What Is An Intrusion Detection System?

  • By Bryan Lee
  • Published: Aug 28, 2023
  • Last Updated: Sep 05, 2023

What Is An Intrusion Detection System

Criminals are constantly improving their security probing and penetration tactics. Their efforts make traditional cybersecurity measures more obsolete with every passing day. It’s necessary to employ multiple layers of security to ensure the safety of your critical digital assets and networks.

One of the most effective tools in a well-rounded cybersecurity arsenal is an Intrusion Detection System (IDS). These programs pinpoint dangerous behaviors such as unauthorized access attempts, forced intrusions, and malware activity that could lead to severe consequences like business identity theft.

This setup allows businesses to quickly correct an issue before it can escalate into a full-blown threat. In this post, we’ll explore the various types of IDS and how they’ll elevate your existing security routine.

How Does IDS Work?

Intrusion Detection Systems identify problematic elements and inform an administrator who can handle the situation. However, each IDS may vary in its detection method and how it’s integrated into operations.

Signature-Based IDS

This detection type accesses a database of known attack patterns, or signatures, and compares network packets or system events against those patterns. If a match comes back, then the alarm goes off. A signature-based IDS adeptly handles known threats but may struggle if attacked with a novel method.

Behavior-Based IDS

Rather than pull from an existing database, behavior-based IDS establishes a baseline of “normal behavior” within a system. This detection method compares current activity against this baseline and triggers an alert if a deviation occurs. Behavior-based IDS is better equipped to handle unknown attack methods that lack known signatures.

Network-Based IDS (NIDS)

A Network-based IDS is spread out among various points of the network infrastructure. It monitors traffic and analyzes the packets passing through those points in real-time to detect possible threats in transit. NIDS is effective for combatting external threats but may not see potentially dangerous communications originating within the system.

Host-Based IDS (HIDS)

Host-based IDS installs directly on an organization’s endpoints and monitors the logs of that hosted device. It works by learning a device’s “default state” and comparing future changes against it. This practice is similar to how Behavior-based IDS operate.

Unlike a network-based solution, this integration method is perfect for detecting attacks from within, including social-engineering attacks and unknown access attempts. It can even prevent malware from spreading to other devices in the system.

Hybrid IDS

As its name suggests, a Hybrid IDS takes elements from multiple other IDS approaches. The combination typically comes from Network and Host-based IDS to offer in-depth network monitoring alongside user-level protection. Hybrid IDS is the most comprehensive and recommended option.

Benefits of an Intrusion Detection System

Intrusion Detection Systems offer crucial defense for both organizations and individuals alike. These programs benefit any enterprise using the internet or utilizing outside software. That pretty much includes every organization on the planet.

Quick Threat Detection

Adopting an IDS into your cybersecurity suite lets you identify threats almost immediately. You can root out the problem or start mitigating the damage much faster than if you wait for obvious signs of a data breach or malware attack.

Protection Against the Unknown

Even the most well-trained cybersecurity professional will have trouble identifying a threat they’ve never seen before. Many data breaches have been caused by experts letting through unknown files because those files didn’t fit a danger profile. Behavior-based IDS solutions are especially valuable for pinpointing unknown threats.

Aiding Firewalls and Antivirus Software

While IDS is a highly effective preventative measure, it should be used in conjunction with other security mechanisms. Firewalls and antivirus software can filter out and block incoming danger, but an IDS provides an added layer of security by detecting suspicious behavior that got past them.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Data security legislation is hard to keep up with. The rapidly growing number of cyber attacks worldwide has caused many countries to tighten their regulations quickly. Integrating IDS is an excellent way for organizations to meet their legal obligations and better protect their customers.

24/7 Monitoring

IDS doesn’t need a babysitter. It provides around-the-clock surveillance and only requires human intervention when a problem arises. However, an IDS does require a skilled engineer to configure and maintain it for optimal performance.

Weaknesses of an Intrusion Detection System

IDS has a few problems and isn’t the final solution to cybersecurity, so it must be implemented alongside other security measures. Additionally, there are various methods that bad actors can use to disguise their attack and keep the IDS from reporting it.

Generates False Positives

Big organizations send and receive immense amounts of data daily. This means there’s a good chance that the IDS will occasionally bring back a false positive response to legitimate traffic. You’ll be wasting resources on investigations whenever this happens.

IDS is STRICTLY Preventative

An IDS won’t go into your files and remove a dangerous file. Its only job is to notify the correct people that action must be taken. Organizations still require skilled techs to investigate the danger and create countermeasures for the future.

Susceptible to Altered Attack Patterns

Signature-based IDS relies on pattern matching to detect attacks. This makes the IDS weak to threat patterns that aren’t recorded in its database; however, criminals can also slightly alter a known attack pattern to dodge detection.

Additionally, a signature-based IDS is only as good as the database it pulls from. So, the administrator must frequently update the signature library to keep up with advancing cyberattacks.

Misreads Fragmented Packets

Fragmentation is when a larger data packet is separated into multiple parts before being sent across networks. Intrusion Detection Systems struggle with fragmentation because they may reassemble the fragmented packet incorrectly, leading to an incomplete threat analysis.

Weak to Encryptions

Encrypted packets are helpful for transferring confidential data. However, they also provide an avenue for dangerous programs. An IDS can’t read encrypted packets until it’s read on an endpoint device. This creates a large window for a malicious actor to damage your systems.

Addresses Can Be Spoofed

Part of the information stored in a data packet is its home network. This information is critical in diagnosing and determining whether the packet is malicious. By adjusting the sending address in the packet, otherwise known as spoofing, criminals can trick the IDS into believing the data came from a reputable source.

IDS vs. Firewalls

Both IDS and firewalls are invaluable components of a robust defense strategy. These tools both examine the data passing through your network and should serve distinct roles in your security plans.

Firewalls Offer Endpoint Protection

Despite all their benefits, Intrusion Detection Systems don’t address threats independently. They are passive monitors that alert security engineers when they see a problem. You can think of an IDS as a civilian witnessing a crime but can only call the police to deal with it. On the other hand, a firewall would be like a police officer seeing the offense and arresting them on the spot.

Defense Priority

Most organizations use IDS and firewalls as part of a layered defense plan. Firewalls are the first line of defense configured to root out nearly all dangerous elements. Intrusion Detection Systems then work to catch anything that slips through or is mistakenly let through due to human error.

Intrusion Detection Systems Should Be Integrated with Your Existing Security

Intrusion Detection Systems are vital for defending against growing cyber threats. This convenient tool monitors network traffic, system activities, and user behavior to locate potential threats and lower your risk of a data breach.

There are many options for integrating an IDS into your existing security configuration. While signature and host-based IDS are helpful, adopting the hybrid approach is best. This will keep both your networks and endpoint devices monitored at all times. If you want to discuss how to defend your organization better, our operators are always ready to advise you!


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