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breach detection system (BDS)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Breach detection systems (BDS) are a category of applications and security devices designed to detect the activity of malware inside a network after a breach has occurred.

Enterprise IT uses BDS to protect against the variety of advanced threats, especially unidentified malware.  Unlike tier 1 security, such as a firewall or intrusion prevention, that scan incoming traffic, BDS focuses on malicious activity within the network it protects. It determines possible breaches by differing combinations of heuristics, traffic analysis, risk assessment, safe marked traffic, data policy understanding and violation reporting. Using these methods, BDS are able to sometimes find breaches as they occur and at other times detect breaches and side-channel attacks that had not previously been found.

BDS has 3 different deployment methods:

  • Out-of band systems scan data mirrored from port scans from a switch or network tap.
  • In-line systems are deployed between the network and WAN interface just like tier 1 firewalls and intrusion prevention systems.
  • Endpoint deployments that use a client installed on endpoint machines.

Advanced persistent threats (APT) have a number of exploits they can use on a target, depending on what types of Internet applications the target uses and likely vulnerabilities. There are such a variety of threats that it is difficult to impossible for IT to be aware of every possibility. BDS helps with finding the unknown advanced and adaptive threats. Even major websites have been hacked;  furthermore, the average successful breach lasts 16 months. On both counts, there is certainly room to cut down on damages. The use of BDS represent a shift in philosophy from the idea of preventing every intrusion to realizing that intrusions will happen and focusing on catching those intrusions sooner.

BDS need to be configured with details such as operating system, a list of approved applications, and programs allowed to connect to the Internet. An understanding of the attack surface presented by your network is crucial to setting up a successful deployment. To that end, BDS can assess risky configurations, helping IT limit the attack surface.

Data policies can affect what type of BDS is right for an organization. Some BDS in each type of deployment forward their data back to the BDS service provider to do post-processing in their own cloud. If it is critical, however, that data not go offsite, there are also BDS vendors who offer the same level of processing on premises. BDS are a tier 2 security system, sometimes considered 2nd generation intrusion detection systems (IDS).

This was last updated in November 2014

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Comparing breach detection systems to IDSes and NGFWs.

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