Positioning Your IDS Sensors


Where do I position my IDS sensors?


Ideally you would position a number of IDS sensors in different locations, each of which covers a particular area of threat within your organization.

Some locations you should consider:

  • Monitor any points of external access to the network (Internet, wireless, and VPN, for example).
  • Ideally, you want to monitor both sides of any filtering tool.
  • Monitor any DMZ area.
  • Ideally, you want to monitor both sides if any machines are multihomed.
  • Monitor any critical and/or vulnerable services (e.g., mail-, web-, and database- related services).
  • Monitor any internal network connections between subnets.
  • Monitor the internal network in general for internal problems.


The following sections provide some case studies for you to consider.

Small business (or geek at home)

The scenario shown in Figure 1-12 has one point of entry. It doesn't contain many computers, and there are not a lot of complicated services running. The most traffic comes from file transfers, web access, and email. There is little to no risk of employee-related attack. The sensible way to monitor this network is to place the IDS to monitor inside the firewall at the point of access to the network. This will crop up potential issues that have passed through the firewall.

Figure 1-12. A home network


Medium-sized business

In a medium-sized network, there are several more places that are worth monitoring (see Figure 1-13). There should still be an IDS on the inner side of your firewall. In addition, you should monitor the demilitarized zone (DMZ) off your firewall. This area is the most at risk, as it is the most exposed. Often (and unadvisedly) machines in the DMZ have interfaces to the internal network. Any breach of these machines effectively circumvents any protection to the internal network provided by the firewall. This is where the external functions of the network usually lay, such as mail, the Web, FTP, and other servers that need to be accessible to the world at large. Within the network, as the size of the organization grows, it becomes prudent to monitor for inappropriate activity from within. Monitoring the use of key services, such as databases, and checking for abuse, will not only prevent an internal problem, but also back up the effectiveness of the IDS inside the firewall.

Figure 1-13. A medium-sized network


Larger organizations

As the size of the organization grows, so do the number of ways into and out of the network (see Figure 1-14). Large networks may have more servers running on the DMZ, multiple Internet connections for redundancy, wireless access points, and remote users with VPNsall adding up to a huge amount of traffic and potential problems. IDS should be strategically placed so you can monitor as many of these systems as possible, if not all of them. You should place the IDS snesors on significant points in the network such as servers, mainframes, and routers. All in all, if breaking something would result in a problem for your business, you should be looking at it.

Figure 1-14. Large network

You may consider all this to be quite extreme, but it isn't quite as bad as it seems. If you consider any medium to large organization, a significant number of the resources listed previously are in the same room. Linux-compatible gigabit Ethernet cards are available with up to six ports. Coupled with machines that have space for three or four PCI cards, you could have as many as 24 Ethernet ports (plus expansion modules can convert one PCI slot to 13 using an external enclosure). Using a single machine running multiple instances of Snort, you could do all of this easily in one room.

See Also

Caswell, Brian, et al. "Chapter 2.5: Using Snort on Your Network." In Snort 2.0 Intrusion Detection. Rockland, MA: Syngress, 2003.

Capturing and Viewing Packets

Installing Snort from Source on Unix

Logging to a File Quickly

How to Build Rules

Detecting Stateless Attacks and Stream Reassembly

Managing Snort Sensors

Generating Statistical Output from Snort Logs

Monitoring Network Performance


Snort Cookbook
Snort Cookbook
ISBN: 0596007914
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 167

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