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[ISN] IDS users swamped with false alerts
From: InfoSec News (isnc4i.org)
Date: Mon Dec 17 2001 - 01:29:49 CST
By John Leyden
Posted: 14/12/2001 at 18:09 GMT
The number of redundant alarms and false positives generated by
Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) has come under fire from users
attending an event designed to raise awareness about the technology.
Users attending an 'ABCs of IDS' event at London's City University
yesterday said more the 80 per cent of the alerts they received were
false, with one citing 60 alerts he had received about non-existent
problems that morning at 0300.
IDS systems, which act as a kind of burglar alarm to for hacker
attacks, provide "defence in depth" from hack attacks by providing
alerts about suspicious activity via sensors on a network or host
machine. The technology is reactive in nature, meaning human
intervention is needed, because if an IDS system shut off traffic or
stopped a service automatically this could cause more problems than it
Representation from Cisco Systems, Intrusion.com, NFR Security, Top
Layer and managed services firm proseq at the event conceded false
alerts and redundant alarms (such as Apache-targeted hacks on firm
with no such servers) were a serious problem. However there was a
marked absence of ideas of how about the technology could be
fine-tuned to minimise the problem, with vendors emphasising the fact
that systems need to be part of an overall security policy, which
receives adequate resources.
Part of the problem seems to be that business managers buy IDS systems
(often on the advice of auditors or consultants) without committing to
the people and resources needed to make the technology work, or having
a managed services firm maintain an installation.
The concern is that adopters of the technology will fail to maintain
it or simply leave it to gather dust as overworked admins get
bombarded with false alarms.
In recent weeks we've spoken to two service providers, COLT Telecom
and Data Return, who both told us customers request the installation
of IDS systems in their datacentre but then subsequently fail to
monitor the alerts generated.
Speaking at a recent Black Hat conference, Nicolas Fischbach, senior
IP and security engineer at COLT Telecom, said IDS systems if hosting
environments generate "thousands of alerts but no one watches them."
This can generate a false sense of security, he warned.
Users at last night's conference echoed these concerns and one summed
up the feelings of the meeting by saying "installation of IDS systems
is only 10 per cent of the solution".
Brian Milnes, general manager in Northern Europe of security tools
firm Intrusion.com, said buying a IDS systems was like "buying a
Christmas puppy" because both needed attention.
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