Intrusion detection systems, IDSs for short, are designed to protect computers by detecting potential threats and vulnerabilities for specific applications. These are visibility tools that take a look into the network to scan for information leaks, infections, and security policy violators. IDSs are often confused with intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), which are control tools that are typically used to filter malicious data packets from entering a system while permitting harmless data packets through. IDSs are a lot more like bank silent alarms that alert the police when an intrusion takes place, while IPSs are more like roving security guards that physically prevent intruders from coming in. Both serve as deterrents and as quick response systems, but with slightly different approaches.
IDSs are crucial elements to a truly secure business network because modern businesses rely heavily on computers for storing and managing sensitive information and inter- and intra-organizational communications. Many businesses utilize IDSs as provided by Security as a Service (SECaaS) companies, and it is important for you to choose an IDS that meets the specific needs of your business. Here are some comparisons of IDS types to help you identify which system suits your needs.
Active IDS vs. Passive IDS
Active IDSs are designed to automatically act and react to suspected breaches, attacks, or intrusions. This is advantageous because they ensure that the reaction to the vulnerability is immediate, as they do not require an operator to deploy their protection protocols. However, an inherent problem with a fully automated active system is that it can sometimes attack itself, or more commonly, incorrectly deny access to authorized people who wish to access the network.
Passive IDSs are designed to simply observe the system environment and analyze network activity. They typically react to suspicious activity by sending a notice to the employee in charge of the particular sector or department at risk. They ensure that the response is absolutely correct and properly terminated upon completion, but are more time-consuming.
Network-based IDS vs. SaaS (host-based)
Network-based IDSs monitor all information traffic that goes through network segments. Multiple sensors can be linked to a central control system, although this means that additional equipment and utility costs can inflate implementation and ownership costs.
In contrast, host-based systems require installed software for computers to be individually monitored, as it is the software that monitors and issues reports about the system’s integrity to the operator. Host-based systems collect information with the use of sensors, which are typically installed on machines that are likely to be susceptible to attacks. The information recorded by these sensors are called audit trails. Audit trails can be quite costly to gather and record because they eat into the machine’s performance, which parlays a cost on its output; this is however justified by the amount of information that is collated from the process, which helps the system analyze patterns of attack.
Knowledge-based IDS vs. Behavior-based IDS
Knowledge-based IDSs — the more common system of the two — responds to threats based on the history of attacks the system has already experienced. This database also contains information about known system vulnerabilities, which serves as the basis of the IDS when it tries to ascertain whether the system is under threat. This kind of system typically endures lower false alarm rates than behavior-based systems, but its database requires constant updates to ensure that new vulnerabilities and threats can be countered. Additionally, knowledge-based IDSs are weak against entirely new threats that are not yet included in their databases.
Unlike knowledge-based IDSs that rely on precedence to function, behavior-based systems look at the inner workings of a network and watch out for anomalous activities, i.e., activities that fall outside of what is considered normal. For instance, if someone from the marketing department suddenly accesses R&D archives out of the blue, red flags would be raised since that staff member usually has no business there. He might just be there by accident and see files about proprietary products in development that he is not yet meant to see. Or he could be a corporate mole on a quest to steal information for his true employer. Behavior-based systems respond to threats by learning patterns of the normal system. This means that it will trigger an alarm if it identifies actions that it does not consider to be a pattern consistent with the normal system. The advantage of this system is that newer threats will likely still be detected, although it will typically set more false alarms, and may endure some difficulties in thoroughly assessing patterns that change regularly.
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