What Is HIPS?

While many vendors are avidly promoting host-based intrusion-prevention systems for enterprise desktop protection, they don't agree on what the technology consists of. Some offer traditional network-based IPS tools that are also regularly updated with viruslike signatures to combat the latest attacks. Others prefer advanced firewall techniques -- either desktop firewalls or memory firewalling. A few vendors focus on hardening the system so attacks can't make an incursion into the application core or Windows registry. Another camp uses various system-scanning techniques to detect and isolate suspicious behavior.

"The HIPS goal is to allow or deny types of traffic and detect and block system behavior that is anomalous," says Pete Lind, an analyst at security consultancy Spire Security LLC in Malvern, Pa. "The most common activities being monitored are program executions, file system activity, registry reads/writes and network operations."

Greg Shipley, chief technology officer at Neohapsis Inc., says he believes the HIPS market will take the same course as the intrusion-detection system market. After lengthy debate about the best method -- a race between signature-based/packet-grabbing engines and traffic/protocol anomaly detection -- modern IDS tools typically harness both approaches.

"For every HIPS protection model presented, we can look at what it is helpful with and, inversely, what it will miss," he says. "This is very similar to where the IDS debate was years ago: There are some things proto-col anomaly detection will hit and others it will totally miss but signatures can catch."

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