Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cobb's PC and LAN Security: 20th anniversary of publication (available as a free download!)

The Stephen Cobb Complete Book of PC and LAN Security first appeared in print in 1992, an amazing 20 years ago. In celebration of this anniversary, I'm publishing a PDF copy of the most recent version of the book, freely downloadable under a Creative Commons license. The large file size of this 700 page tome led me to publish it in three easily digestible parts: Part One; Part Two; and Part Three. (Yes, my organizational skills are legendary.)

Despite the title, which was imposed by the publisher, the volume that appeared 20 years ago was by no means a "complete book" on the subject; nor is it now a contemporary guide. However, you can still find it on Amazon, even though did not exist when the first version was published. The images immediately on the right are the current Amazon listings of the three versions (which I will explain shortly).

If you are inclined to take this particular trip down computer security's memory lane, I suggest you download the free electronic version rather than purchase on Amazon. On that trip you will find a few items of note, such as this:
The goal of personal computer security is to protect and foster the increased creativity and productivity made possible by a technology that has so far flourished with a minimum of controls, but which finds itself increasingly threatened by the very openness that led to its early success. To achieve this goal, you must step from an age of trusting innocence into a new era of realism and responsibility, without lurching into paranoia and repression.
I'd say that's a decent piece of prognostication for 1992. It's one of the reasons I have kept the book available all these years, a mix of nostalgia and history. At some point in the future it might be interesting to see what computer security looked like in the late 20th century.

Three Versions and a Free Version

I made a lot of changes when I turned that 1992 volume into The NCSA Guide to PC and LAN Security--a 700 page paperback that was published in 1995--but that edition is also very outdated these days. Around 12 years ago I obtained the copyright to these works and, through an arrangement with the Authors Guild, got it reprinted as Cobb's Guide to PC and LAN Security. This was done largely for sentimental reasons and the copies are only printed on demand. However, in that process I obtained a high resolution scan of the entire book. I then converted this to text using Adobe OCR software. The result is what I have put online. (Warning: you may encounter OCR errors and artifacts; no claims are made as to accuracy of the information in this document; use at your own risk and discretion).

Computer Security Prognosis and Predictions 

I plan to post more thoughts on computer security "then and now" but for now I leave you with another quote from the 1992 Stephen Cobb Complete Book of PC and LAN Security:
The most cost-effective long-term approach to personal computer security is the promotion of mature and responsible attitudes among users. Lasting security will not be achieved by technology, nor by constraints on those who use it. True security can only be achieved through the willing compliance of users with universally accepted principles of behavior. Such compliance will increase as society as a whole becomes increasingly computer literate, and users understand the personal value of the technology they use.