RangerIDS - Intrusion Detection System (IDS)



Network IDS (NIDS)


The Network IDS (NIDS) monitors traffic on the wire in real time, examining packets in detail in order to detect patterns of misuse – perhaps spotting denial of service attacks or dangerous payload – before the packets reach their destination and do the damage.  


They do this by matching one or more packets against a database of known “attack signatures”, or performing protocol decodes to detect anomalies, or both. These signature databases are updated regularly by the vendors as new attacks are discovered. 


When suspicious activity is noticed, a network based IDS is capable of both raising alerts and terminating the offending connection immediately (as are some host-based IDS). Some will also integrate with your firewall, automatically defining new rules to shut out the attacker in future.  


Most of the network-based IDS available to date work in what is known as “promiscuous mode”. This means that they examine every packet on the local segment, whether or not those packets are destined for the IDS machine (much like a network monitor, such as Sniffer). Given that they have a lot of work to do in examining every single packet and tracking active sessions, they usually require a dedicated host on which to run due to their heavy use of system resources.  


For instance, most attacks are not based on the contents of a single packet, but are made up of several, sometimes sent over a lengthy period of time. This means that the IDS has to store a number of packets in an internal buffer in order to track established sessions and compare groups of packets with its attack signature database. This is known as “maintaining state”, and allows IDS to compare new packets against its signature database in the context of what has happened previously in a particular session, rather than examining every packet in isolation. 


You will also need one Network IDS sensor per segment, since they are unable to see across switches or routers, and some have problems keeping up with heavily loaded Fast Ethernet segments (never mind Gigabit). Clearly, they would also have problems with encrypted traffic.