3 Things you need to understand about intrusion detection systems

3 Things you need to understand about intrusion detection systems

With the cyberthreat landscape constantly evolving and presenting new challenges to organizations of all scopes and sizes, it’s never been more important to implement multiple layers of security. Antivirus software and firewalls alone are no longer good enough to protect your business, especially when it comes to unknown threats such as zero-day exploits and advanced persistent threats (APTs).

One such additional layer of security you need is an intrusion detection system (IDS). It monitors a network for suspicious activities and potential security policy violations. Ranging in scope from protecting individual computers to entire corporate networks, an IDS may come in the form of a physical device similar to a hardware firewall or a software application that’s either locally or remotely hosted. Below are three things you need to understand about intrusion detection systems, and how these can contribute to the cybersecurity of your firm.

Network- or host-based

Intrusion detection systems are typically classified as being either network- or host-based.

Network-based systems use sensors to analyze network-wide traffic to detect potentially harmful behavior. A network-based IDS needs only one dedicated device, from which it monitors and analyzes all traffic moving across the network. A more cost-effective alternative is a cloud-based version, because you don’t need to spend for dedicated hardware.

On the other hand, host-based systems need software agents to be installed on each and every device. They monitor every inbound and outbound packets only from the device, be it a server, a PC, or a mobile device, and they will alert the user or administrator if suspicious activity is detected.

Both have their pros and cons. Network-based systems are less costly, extremely portable, and easy to configure and install. However, it’s always a step behind the latest threats, has a problem with scalability, and has monitoring limitations. Host-based systems can trace malicious activity to a specific user, are very versatile, and has cost advantages. But it cannot see network traffic, can be more costly in terms of storage space and server load, and has a chronic portability problem.

Proactive support

Intrusion detection systems are often confused with intrusion prevention systems (IPS). Despite using similar cybersecurity technologies, IDS and IPS are completely different tools.

IDS is a visibility tool; it takes a look into your network for security concerns such as information leaks, infected areas, and security policy violators. It is a passive system; it only sends an alert once a threat has entered the system.

On the other hand, IPS is a control tool, letting harmless data packets through while keeping malicious ones out. It’s a proactive system, blocking suspicious traffic from entering the system and acting automatically against potential attacks.

Behavior-based scanning

Traditionally, cybersecurity measures were largely reactive, meaning they would only come into play once a system had already been compromised. An example of this approach is antivirus, which quarantines malicious software only after the threat has already made its way into a device.

Furthermore, basic antivirus solutions rely purely on knowledge-based scanning using a database of known threats. Although knowledge-based scanning greatly reduces instances of false positives, it does absolutely nothing to protect you from new and unknown threats. It also doesn’t protect you from threats that don’t rely on the propagation of malicious code, such as sustained APT attacks or social engineering tactics. Antivirus protection is still an important measure to implement, but it’s not nearly enough by itself.

Today’s more advanced cybersecurity solutions leverage cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence to detect unusual behavioral patterns. For example, a heuristic approach to scanning looks for things like login attempts from unknown or suspicious sources, rather than relying on scanning for lines of malicious code alone. Though this can increase the number of false positives, it’s still better and safer than sorrier.

Ultimately, what you need is a cybersecurity infrastructure that does everything. Intrusion detection systems are a vital part of that infrastructure, but they’re not enough by themselves.

To protect everything from individual workstations to your entire corporate network, consult with SinglePoint Global. Call us today to get started.