August 16

Operator Handbook

You’re sitting tapping commands into a laptop with your team sitting around you in a hastily arranged horseshoe of office chairs. They watch intently as you reveal a misconfiguration in one of your company servers that leaves it wide open to attack. It took hours of painstaking effort to find and you feel a sense of satisfaction as you provide a proof of concept walk-through of the vulnerability.

But then it happens: ‘…. command not found’ replies the command terminal tersely after you triumphantly tap the enter key. You re-type the command assuming a typo and hit enter again, harder this time.

‘…. command not found’


‘…. command not found


‘…. command not found’

“What the.. I just did this…” you mumble as colleagues begin offering advice.

In much the same way printers cease cooperating just before important meetings, technical knowledge can also evaporate into thin air at the most unhelpful moments.

With the sheer range of tools and techniques cybersecurity professionals are expected to be conversant with, even seasoned experts can struggle to hold everything they need in their heads.

We haven’t reviewed a technical reference since the immortal Blue Team Field Manual, but recently ordered the Operator Handbook after reading lots of good things about it.

In short, we really like it for several reasons.

Firstly, the book serves as a combined reference for open source intelligence gathering (OSINT), red team and blue team specialists alike – based on the philosophy that different ‘flavours’ of operator should have an appreciation of their counterpart specialisms. The Operator Handbook is replete with tools commonly used by each and just perusing it on a regular basis will naturally help some additional knowledge to rub off.

Secondly, an impressive amount of research has clearly gone into compiling the material in this book. The first few pages include acknowledgements to contributors from the Twitter infosec community and hundreds of account handles listed, from some very credible sources. This book provides curated access to hard won technical wisdom from a wide range of experts.

Finally, the book is easy to navigate and is alphabetically broken down by tool as opposed to activity, which saves hunting around when you’re in a hurry. Been a while since you generated a new SSH key pair? Simply flip to ‘S’ in the contents and you’ll find a page number for SSH.

Commands for each tool are accompanied by a nicely summarised explanation, but with enough detail that you shouldn’t need to sit frowning at any of them trying to understand their use.

If you need to learn, preserve or refresh key technical skills the Operator Handbook is a great addition to the laptop bag.

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