LJ Archive

Security Technologies for the World Wide Web

Wael Hassan

Issue #75, July 2000

The main topics discussed are HTTP authentication, proxy servers and firewalls, cryptographic techniques, Internet security protocols and Secure Socket layer (SSL).

  • Author: Rolf Oppliger

  • Publisher: Artech House

  • E-mail: artech@artechhouse.com

  • Price: $69 US

  • ISBN: 1-58053-045-1

  • Reviewer: Wael A. Hassan

Having been in the security and networking field for several years now, I have read many technical books about web servers, networking technologies and cryptography. These books discussed different aspects of the technologies, but not a general view of the Web as an entity. Moreover, I have always wanted to see a book that could be read by somebody who is not a specialist. Rolf Oppliger, the writer, works for the IT Security Group of the Swiss Federal Office of Information Technology and Systems (BFI). He teaches at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and is also the author of Internet and Intranet Security (Artech House, 1998) and Authentication Systems for Secure Networks (Artech House, 1996). Dr. Oppliger is the computer security series editor at Artech House and received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Berne, Switzerland.

The book has about fifteen chapters. The main topics discussed are HTTP authentication, proxy servers and firewalls, cryptographic techniques, Internet security protocols and Secure Socket layer (SSL). He then moves on to explain electronic payment systems, certificate management and network access layer security in detail . After that, he covers certificate management, executable content and scripting languages, mobile code and copyrights. In the last few chapters, the author touches on issues like privacy protection, anonymous browsing and censorship on the World Wide Web. Very few writers cover these subjects.

This book explains the different aspects of the Web, from both the user point of view and system administrator or network architect. It has plenty of references, web sites and pointers to where information can be found. Very well-written, it states a list that's almost like an index to technologies under discussion. Whereas technologies such as encryption, security and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol have copious sources of information, Electronic Commerce does not have enough references. Rolf points out several sources where information about e-commerce can be found. I particularly liked the section on electronic commerce.

The book targets security for the most part; the discussion, however, is restricted to IP-based networks. Other different network protocols and technologies such as ATM and frame relay did not get their share of the discussion. A deeper explanation of virtual private networks would have enriched the book.

In conclusion, Rolf Oppliger presents what can be considered a premier introduction to the end-to-end security model, environment, tools, protocols, as well as privacy. It is not too technical, and is thus appropriate for a broad audience. I certainly recommend getting a copy; it is worthwhile reading.

Wael Hassan (wael@ieee.org) likes security and networks and enjoys code writing. He says that the greatest inventions come unexpectedly. That's why he prefers to think on the beach or while he is skating.

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