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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Book Review: The IDA Pro Book

I was able to pick up a pre-released copy of The IDA Pro book at Defcon in the vendor area, thanks to Adam from No Starch. This book is not an introduction to reverse engineering, its a hard core manual for IDA Pro. IDA Pro is a critical weapon in any reverser's arsenal, so proficiency in this tool is paramount to your success in reverse engineering. If you are new to IDA Pro you need this book, even if you've been working with IDA for a while you will more than likely learn quite a few things after reading it. Unlike the two other books I've read on IDA Pro this book has no fluff or filler, its solid information! The funny thing when comparing it to the other two IDA books is its thicker than both combined, and contains an exponentially larger amount of information.

The author takes time to explain things in a very clear manner as you walk through from an introduction to the tool to more advanced usage such as customizing, extending IDA, debugging, and dealing with obfuscated code. The author answered questions I had been spent weeks asking and searching the Internet for.


Likes:

Just about everything. The author walks you through plenty of code and discusses scenarios where you could apply the information he is giving you. The fact that he took his time to elaborate on why, and when you might use a piece of information is unlike many authors whom will give you information and leave the reader wondering "What would I use that for".

This book does not just talk about Win32 and Portable Executable format, ELF binaries have a continual guest appearance throughout the book, and firmware/binaries are mentioned in numerous chapters.

Side bar elaboration is kept to a minimum, I often find in texts that an author will go on about background information that does not add anything significant to what I am reading. Chris Eagle keeps this to a minimum adding small side bars when necessary but only take up a small amount of real estate.


Dislikes

My only dislike of this book was the use of PE format as the example in chapter 18 – Binary Files and Ida Loader modules. Despite the use of a well known format chosen for this example the concepts were clearly displayed. I think it would have made it more interesting if the author had used a lesser known format, or do as the author of "Reversing, Secrets of Reverse Engineers" did and create his own binary.


-Phn1x

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