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Security can be expensive to ignore. According to a 2001 survey by the Computer Security Institute and the FBI, security-related losses in the United States exceeded $377.8 million last year. Clearly, relegating IT security to an afterthought just isn't an option anymore.

In response to escalating security threats from external hackers as well as malicious internal users, many IT organizations have adopted intrusion detection systems (IDSs) over the past year. While this is a major step in the right direction, standard IDS technology represents only part of the overall solution.

With increasingly complex attacks, securing your IT infrastructure requires a multipronged approach known as intrusion management. Instead of simply detecting an attack as it occurs, an intrusion management system (IMS) provides protection, detection, analysis and response relative to a given attack.

IMS can be difficult to understand since, in some quarters, it may be viewed as a holistic process for IT security. However, for the purposes of this article, IMS refers to an emerging technology solution that offers a complete intrusion management life cycle, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Intrusion Management Cycle

This cycle of intrusion management is enabled by key technology components, which we will examine later in this article. Before we delve into the IMS technology components, however, let's begin by discussing why the holistic defense offered by IMS is necessary.

The Intrusion Management Continuum

To understand the need for IMS, it's helpful to consider the timeline of an attack. The IMS solution can be conceptually represented in terms of this timeline. As shown in Figure 2 and explained below, the IMS "attack continuum" comprises five basic phases relative to the timing of the attack:

  1. Well before. This may be months, weeks or even days before an attack. Vulnerabilities within the IT environment must be identified and corrected. Security policies must be enhanced and enforced.

  2. Just before. This represents the time window of an imminent attack. It may be seconds or even milliseconds before the unveiled attack. The objective is to detect an attack just before it occurs and fire an alert.

  3. During. The attack has begun, and the targeted system is being compromised. During the attack, alerts provide notification of the priority and nature of the attack. If possible, the attack should be stopped at this phase.

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