Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Intrusion detection system
An intrusion detection system (IDS) is a device or software application that monitors network or system activities for malicious activities or policy violations and produces reports to a Management Station. Some systems may attempt to stop an intrusion attempt but this is neither required nor expected of a monitoring system. Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) are primarily focused on identifying possible incidents, logging information about them, and reporting attempts. In addition, organizations use IDPSes for other purposes, such as identifying problems with security policies, documenting existing threats and deterring individuals from violating security policies. IDPSes have become a necessary addition to the security infrastructure of nearly every organization.

IDPSes typically record information related to observed events, notify security administrators of important observed events, and produce reports. Many IDPSes can also respond to a detected threat by attempting to prevent it from succeeding. They use several response techniques, which involve the IDPS stopping the attack itself, changing the security environment (e.g. reconfiguring a firewall), or changing the attack's content.

For the purpose of dealing with IT, there are three main types of IDS:

Network intrusion detection system (NIDS)
It is an independent platform that identifies intrusions by examining network traffic and monitors multiple hosts, developed in 1986 by Pete R. Network intrusion detection systems gain access to network traffic by connecting to a network hub, network switch configured for port mirroring, or network tap. In a NIDS, sensors are located at choke points in the network to be monitored, often in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) or at network borders. Sensors capture all network traffic and analyzes the content of individual packets for malicious traffic. An example of a NIDS is Snort.

Host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS)
It consists of an agent on a host that identifies intrusions by analyzing system calls, application logs, file-system modifications (binaries, password files, capability databases, Access control lists, etc.) and other host activities and state. In a HIDS, sensors usually consist of a software agent. Some application-based IDS are also part of this category. Examples of HIDS are Tripwire and OSSEC.

Stack-based intrusion detection system (SIDS)
This type of system consists of an evolution to the HIDS systems. The packets are examined as they go through the TCP/IP stack and, therefore, it is not necessary for them to work with the network interface in promiscuous mode. This fact makes its implementation to be dependent on the Operating System that is being used.

Intrusion detection systems can also be system-specific using custom tools and honeypots.

Passive and/or reactive systems
In a passive system, the intrusion detection system (IDS) sensor detects a potential security breach, logs the information and signals an alert on the console and/or owner. In a reactive system, also known as an intrusion prevention system (IPS), the IPS auto-responds to the suspicious activity by resetting the connection or by reprogramming the firewall to block network traffic from the suspected malicious source. The term IDPS is commonly used where this can happen automatically or at the command of an operator; systems that both "detect (alert)" and "prevent".

Intrusion prevention systems
Intrusion prevention systems (IPS), also known as intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), are network security appliances that monitor network and/or system activities for malicious activity. The main functions of intrusion prevention systems are to identify malicious activity, log information about said activity, attempt to block/stop activity, and report activity.

Intrusion prevention systems are considered extensions of intrusion detection systems because they both monitor network traffic and/or system activities for malicious activity. The main differences are, unlike intrusion detection systems, intrusion prevention systems are placed in-line and are able to actively prevent/block intrusions that are detected. More specifically, IPS can take such actions as sending an alarm, dropping the malicious packets, resetting the connection and/or blocking the traffic from the offending IP address. An IPS can also correct Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) errors, unfragment packet streams, prevent TCP sequencing issues, and clean up unwanted transport and network layer options.

Intrusion prevention systems can be classified into four different types:

  • Network-based intrusion prevention system (NIPS): monitors the entire network for suspicious traffic by analyzing protocol activity.
  • Wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS): monitors a wireless network for suspicious traffic by analyzing wireless networking protocols.
  • Network behavior analysis (NBA): examines network traffic to identify threats that generate unusual traffic flows, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, certain forms of malware, and policy violations.
  • Host-based intrusion prevention system (HIPS): an installed software package which monitors a single host for suspicious activity by analyzing events occurring within that host.

Detection methods
The majority of intrusion prevention systems utilize one of three detection methods: signature-based, statistical anomaly-based, and stateful protocol analysis.

Signature-Based Detection: This method of detection utilizes signatures, which are attack patterns that are preconfigured and predetermined. A signature-based intrusion prevention system monitors the network traffic for matches to these signatures. Once a match is found the intrusion prevention system takes the appropriate action. Signatures can be exploit-based or vulnerability-based. Exploit-based signatures analyze patterns appearing in exploits being protected against, while vulnerability-based signatures analyze vulnerabilities in a program, its execution, and conditions needed to exploit said vulnerability.

Statistical anomaly-based detection: This method of detection baselines performance of average network traffic conditions. After a baseline is created, the system intermittently samples network traffic, using statistical analysis to compare the sample to the set baseline. If the activity is outside the baseline parameters, the intrusion prevention system takes the appropriate action.

Stateful Protocol Analysis Detection: This method identifies deviations of protocol states by comparing observed events with “predetermined profiles of generally accepted definitions of benign activity.”