An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is a network security technology originally built for detecting vulnerability exploits against a target application or computer. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) extended IDS solutions by adding the ability to block threats in addition to detecting them and has become the dominant deployment option for IDS/IPS technologies. This article will elaborate on the configuration and functions that define the IDS deployment.
An IDS needs only to detect threats and as such is placed out-of-band on the network infrastructure, meaning that it is not in the true real-time communication path between the sender and receiver of information. Rather, IDS solutions will often take advantage of a TAP or SPAN port to analyze a copy of the inline traffic stream (and thus ensuring that IDS does not impact inline network performance).
IDS was originally developed this way because at the time the depth of analysis required for intrusion detection could not be performed at a speed that could keep pace with components on the direct communications path of the network infrastructure.
As explained, the IDS is also a listen-only device. The IDS monitors traffic and reports its results to an administrator, but cannot automatically take action to prevent a detected exploit from taking over the system. Attackers are capable of exploiting vulnerabilities very quickly once they enter the network, rendering the IDS an inadequate deployment for prevention device.
The following table summarizes the differences in technology intrinsic to IPS and the IDS deployment: