intrusion detection (ID)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Unified threat management devices: Understanding UTM and its vendors

Intrusion detection (ID) is a type of security management system for computers and networks. An ID system gathers and analyzes information from various areas within a computer or a network to identify possible security breaches, which include both intrusions (attacks from outside the organization) and misuse (attacks from within the organization). ID uses vulnerability assessment (sometimes refered to as scanning), which is a technology developed to assess the security of a computer system or network.

Intrusion detection functions include:

  • Monitoring and analyzing both user and system activities
  • Analyzing system configurations and vulnerabilities
  • Assessing system and file integrity
  • Ability to recognize patterns typical of attacks
  • Analysis of abnormal activity patterns
  • Tracking user policy violations

ID systems are being developed in response to the increasing number of attacks on major sites and networks, including those of the Pentagon, the White House, NATO, and the U.S. Defense Department. The safeguarding of security is becoming increasingly difficult, because the possible technologies of attack are becoming ever more sophisticated; at the same time, less technical ability is required for the novice attacker, because proven past methods are easily accessed through the Web.

Typically, an ID system follows a two-step process. The first procedures are host-based and are considered the passive component, these include: inspection of the system's configuration files to detect inadvisable settings; inspection of the password files to detect inadvisable passwords; and inspection of other system areas to detect policy violations. The second procedures are network-based and are considered the active component: mechanisms are set in place to reenact known methods of attack and to record system responses.

In 1998,, a leading security assurance organization, formed the Intrusion Detection Systems Consortium (IDSC) as an open forum for ID product developers with the aim of disseminating information to the end user and developing industry standards.

This was last updated in May 2007

Next Steps

Learn about the role intrusion detection plays in wireless intrusion prevention systems and why some organizations choose to leave their WIPS in an intrusion detection mode.

Read about various scenarios for implementing a WIPS to detect, log and prevent wireless network attacks.

The Buyer's Guide series offers an introduction to network intrusion prevention systems, how they work and how an enterprise should deploy and manage them; explains the differences between intrusion prevention and detection to offer a better understanding of the organizational benefits of implementing a network IPS; and offers guidance on selecting the right network intrusion prevention system.

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