There are other ways to safeguard your small business’s information technology (IT) infrastructure from cyber threats besides the use of a firewall and antivirus software. An intrusion detection system (IDS), for example, can complement your existing cybersecurity efforts by offering an additional layer of protection.

What Is an IDS?

An IDS is a cybersecurity solution — available as either hardware or software — that actively monitors traffic on a network for cyber threats and suspicious activity. As the name suggests, it’s designed to detect intrusions in your small business’s network. If a hacker is attempting to access your small business’s network without proper authorization, an IDS will notify you about this activity. You can then respond by blocking the hacker’s Internet Protocol (IP) address or deploying other methods of access prevention.

IDS vs Firewall: What’s the Difference?

IDSs are often confused with firewalls, as both cybersecurity solutions involve scanning and monitoring network activity for cyber threats. The difference between them, however, is that firewalls stop cyber threats after detecting them, whereas IDSs typically only monitor and report the presence of a cyber threat on a network.

Comparing the Different Types of IDSs

There are actually several different types of IDSs, each of which uses a different mechanism to detect cyber threats on a network. A network intrusion detection system (NIDS), for example, is a type of IDS that’s installed on specific points in a network to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic between those points. In comparison, a hot intrusion detection system (HIDS) is a type of IDS that’s installed on all devices connected to the network.

A signature-based intrusion detection system is a type of IDS that monitors network activity for cyber threats using signatures. As the software or hardware scans the network, it looks for packet signatures, which it compares to those listed in a database of cyber threats. If a packet contains the same signature as listed in one of these databases, the signature-based intrusion detection system will mark it as a cyber threat.

Challenges Posed By IDSs

IDSs don’t offer a foolproof solution to protect against cyber threats. Like other cybersecurity solutions, there are certain factors that can affect their effectiveness. Too much noise on a network, for instance, can restrict an IDS’s ability to detect cyber threats. Furthermore, most IDSs are unable to detect threats included in encrypted packets. Aside from these minor challenges, though, deploying an IDS is a smart way to strengthen the security of your small business’s IT network.