Book Reviews: Information Security Books and Product Reviews – The Essential guide to Home Computer Security

Book Title:  The Essential guide to Home Computer Security

Author: Robert R. Rowlingson

Publisher: British Informatics Society Ltd.

Date of Publishing: 2011

ISBN(13): 9781906124694

Price (UK&US price – full price, not discounted price): £14.24 $24.99

URL of Publisher Site: BCS

URL of Amazon UK web page: The Essential Guide to Home Computer Security

URL of Amazon UK (Kindle) web page:  The Essential Guide to Home Computer Security

URL of Amazon US web page: The Essential Guide to Home Computer Security

URL of Amazon US (Kindle) web page: The Essential Guide to Home Computer Security

In my role as a consultant I am very concerned about the way that information security is communicated to the non-technical user, both in business and personal situations. It is actually quite hard to do this well, unless you can target your audience carefully. There is the risk of writing in a style that is too patronizing or trivial for some, or offering too much detail, which then scares the reader who fears they won’t understand the information. This book is carefully designed to mitigate that problem. The book is small, just 115 pages, but feels much bigger as it covers a wide area. The target audience is the educated computer user who knows less than they would like about home computer security. They are, therefore, motivated to read but require clear explanations.There are no pictures (including screenshots), with all explanations given in the text, which I think is a good judgment call. Indeed, I find that ‘Silver Surfers’ often find the text in the screenshot explanations difficult to see clearly. There can also be confusion where the screenshot in the book does not mirror the one the reader is seeing. This is unimportant to the confident user, but can be stressful to the less experienced. Unusually, this book starts with a glossary, which makes it both easy to find and reassures the nervous that the abbreviations used are few and easily explained. This sets a good tone for the rest of the book. There are also plenty of useful website addresses for follow-up reading. Again, this is at the front so you know that what you are going to get within the book is the kernel of the explanation, not extra information that may be in areas the reader is not concerned about.It would be possible to read this book through in a single session, but I suspect most readers will read it in stages, possibly one chapter at a time, and then refer back when required. It is also possible to miss sections without loosing the flow of the book. This is useful for those who don’t want to be distracted with material that is not relevant to them, such as the ‘Silver Surfer with no children using their machine regarding the section of cyber-bullying. Where more detail will be, or has been, explained elsewhere in the book, these are clearly noted in the text so that the pace can be kept steady and the understanding cumulative.There is also extensive use of short paragraphs so that the reader can stop and digest points and ideas without loosing the flow.The language used is clear, but not patronizingly simple. The author has a consistent tone throughout that is respectful and informative.The chapters cover areas that I would suspect all readers would want to cover, even if they are not looking to gain the knowledge to carry out technical operations themselves. For example, the chapter that looks at viruses and other malignant software discusses sourcing and installing anti-virus software but doesn’t give specific direction on how to install the software, preferring, quite rightly in my opinion, to suggest this information will be provided by the vendor. This permits this essential advice to retain additional relevance and longevity than a step-by-step guide to specific products; so avoiding confusion between the advice of the vendor and the author. It also allows for the greatest focus to be on understanding the nature of the threats, how they attack and how to recognize them.

I have given the book only 4 stars principally because of the way it is presented on the cover. While the swan is a nice illustration, it is a little too subtle with its ‘protection’ reference to grab the person casually browsing the ‘shelves’ for such a book. It does not tell me anything about what the book is about, and the writing on the back is similarly un-inspiring. I feel the author is let down by the designer.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to the educated computer user who is concerned with their ignorance with regard to information security. It is well written and nicely paced and gives good insight into the perils of home computer use, while respecting that the reader is not a technical user and probably doesn’t want to become one.

Marks: 4 out of 5 (because of the cover)****

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