Sep 23 2008   3:15PM GMT

Host vs. Network IDS

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

I’ve noticed a definite tendency for organizations to move to monitoring network traffic with their Intrusion Detection Systems. It’s a lot easier than trying to update a host IDS service/agent and keeps the increased CPU at the monitor, where it belongs. Also, host agents are limited by what the operating system is willing to log.

Windows, for instance, will give you hundreds of logging messages that actually have no useful information for an IT Admin or Auditor to review. The setup of their Event Log auditing mechanism is still klugy, outdated and difficult to interpret. (Micro$oft, are you listening?). I can’t say I get to wow about UNIX either, and FORGET anything like logging with Novell.

So, why bother? I still think that a host IDS has a place, because there are things it can watch for that you will only see on the server. For instance, if someone is doing brute-force against the administrator account. If someone has made Active Directory changes who should not be in there.

How would you tell if someone added themselves to the Server Operator group? (where I’d go to look around and maybe get my hands on a SAM database). If you’ve got an Event Log monitoring function, you could pick it up that way, but wouldn’t it be nice if the IDS would pick it up? If you just installed a host IDS on certain critical servers? There’s lots of options if you step out of the all-or-nothing approach.

Speaking of which, monitoring development and test servers really does have to be included. As much as we’d like to forget that they’re there, that’s the first place hackers look. As a penetration tester, I can attest to that, as well. Patch ’em, monitor ’em, they’re on YOUR network.

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