Security book reviews from inside the infosec industry.

Violent Python Review

Violent Python, a "Cookbook for Hackers, Forensic Analysts, Penetration Testers and Security Engineers" is a relatively broad book with a lot of interesting material inside. While it's getting on a bit, and isn't without some annoying flaws there's enough jewels in the book to make it worth a read, providing you have a computer to hand.

Violent Python - A Cookbook for Hackers, Forensic Analysts, Penetration Testers and Security Engineers

Violent Python is a cookbook style book, that is to say that each chapter contains recipes to solve specific problems or in this case do specific evil or good things. Most of the examples provided are fairly short and it certainly demonstrates the power of python. It's not a book for someone who's never written python before. If you're new to python I'd recommend working through something like Learn Python The Hard Way before attempting this book.

Although it was published in November 2012, it has dated surprisingly quickly, using Python 2.6 rather than the current Python 2.7 at the time of writing, and many scripts will need changes later to work with Python 3. It also promotes the use of Backtrack 5 R3, which is of course now out of date. Still, the examples provided should mostly work on any modern platform configured with the right python modules perhaps with a slight leaning towards Linux, and people can always get a Backtrack 5 R3 Virtual Machine to try things out before trying to get them to run on their own systems. Update: tachion of Hacker News pointed out that at the time of writing the Backtrack front page is the latest version, which is technically correct. However, the authors are focusing their efforts on Kali Linux which is a much more full-featured Linux distribution. This isn't the fault of the author, this is just the way things go with technical books.

Less forgiving are some of the typographical errors. The editing seems to be a bit hit and miss in places, hopefully the Elsevier site will put up an Errata section.

That aside, the areas covered and the recipes themselves are highly useful and a lot of fun, which is a rarity amongst technical books, at least in my experience. After a brief introduction the book covers a lot of different areas with 6 chapters full of interesting recipes. It's certainly a lot of fun, and while you can skip areas that aren't of interest, I'd recommend giving them a try just as a learning experience if nothing else.

For me, I found the penetration testing section useful, but a little easy going. I enjoyed the network traffic analysis chapter in particular along with the wall of sheep example in the wireless chapter.

Overall Violent Python is a good cookbook with some good references. If you're an experienced pythonista with an evil streak, some of the material may seem a little obvious, but for most of us there's a lot by way of time-saving and interesting code that perhaps you wouldn't have otherwise considered, not to mention some cool weekend projects. Don't be put off by the occasional typo or the use of outdated components, but if you're not already familiar with python you might want to try working through a book that will teach you first.

Violent Python review score: 4/5.

Violent Python* is available from Amazon. (What's the *?)

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