Cybersecurity is a complex, quickly evolving industry. New technologies create new threats and demand new skills. The pace is so fast that it can be difficult to take a step back, slow down, and work on fundamental skills and concepts.
After you finish catching up with the latest threat reports, data-breach stories, and product releases, deepen your knowledge as a practitioner with this selection of the best cybersecurity books. The most effective cybersecurity professionals develop niche expertise within particular skillsets and broad knowledge about the larger contexts of digital security.
"Cybersecurity is a complex, quickly evolving industry. New technologies create new threats and demand new skills."
The topics of these cybersecurity books range from history and law to penetration testing and social engineering. Becoming a cybersecurity expert is hard, but remaining an expert is even harder. These books will make it easier.
The History of Cybersecurity
The history of cybersecurity reveals numerous principles that remain true despite changing technology paradigms. Knowing some history equips you with a wider understanding of your field and gives you the ability to trace the origins of different methods and philosophies.
Worm retells the history of Conficker, a worm that infiltrated 1.5 million computers across banks and governments in 195 countries in the span of a month. Cybersecurity stories hit the headlines every day, but this book tells the full story of one of the biggest cyber threats the world has faced, and how people dealt with it. By understanding the full narrative, you can better trace how worms and other threats can work their way through and between systems.
Dark Territory explores the origins of cyber warfare in the United States, such as then President Ronald Reagan making the first computer-security presidential directive and the later development of the National Security Agency. Cyber war is only going to become a more pressing issue worldwide, so understanding this history is essential. Though much of the ways governments approach cybersecurity is mysterious, an analysis of past efforts can show some of the goals and assumptions made by governments worldwide.
3. Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier is a legend in the cybersecurity world, and he reaches an audience of more than 250,000 readers with his blog and newsletter. Data and Goliath presents an overview of the data surveillance tools and policies that threaten and invade privacy. You can understand the dire threat of a data breach only if you can glimpse how much data is moving around and between corporations and governments all over the world.
The Business of Cybersecurity
Reading practical, tech-focused cybersecurity books will provide you with a lot of skills, but the ability to carry out those methods will always be dependent on the business case you can make for them. These cybersecurity books show how security can fit in with business concerns and how organizations can best manage and prioritize risk.
"Reading practical, tech-focused cybersecurity books will provide you with a lot of skills."
Cybersecurity, by Rob Arnold, a cyber risk management expert, demonstrates why security products and an effective IT team aren't enough to ensure security. Putting cybersecurity in a business context means planning the financial costs and investments for cybersecurity, as well as what strategies you can deploy to prioritize it. Businesses can also get an overview of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework through the book's supporting material.
Risk management is central to business success with cybersecurity. Behind the scenes, many enterprises have deprioritized security and, as a result, eventually face the consequences. Work-Class Risk Management provides strategies for building risk into decision-making so management can support cybersecurity in its goal-setting and planning.
6. Take Back Control of Your Cybersecurity Now: Game Changing Concepts on AI and Cyber Governance Solutions for Executives by Paul Ferrillo and Christophe Veltsos
More and more organizations are beginning to understand that cybersecurity isn't a tangential concern. Take Back Control offers executives actionable, useful methods for developing better cybersecurity governance and understanding the modern threat landscape.
Cybersecurity Careers and Leadership
The cybersecurity field offers huge growth potential for anyone who is ambitious and has a never-ending interest in technology. These cybersecurity books will give you tips on psychology, leadership, and staffing that will help you support a successful career.
Being a leader on cybersecurity issues requires empathy for the needs and desires of end users. The Psychology of Information Security explains the mind-sets many employees use to justify the work-arounds they use and the risks they take. Leron Zinatullin, a risk consultant in cybersecurity strategy, shows in this book that one of the best ways to reduce cybersecurity threats is to understand the psychology of users who accidentally create vulnerabilities.
8. CISO Desk Reference Guide: A Practical Guide for CISOs (Volumes 1 and 2) by Bill Bonney, Gary Hayslip, and Matt Stamper
The CISO Desk Reference Guide is essential reading for any aspiring or recently promoted chief information security officers (CISOs). Gary Hayslip, CISO of Webroot; Bill Bonney, cybersecurity evangelist; and Matt Stamper, a member of the San Diego CISO Roundtable, provide insights into how readers can be effective CISOs and how they can work best with other chief executives.
The cybersecurity field, like many technology fields, lacks gender diversity. Women in Cybersecurity analyzes the reasons for a lack of women in the field and uses research and personal experience to support ways to create a more gender-balanced workforce.
Cyber Law and Politics
Cyber law is an evolving field that can have enormous effects on cybersecurity work, especially if you need to set up data-breach response plans or work in industries with especially strict cybersecurity regulations. Politics, at the national and global levels, also has an increasing effect on the shaping and implementation of cybersecurity laws.
Cyberlaw presents a comprehensive overview of different legal precedents and how they affect the internet. In this book, Brian Craig, a former legal analyst for Wolters Kluwer and lawyer, also examines particular cases to see how laws and norms worked in real-life situations.
The dilemma Buchanan describes is the conflict between nations trying to establish defensive security procedures. Though breaking into another country's network might seem like an obviously bad decision, intrusion provides all-too-compelling defensive benefits. The Cybersecurity Dilemma provides big-picture context for the movements of nations and their laws.
Securing networks is a foundational skill for cybersecurity professionals. These books range from practical lessons on packet analysis to explorations of foundational principles.
12. The Practice of Network Security Monitoring: Understanding Incident Detection and Response by Richard Bejtlich
The Practice of Network Security Monitoring lays out best practices to protect your networks, including ways to collect and analyze the data that will inform your strategies. Though preventing all intrusions is impossible, this book explains how to best contain them. This book was one of the first technical books to be included in Palo Alto Networks' cybersecurity canon, a list of books deemed core to the profession.
13. Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Network Problems by Chris Sanders
Practical Packet Analysis gives readers step-by-step guides on how to capture packets, troubleshoot network problems, and monitor networks in real time.
14. Zero Trust Networks: Building Secure Systems in Untrusted Networks by Evan Gilman and Doug Barth
Traditional cybersecurity practices defend a network's perimeter, which risks leaving the hosts inside vulnerable if a threat manages to breach the outer defenses. Zero Trust Networks argues for a zero-trust model that assumes all hosts are effectively online and all networks potentially compromised.
Learn about the range and severity of cybersecurity threats as well as the vulnerabilities that affect different systems. With a better understanding of malware and browser exploits, you can move into threat modeling procedures that ensure risk is part of the design process.
15. Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software* by Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig
Practical Malware Analysis gives readers actionable methods for analyzing and dissecting any malicious software they discover—whether it's past your defenses or not.
The Browser Hacker's Handbook demonstrates how a normal web browser can become a platform for threats to entire networks. This book explains why securing browsers, and the ecosystem of plugins and extensions around them, should be an essential cybersecurity skill.
When organizations don't care enough about security, they tend to add it on toward the end of the product design process, if they add it on at all. In Threat Modeling, Adam Shostack, a member of Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle strategy team, shows how security managers and software developers can build security into their products from the start.
Data breaches and hacks aren't always, or even primarily, the result of sophisticated technologies. Threat actors can sometimes move more efficiently and effectively through manipulation. Get into the mind of a social engineer and figure out how to make your organization resilient.
Social Engineering, by the person who popularized the term, explains why one of the most severe threats to an organization's security is social rather than technological. Though security products and policies can encourage password security, for example, little can stop a person from sharing that password if they're deceived.
19. Learn Social Engineering: Learn the art of human hacking with an internationally renowned expert by Dr. Erdal Ozkaya
The best way to defend against social engineering is to learn how it operates and how to do it. Learn Social Engineering explains the primary types of social engineering and gives you the tools to defend your systems and organizations against would-be threat actors.
Penetration Testing and Computer Hacking
The best way to understand hacking and hackers is to hack. Learn effective ways to do penetration tests—authorized, simulated cybersecurity attacks—across different systems and contexts.
Penetration Testing introduces the fundamental methods you need to do effective penetration tests. Penetration Testing teaches you how to use a variety of tools to launch simulated attacks and find the vulnerabilities that make these threats effective.
The Hacker Playbook series has an established place on many cybersecurity professionals' bookshelves. The third volume focuses on analyzing why so many processes, long known to be broken, remain broken. Readers will also learn about red teams, which simulate advanced cyberattacks to demonstrate the readiness of incident-response plans.
22. Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide by David Kennedy, Jim O'Gorman, Devon Kearns, and Mati Aharoni
Metasploit, a framework from the Metasploit Project, is a platform for penetration testing that enables users to develop and test exploits. Metasploit is popular among many cybersecurity professionals, but the tool is difficult for first-time users. Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide teaches readers how to use the Metasploit framework, including its major conventions and use cases.
Digital Forensics and Record Disposal
Digital forensics is a branch of forensic investigation, but outside of the courtroom, digital forensics skills can be useful for investigating corporate crimes, including intrusion from the outside and damaging practices from the inside. Read these cybersecurity books to learn the basics of digital forensic analysis and how to recover information after a cybercrime.
23. The Basics of Digital Forensics: The Primer for Getting Started in Digital Forensics by John Sammons
John Sammons, an associate professor of forensic sciences at Marshall University, offers a primer for anyone curious about digital forensics and what it can do. After reading, you'll understand the methods behind digital forensics and how they apply across devices, networks, and the internet at large.
24. The Art of Memory Forensics: Detecting Malware and Threats in Windows, Linux, and Mac Memory by Michael Hale Ligh, Andrew Case, Jamie Levy, and Aaron Walters
The Art of Memory Forensics focuses on one section of digital forensics: examining computer memory. Readers will learn the right steps to take in an investigation to find malware and other threats across a variety of computer systems.
25. Information Disposition: A Practical Guide to the Secure, Compliant Disposal of Records, Media and IT Assets by Robert J. Johnson
Few organizations invest enough in information disposal. Though some have extensive data-lifecycle-management policies, by the time information is ready to be eliminated, not all IT staff go through the proper steps. Information Disposition offers policies and templates for organizations to design compliant, effective ways to get rid of data.
Cybersecurity for Beginners
If you're just starting out, read these cybersecurity books to understand some of the basic principles behind cybersecurity and some of the essential methods that work across different technologies and fields. Once you have a background, you can start diving into particular technologies, threats, and frameworks that are most interesting to you.
There are marked differences between No More Magic Wands and other books on this list. What other book would teach you security principles by way of fairy-tale metaphors? In No More Magic Wands, George Finney—an attorney and the CISO for Southern Methodist University—dispenses with jargon and explains complex cybersecurity topics through simple but powerful stories.
No list of the best cybersecurity books would be complete without the CompTIA Security+ guide, different editions of which have long been essential for anyone trying to pass the Security+ exam. This book explains core concepts through a variety of detailed examples, and it includes a bevy of practice test questions to help you prepare.
28. Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman
Future Crimes points toward the future of cybersecurity and demonstrates why cybersecurity will be a thriving field for years to come. While many organizations still struggle to deal with crimes like business identity theft, the horizon of IoT threats—from hacked pacemakers to remotely disabled cars—is already here. For beginners, this book serves as a primer on what's to come.
29. The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford
The Phoenix Project isn't typically pitched as a book for beginners, but its effect on the software-development world has made it an essential starting point. This novel is about an IT manager tasked with a seemingly impossible problem: delivering a critical project that's already over budget and behind schedule. The Phoenix Project offers important lessons on how modern IT teams are run and shows new cybersecurity professionals the workflows they'll have to fit into.
30. The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations Paperback by Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, Jez Humble, and John Allspaw
If The Phoenix Project piqued your curiosity about DevOps, The DevOps Handbook is the best next step. The DevOps process promises balance between security, agility, and reliability—a struggle that has consumed IT leaders for decades. With this practical examination of DevOps procedures, readers will see how organizations can ship code faster while remaining secure.
Understand Security Inside and Out
Keeping up with the cybersecurity industry is a challenge, but it will only get more difficult if you don't understand the wider context of each threat or the origins of different methods and philosophies. By going deep with the best cybersecurity books, you can understand the fundamentals that have shaped the industry and will continue to shape it going forward.
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