IDS For Business: Software, Setup, & Security

Businesses handle significant amounts of information; proprietary and customer data are frequently accessed on a company network. The digitalization of information has allowed us to enter a revolutionary period where we can accomplish more with less effort. Part of this transition includes the creation of centralized networks and databases so the company can rapidly access information. 

These databases allow companies to seamlessly access important information to enhance their services and rapidly assist customers. These networks often host information essential to online commerce through digital storefronts. As a result, these networks contain a large amount of sensitive information that could do serious damage in the wrong hands. One would assume it is impossible for unsavory characters to access information, but there is a huge crisis with cybercrime.

Fortunately, we did not enter the digital age without protection, and cybersecurity has become one of the most important industries of modern society. Despite being an important part of modern technology, cybersecurity is extremely complicated and imperfect. Cybercriminals are constantly updating their tools and tactics, making it harder than ever to maintain a secure network. 

Cybersecurity experts have developed multiple tools and techniques to minimize the risk of a breach and reduce the damage they cause if a cybercriminal breaks through. One of these tools is the IDS, which is becoming more common among certain companies and organizations. The problem is not everyone knows what an IDS is or what it does to secure a network.

Setting Up an IDS

What is an IDS?

The term “IDS” is an acronym for “Intrusion Detection System,” which is an important feature of any cybersecurity protocol. Cybercriminals lack the authorization to access the information stored on a company database. Additionally, some people have authorization for certain information but lack clearance for the more sensitive data. 

Individuals who lack access but intend to acquire protected information for personal gain will attempt to bypass security measures. Regardless of what type of person is trying to access the data, they will have to enter the network for at least a brief period. If the attack comes from outside the network, the one launching the attack must breach the defenses. However, they are still registered as an entity accessing the network. Counteracting these breaches requires the cybersecurity team to realize it is happening, which might be impossible if nothing is monitoring the network.

Detecting breaches like this is what an IDS is designed to do, ensuring that unauthorized users are flagged so a counterattack can be launched. The IDS can be classified as an intruder alarm, alerting cybersecurity teams that there is a network breach that jeopardizes the stored data’s security. 

Unfortunately, using an IDS can be complicated since they are only as valuable as the quality of their programming. Additionally, different kinds of IDS use different algorithms and codes to accomplish their function.

Intrusion Detection System

An IDS can be divided into 3 subtypes that are important to modern cybersecurity practices:

  • Signature-Based Detection: A signature-based detection algorithm is one of the most well-known varieties of IDS. This version of the IDS uses pattern recognition to identify malicious software and users. A signature-based detection IDS will identify “bad patterns” seen in malware that attempt to override the defense mechanisms installed on your server. Essentially, a signature-based detection IDS uses recognizable patterns to identify a breach and alert the cybersecurity team so they can resolve the problem.
  • Anomaly-Based Detection: An anomaly-based detection algorithm is the second most common variety of IDS. This version of the IDS is the inverse of signature-based detection programs because it does not use recognized patterns. Instead, an anomaly-based detection IDS identifies a breach whenever an unrecognized and unfamiliar entity enters the network without proper authorization. An IDS using this algorithm must be programmed to learn what trustworthy activity is by designing a model that shows the program what should occur in the network. Anything that deviates from this model is flagged and identified as a breach.
  • HybridBased Detection: Finally, a hybrid-based detection IDS amalgamates multiple detection methods. Cybersecurity teams can combine IDS programs that use signature and anomaly-based detection software. This ensures the network reaps the benefits of both detection methods while compensating for their weaknesses. Designing a hybrid-based detection IDS requires significant technical skill, but it is possible and can offer superior protection compared to using one or the other.

An IDS can be invaluable in preventing unauthorized access to an otherwise secure network. A well-programmed IDS can alert a cybersecurity team about a breach before any significant damage is done. This can make all the difference since a cybersecurity professional cannot resolve the situation without knowing a breach has occurred. The challenge is setting an IDS up to protect your network effectively. If you want to establish an IDS, understanding how to set one up is essential; otherwise, it will not function.

How to Set an IDS Up

Establishing an IDS is not a simple task since the person creating it must have the technical aptitude to program the particulars. The average person cannot create an IDS without an in-depth understanding of cybersecurity programming. That said, there are certain details that an experienced expert might overlook if they have never set up an IDS. 

Setting an IDS up to protect your network requires you to understand the different detection algorithms they use. Since we covered the main algorithm types, this step is more or less covered. That said, the complicated part lies in establishing a model that the detection method uses to identify malicious programs and unauthorized activity. We mentioned earlier that an anomaly-based detection IDS needs a model of standard activity before it can identify an anomaly.

Establishing that model requires expertise and an understanding of the tasks that occur within the network they are securing. Knowing who has the authorization to access the network and what kind of data is being stored allows a cybersecurity team to construct an accurate model of authorized activity. 

The model would involve a series of authorized activities (i.e., a specific employee terminal in the accounting department accessing financial records) that would be listed in the model. Any activity within the network that deviates from that model would be flagged as anomalous and can be tied to automated cybersecurity countermeasures as outlined by the team. Ultimately, the automated system would have to notify the team so they could manually counter the attack. Nevertheless, the model must be regularly maintained to account for company changes and ensure a previous attack has not corrupted the model.

Cybersecurity Expert Setting Up an IDS

For signature-based detection algorithms, the IDS must maintain a current record of the potential malware threats that might breach the network. Cybercriminals deploy malware and other viruses to try and wrest control of the system away from the proper owners. Some malware encrypts data, and the criminal extorts the victim for the decrypted files, while others use the virus to acquire sensitive information for personal use. 

Regardless of the type of malware used against you, all programs have a signature. While there are thousands of malware programs, most share enough common code that can be detected with pattern recognition. A signature-based detection system must have an updated catalog of these signature variations if it is going to have a chance at identifying malware before it damages the network.

While the initial setup is sustainable for a certain time, your cybersecurity team must revisit the IDS regularly to update the system and account for new issues. Additionally, a single IDS cannot oversee multiple networks, so the system must be protected by the network you want. If you are responsible for multiple networks, you must maintain an IDS for all of them. The best place to establish an IDS is within the network’s firewall (the first line of defense a network has). This way, whenever a program or hacker penetrates the firewall, the IDS will detect and identify it for the cybersecurity team.

How to Supplement An IDS

While an IDS is essential for networks that store sensitive information, they are ineffective as a standalone security measure. We have already established that an effective firewall is critical since it is the ideal location for the IDS to be set up. However, an IDS exists to detect threats rather than resolve them, with only moderate automation to give you a chance to curb the damage. 

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is responding to a breach once the IDS detects it. Before you implement an IDS, you must have a fully staffed and trained cybersecurity team since your system will be completely vulnerable without one. The team is responsible for maintaining the IDS and launching a response after identifying a potential threat.

After an intrusion is detected and identified, the cybersecurity team must have an effective incident response plan. This plan determines how they respond to a breach and ensures there is no confusion. While it might sound cliché, a good plan is critical to successfully neutralizing a cyberattack.

Cybersecurity Team Members

Any decent incident response plan will use 4 key steps:

  • Identification: Identifying a threat is essential, but that is what the IDS does. While there are other identification tools, the IDS will automatically detect activities that do not align with those authorized by the network owner.
  • Containment: In the second stage, containment, the cybersecurity team steps in and partitions the threat as best they can. Isolating the breach limits the amount of data the attack compromises and reduces recovery time.
  • Investigation: Once the threat is contained, the cybersecurity team can investigate the damage caused by the incident. They can also look into how the breach occurred, but we will focus on that later.
  • Recovery: The final stage of the incident response plan is the recovery stage. This is where the cybersecurity team attempts to restore the damaged or lost data and update the network’s security to prevent a recurrence.

The incident response plan helps ensure that any breach the IDS detects does not cause more damage and expedites recovery. Without a trained team, the breach would occur unimpeded, and you could lose all the data essential to your business. The investigation phase is one of the biggest steps since your cybersecurity team must identify the vulnerability that enabled the attack. 

After identifying the vulnerability, the system is patched to ensure the attack cannot be launched at the same entry point. Unfortunately, patching the firewall is not necessarily enough to secure the network again. Patches can generate new vulnerabilities because the fix addresses a specific issue with minimal consideration for other parts of the network.

Technically Speaking…

An IDS is one of the most valuable cybersecurity resources a business can have, especially if your business regularly handles sensitive client information. A well-developed IDS can ensure your cybersecurity team is aware of any breach in your network so they can execute a response. Considering the technical knowledge necessary to create an IDS, having a skilled and trained cybersecurity team is essential. 

Without the proper staff, your business will not benefit from the IDS since no one can update and maintain it. You will also lack the expertise necessary to combat the breach since the cybersecurity team is responsible for executing the incident response plan. Keeping a well-trained and well-equipped cybersecurity team on staff has become a necessity in almost every industry. Unfortunately, smaller companies might struggle to create a team since financing a cybersecurity department requires tens of thousands of dollars due to the technical requirements.

Securing Sensitive Data

No company that relies on a network should be without cybersecurity services, which is why we at U.S. Cybersecurity offer 3rd party services. We can handle your company’s cybersecurity needs, including implementing an IDS, on your behalf. You would only pay to retain our services through our services rather than financing your cybersecurity team’s hardware, workspace, software, and payroll. 

This can be invaluable to a company that cannot sustain a full-time in-house cybersecurity department but still needs coverage. Our services allow us to handle all major cybersecurity practices that companies need to keep their network and databases secure. We encourage you to visit our website and check out the detailed explanations of our services. We are standing by and ready to assist you.

Herman McCargo

Herman is a Microsoft Certified Security Engineer and Cybersecurity Specialist. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has expertise working with the most critical technology infrastructures. He has a deep understanding of cyber risks, threat mitigation and prevention, and overseeing infrastructure.