Host-Based Intrusion Detection System: Definition, How It Works, & Threats Guide

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Security threats can cause serious harm to online businesses. Attackers use various tools and techniques to do malicious activities within the network, all of these impacting the company's revenue. Hence, it is essential to have tight security for your network systems. Any intrusion can result in severe financial and reputational loss. Some of the common security issues include policy breaches, unauthorized network penetration, or insider attacks. This is where an intrusion detection system (IDS) can help. It analyzes activity and sends an alert notification if any suspicious activity is identified. 

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This guide contains all the relevant information you need to understand the mechanism of a host-based intrusion detection system and how it works. 

What is a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System (Host-Based IDS)?

A host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS or host-based IDS) uses integrated intrusion signatures to detect potentially-suspicious activities that could cause damage to your network system. It helps you keep your devices continuously in check by observing applications and devices running on your system in order to prevent an intrusion. Host-based IDS provides software that tracks changes and processes the information collected from computer systems. 

What Does a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System IDS Do?

Here are five things you can expect a HIDS to accomplish:

  1. Evaluate Traffic: Evaluate the incoming and outgoing traffic on a particular computer on which the IDS software is installed.
  2. Signature-Based Detection: Utilize a signature-based detection method to compare the signatures found in the network traffic against a database of malicious signatures.
  3. Threat Intelligence: Contains threat intelligence features such as HIDS agents which help recognize and eliminate any malicious activity present within the system. 
  4. Monitor Critical Files: Scrutinize critical system files. 
  5. Notification of Intrusion: Identify and notify you if there was any attempt to overwrite critical files.

Hence, your devices and applications will remain protected all of the time. 

How Does a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System Work?

Here is how a host-based IDS works:

  1. Data Collection: The IDS collects the data from computer systems.
  2. Network Observation: The IDS observes the network traffic and matches all the traffic patterns to all known attacks. This method is also known as pattern correlation.
  3. Activity Detection: The IDS confirms if a particularly unusual activity was a cyber attack or not. 
  4. Activity Alert: Once suspicious activity is confirmed, the IDS will alert you via an alarm. These alarms will help you quickly find the cause of the issue so your team can stop the attack. 

What Systems Does a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System Protect?

The host-based IDS system detects threats and patterns of attack within your network system. It protects all your valuable data assets. With the rise of security trends, HIDS helps protect the cloud environment on which it is installed. It can work on different platforms such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Liquid Web. There are different IDS systems for Windows, Linux, and Mac. 

Since host-based IDS cannot block connections, you will still need to install a firewall or use a hardware firewall, depending on your system requirements.

What Threats Does a Host-Based Intrusion Detection System Shield Against?

There are many threats that can be eliminated with the help of a host-based IDS:

1. Malicious Attacks

Whenever malicious activities occur within a system such as unauthorized authentication attacks, HIDS detects the attack and sends it for analysis. Once a cyber attack is confirmed, it generates an alert and will send the information about the attack to you. This real-time monitoring helps to minimize the damage when an attack happens. 

2. Asymmetric Routing

When data packets traveling through the network take a particular route to their destination and take a different route back, it is called asymmetric routing. This mechanism allows the attackers to perform a DDoS attack. HIDS helps determine such routes and will ask you to turn these routes off for enhanced network protection. 

Liquid Web provides basic DDoS Attack Protection to all customers.

3. Buffer Overflow Attacks

When more data is written than a buffer can handle, it is called a buffer overflow, and it can cause the entire system to collapse. This kind of attack attempts to infiltrate segments of memory in the device on which the host-based IDS is installed. It replaces the normal data in those memory locations with suspicious data, which will be implemented later in an attack. In the majority of cases, buffer overflow attacks are intended to turn into a form of DDoS attack but can also be used to divulge sensitive information or perform remote code execution. A host-based intrusion detection system will help eliminate such attacks by identifying the patterns associated with this attack type. 

4. Scanning Attacks

Scanning attacks involve sending data to the network to collect data about the network, traffic, ports, and hosts. Attackers often try to identify open ports where a virus can be inserted to make an attack in the system. However, a host-based intrusion detection system prevents the attacker from getting into the system in the first place. In the event that an attacker is able to breach this initial level of protection, a HIDS will help minimize these attacks using advanced features such as a web application firewall to protect the data within the system.

Use Cases for Host-Based Intrusion Detection System

Here are two use cases that exemplify how IDS is evolving businesses throughout the world: 

Supply Chain Management

As an intrusion detection system provides tracking and tracing systems, you can easily combine them with digital services to make the supply chain more successful. Materials can be identified with the help of barcodes or RFID technology. With the use of such a system, trusted shareholders within a company can get information via the IDS data framework, which will make the supply chain industry more secure and cloud monitoring easier. 

HIPAA and PCI Compliance

Your organization may have some standard requirements which you have to meet in order to work. With an IDS, your organization can easily meet requirements such as HIPAA compliance and PCI compliance

Why Choose Threat Stack Host-Based IDS and Liquid Web

Liquid Web’s Threat Stack host-based IDS delivers substantial security benefits to clients for a small price. It also provides full-stack cloud security with uninterrupted protection in monitoring, reporting of any identified security threats, and delivery of IDS within the system's network to ensure the safety of the devices from attackers. 

Threat Stack helps provide more comprehensive security for your systems and pairs with Liquid Web’s 24/7/365 support. Contact us now to learn more about Threat Stack.

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About the Author

Chika Ibeneme

Chika Ibeneme is a Community Support Agent at The Events Calendar. He received his BA in Computer Science in 2017 from Northern Caribbean University and has over 5 years of technical experience assisting customers and clients. You can find him working on various WordPress and Shopify projects.

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