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Book Review: How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance

How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance. By ARTICLE 19. No Starch Press; 120 pages; $19.95.

0322-Cybersecurity-Book-Review-How-the-Internet-Really-Works.jpgIt wasn’t that long ago that a car manual was 100 pages or shorter. Today, they can be close to 700 pages long. As cars get more complicated, so do the manuals. And so does the driver’s confusion when he or she must figure out how to get a new computer on wheels to operate. 

When it comes to the Internet, its manuals are known as RFCs (Request for Comments). In the early days, one could be familiar with the entire family of RFCs. As of this review, there are more than 9,000 RFCs, which means the complexity is such that a single person simply cannot know everything about how the Internet operates. 

But in a nutshell, how does the Internet work? In How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance (No Starch Press), the reader gets a short, interesting, and entertaining overview of the Internet without having to read all the RFCs. 

The listed author of the book is ARTICLE 19, an international non-profit organization that aims to promote, develop, and protect freedom of expression, including access to information. As such, much of the book has a focus on security and privacy. While ARTICLE 19 is the official author, one of the contributors is Mallory Knodel, chief technology officer for the Center for Democracy and Technology, who brings her extensive security and privacy expertise to the written word. 

With electronic censorship so rampant across the world, the book provides readers with an understanding of how security and privacy work on the Internet, from the transport layer of how data moves to the protocols that perform those functions and more. By having this understanding, a person can better ensure their security and privacy is safeguarded, rather than just taking someone’s word for it. 

For those looking to understand how the Internet works, but in a jargon-free style that will educate them and not confuse them further, How the Internet Really Works is the book for them.

Reviewer: Ben Rothke, CISSP, CISM, CISA, is a New York City-based senior information security manager with Tapad and has more than 20 years of industry experience in information systems security and privacy. His areas of expertise are in risk management and mitigation, security and privacy regulatory issues, design and implementation of systems security, encryption, cryptography and security policy development. Rothke wrote Computer Security – 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.