to colleagues I trust to conduct the following list (as I have a lot of german readers, there is always a link to the german and the english version). The list is a mixture of educational books as well as books that will give an idea about mindset of hackers, defenders and other players in that field.

If you have other recommendations, opinions or comments, I would highly appreciate every feedback in the comments below.

I will try to update the post on a regular base as new trends are coming up e.g. machine learning, AI or blockchain (but I do not see any must-read-books in that areas).

It is fair to say, it is not the only way into the security area, a good amount of people learned by blogs, twitter, youtube and such and there is nothing wrong with it, it is quite the opposite, as the pace of change is so fast, it is hard to keep books up to date.

Every item has links to amazon.com, if you happen to buy the book using the links you support the blog, thank you for that.

1. The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

A relative short (and cheap) book that teaches various aspects of war that most experts agree can also be applied to cyber security. To be honest, there are also a good amount of people who think Art of war is not as important, so read it and make your own opinion.
At least it will be a good ice breaker for networking.

Englisch link / German link

2. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

by Kevin Mitnick

This was the first security related book I read after attending a conference talk of the author Kevin Mitnick. It is fair to say he is one of the most known hackers and reading his stories gives the reader first hand access to the mind and motivation of a hacker. The book is also very good to read.

English link / German link

3. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

by Cliff Stoll

What to say, a book about espionage, spies and many more. Good book that for sure must be read.

English link / German link

4. Practical Malware Analysis: A Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software

by Michael Sikorski

Reading that book will equip you with all concepts and skills to analyse malicious files. This is even a very good skill if your goal is not to become the top notch malware reverse engineer, but the concepts outlined in the book will help to understand weaponizing files to target systems or users.

English link / German link

5. Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter

This book covers the maybe most prominent cyber security attack in history: Stuxnet. To understand motivation of companies to invest money in cyber security, knowing and trying to understand the Stuxnet case is so helpful and Kim Zetters book is the best to do so.

English link / German link

6. Rtfm: Red Team Field Manual

by Ben Clark

This list would be incomplete without at least one book covering the offensive aspect of cyber security professionals: red teaming. Even if you do not want to be payed to hack into companies, it is good to know what the people getting paid to hack into companies have read without a doubt.

English link / German link

7. Crafting the InfoSec Playbook: Security Monitoring and Incident Response Master Plan

by Jeff Bollinger, Brandon Enright, Matthew Valites

Legendary book outlining how to ramp up an Incident Response Plan to defend a network. If your goal is to go into red teaming, read that book to understand how defenders work.

English link / German link

8: 1984

by George Orwell

Fictional book but also a must read for making a career because it will sharpen your sensors for privacy more than any other book out there.

German link

9: Practical Unix & Internet Security

by by Simson Garfinkel, Gene Spafford, Alan Schwartz

Sooner or later everyone in the industry encounters Unix, that is why this book is on that list, because it is the bible for that area.

English link / German link

10: Computer Incident Response and Product Security

by Damir Rajnovic

Damir „Gaus“ Rajnovic created the standard to read to set up an Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT / CIRT / CERT / CSIRT) or a Product Security Incident Response Team (P-SIRT).

German link

11: Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms and Source Code in C

by Bruce Schneier

A top x list in Cyber Security without a book from Bruce Schneier is not worth to listen to. Bruce Schneier is the rockstar in the area and his book the go to for cryptography.

English link / German link

12: Secure Coding: Principles and Practices

by Mark G. Graff, Kenneth R. van Wyk

You need to understand how to write secure code. Without that know how it is way harder to argue on basic security principles. This book is bootcamp for that purpose.

English link

13: Hacking: The Art of Exploitation

by Jon Erickson

Refered by a trusted friend as one of the go-to books for understanding exploitation.

English link

14: Cryptonomicon

by Neal Stephenson

Another fictional book on that list to understand motivation and boost your motivation in the field.

English link

Bonus: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

When asking friends for opinions and recommendations for that list, the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy was mentioned „because no security professional will take you seriously if you haven’t read it“ – nothing to add here.

English link / German link

Comment

You might have discovered, it is not yet 15 books, I am still on the journey to discover the remaining bricks. But rather prefer to let people read less books that have a big impact than more books with some that might not be the same caliber.

Have fun with reading.

(This post is inspired by 15 Must Read Books if You Want to Work on Wall Street)

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