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Security Tips

US-CERT Tips describe and offer advice about common security issues for non-technical computer users. Tips are restricted to a single topic, although complex issues may span multiple tips. Each tip builds upon the knowledge, both terminology and content, of those published prior to it.

Glossary

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IPS/IDS

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a system that monitors a network for malicious activities such as security threats or policy violations. The main function of an IPS is to identify suspicious activity, and then log information, attempt to block the activity, and then finally to report it.

Techopedia – Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

IPS/IDS allows network administrators to be alerted to traffic entering their private networks. Although commonly referred to as IPS/IDS, it is intrusion detection that is most often employed.

IPS/IDS ComparisonIntrusion Detection Systems (IDS) can be deployed on a firewall itself, using an external device or appliance, or on specific endpoints or hosts. The latter would be referred to as HIDS. They work by looking at all the traffic flowing through the firewall, device, or into the endpoint, and based on signatures similar to anti-virus methods, alert the administrator or user that some potentially malicious traffic is traversing the link.

Most often this is accomplished by copying--or "mirroring"--traffic to a device/software for analysis over a single connection. Note that this process does nothing to stop the traffic, just flags it for further investigation.

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) take this a step further. They not only identify the traffic, they apply certain rules to it and potentially discard it according to those rules. IPS can be implemented either in passive mode or in active mode, where passive acts much more like IDS. This is often how it's implmented at installation.

With IPS, there are two connections--one for inbound traffic into the device/software, and the other to send it on it's way if it passes muster.

Both systems can misidentify traffic as malicious, or on the other hand, as harmless. These are known as false positives and false negatives. Network engineers should routinely watch for these mistakes and seek to correct them.

 

MSSP
SMBs

SMB is an abbreviation for small and medium-sized business, sometimes seen as small and midsized business. A business with 100 or fewer employees is generally considered small, while one with 100-999 employees is considered to be medium-sized.

TechTarget – SMB (small and medium-sized business or small and midsized business)

Small and Medium Businesseses (SMBs) have different IT needs than other, larger concerns. Often, they not only have too little work to keep full-time staff busy, but they also have fewer resources with which to pay for their needs.

Small businesses are often defined as fewer than 100 employees with annual revenues of less than $50 million.

Medium businesses are usually comprised of between 100 and 999 employees, with annual revenues less than $1 billion.

VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a means by which a remote site or remote user connects to a "home" network over the internet. As various data requests and traffic pass though the internet, that information is usually readily visible to anyone "listening". With a VPN connection (often referred to as a VPN tunnel), however, all traffic is encrypted in a way that makes the information look like gibberish while traversing the internet. This makes the communication secure, even though it's passing through a public network.

There are generally three kinds of VPNs:

  1. Site-to-Site (S2S) – These usually consist of remote office connections to the home network. They are usually configured on a firewall or router.
  2. Client Access (CA) – By means of a web portal or client software installed on an individual machine (e.g. laptop, desktop, etc.), these provide access for single connections to the home network.
  3. Commercial VPNs – One can obtain freeware or a paid subscription to a VPN-providing service in order to help remain anonymous while surfing on the internet. Services include PrivateTunnel, ProtonVPN, and VyprVPN.
Open Source Matters

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