Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention in FE Electrical

Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention in FE Electrical exam is not only limited to exam preparation but also an entire career for cybersecurity enthusiasts. The increasing and evolving cyber threats around the globe make this domain a subject of interest for individuals keen to serve in this industry. 

Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention in the FE Electrical exam is an important exam topic per NCEES® guidelines that also connects with other core networking areas in the FE Electrical and Computer exam.

This study guide will unfold this important exam topic to help you understand network security and why network intrusion detection and prevention in FE Electrical will help you down the career line. Let’s start with fundamentals before going into details.

Fundamentals of Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention

NIDP systems represent a critical component in the defense against network intrusions and attacks. These systems monitor network traffic and user activities to detect and prevent vulnerability exploits.

The primary objectives of NIDP include detecting unauthorized access, thorough traffic analysis to identify unusual or suspicious activities, active prevention of intrusions to protect network integrity, and enforcement of compliance with established network security policies and regulations.

How NIDP System Works?

Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (NIDPs) continuously monitor network traffic to identify and respond to potential security threats. In essence, NIDPs employ sensors deployed across the network to collect traffic data, which is then analyzed by the system’s core analysis engine.

Once a potential threat is detected, the system triggers alerts managed through a control console, allowing network administrators to assess and respond appropriately. 

Additionally, NIDPs often incorporate automated response mechanisms that can take immediate action, like blocking malicious traffic or isolating affected network segments, to prevent or mitigate potential damage.

All this information, including traffic data, known attack signatures, and historical logs, is stored in a database for ongoing analysis, reporting, and compliance. 

Types of Intrusions and Attacks

The modern and evolving cyber threats pose critical data security challenges for networks. Some of these widely used intrusions and attacks by crackers include:

1. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS attacks are increasingly common and detrimental. In these attacks, multiple compromised systems, often part of a botnet, are used to target a single system, causing a Denial of Service (DoS).

The influx of overwhelming and illegitimate traffic makes the service, network, or server unavailable to its intended users. The impact of DDoS attacks can range from temporary disruption in services to long-term downtime, affecting critical operations, especially in organizations dependent on online services.

2. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

APTs represent a category of cyber threats characterized by their stealth and persistence. Attackers infiltrate a network and maintain their foothold for extended periods, often silently stealing data or monitoring network activities.

The primary concern with APTs is their ability to evade detection, allowing attackers to extract sensitive information over time without being noticed. These attacks are typically well-planned and executed by organized groups, targeting specific organizations for espionage or financial gain.

3. Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a social engineering technique where attackers deceive individuals into providing sensitive information like login credentials or credit card numbers. Modern phishing attacks have become incredibly sophisticated, often impersonating trustworthy entities through emails, messages, or websites.

The effectiveness of phishing lies in its psychological manipulation, exploiting human trust and often leading to identity theft, financial loss, and unauthorized access to systems.

4. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

MitM attacks involve an attacker secretly intercepting and possibly altering the communication between two unsuspecting parties. This attack can occur in different forms, such as eavesdropping on network traffic or impersonating a party in the communication.

The significant risk of MitM attacks lies in compromising the confidentiality and integrity of the data being exchanged, which could lead to data breaches and loss of trust.

5. Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts a victim’s files, with the attacker demanding payment for the decryption key. The damage caused by ransomware extends beyond the financial cost of the ransom; it includes the cost of lost productivity, data loss, and potential reputational damage.

Ransomware attacks have been increasingly targeting individuals, major corporations, and government agencies, emphasizing the criticality of robust cybersecurity measures.

6. Zero-Day Exploits

A zero-day exploit is an attack that targets previously unknown vulnerabilities in software or hardware, meaning the vendor has had zero days to fix the flaw. These attacks are particularly dangerous because they occur before the vulnerability is known to the vendor and the public and, thus before it can be patched.

The unpredictability and lack of defenses against zero-day exploits make them a significant threat in the cybersecurity landscape.

7. SQL Injection

SQL injection attacks target the databases behind websites and applications by injecting malicious SQL queries through input fields. These attacks can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data, corruption, or a complete system takeover.

The severity of SQL injection attacks is heightened by the widespread use of SQL databases and the potential for significant data breaches.

8. Insider Threats

Insider threats arise from individuals within an organization – employees, contractors, or business associates – who have inside information concerning the organization’s security practices, data, and computer systems.

These threats are particularly challenging to detect and can be extremely damaging, as insiders already have legitimate access to the organization’s systems and sensitive information.

Techniques Used in Modern NIDP Systems

1. Signature-Based Detection

This method relies on pre-defined signatures or patterns of known threats. The NIDP system compares network traffic against these signatures to identify matching patterns indicative of malicious activity.

While effective against known threats, signature-based detection can be inadequate for new, unknown attacks.

2. Anomaly-Based Detection

In contrast to signature-based detection, anomaly-based detection focuses on establishing a baseline of normal network behavior and then identifying deviations from this norm.

This method is more effective in detecting unknown threats but can lead to higher false positives, requiring sophisticated tuning and continuous learning.

3. Stateful Protocol Analysis

Stateful protocol analysis involves deeply examining the communication and network security protocols used across the infrastructure.

By understanding and monitoring expected protocol behaviour, the system can identify anomalies that may indicate an intrusion, such as unexpected protocol states or malformed packets.

4. Machine Learning and AI in NIDP

Integrating machine learning and AI in NIDP systems represents a significant advancement in detecting novel attacks. These technologies enable the system to learn from network traffic data, adapt to new patterns, and identify anomalies that traditional methods might miss.

Machine learning and AI enhance the effectiveness and accuracy of intrusion detection and prevention mechanisms by analysing vast amounts of data and recognising subtle patterns indicative of malicious activity.

Firewalls in Network Security

Firewalls in Network Security

Firewalls are a fundamental component of network security, acting as a barrier between a trusted internal network and untrusted external networks, such as the Internet.

They monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on an organization’s previously determined network security policies. Fundamentally, a firewall is a network security system that helps prevent unauthorized access while permitting authorized communications.

Types of Firewalls and How They Work

1. Software Firewall

A software firewall is installed on individual computers and controls traffic through port numbers and applications. It provides personalized protection for each device, often with customizable security settings for different user profiles.

2. Hardware Firewall

Hardware firewalls are physical devices between a network and the gateway to untrusted networks. They are typically used to protect an entire network instead of individual devices.

Due to their placement, they provide an additional layer of security by physically isolating the internal network from external threats.

3. Packet Filtering Firewall

This type of firewall examines each packet that crosses the network and accepts or rejects it based on user-defined rules. It checks the packet’s source and destination IP addresses, port numbers, and other surface-level information without inspecting its content.

4. Circuit-Level Gateway

Circuit-level gateways verify the transmission session’s legitimacy by examining the TCP handshake. This method ensures the session is valid, even if the packet is not inspected deeply.

5. Proxy Service Application Firewall

Also known as application-level gateways, these firewalls work at the application layer and inspect the traffic to block certain types of traffic, like specific websites or services. It acts as an intermediary between end-users and the web pages they visit.

6. Cloud Firewall

Cloud-based firewalls, or Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), are hosted in the cloud and provide network security as a cloud service. These firewalls are particularly effective for organizations with a significant cloud presence, offering scalability and remote access.

7. Stateful Inspection Firewall

Stateful inspection firewalls not only examine each packet but also keep track of whether or not a packet is part of an established TCP session. This provides more security than simple packet filtering, allowing for a deeper understanding of ongoing connections.

8. Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)

NGFWs are sophisticated firewalls beyond simple packet filtering and port/protocol inspection. They integrate features like deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention systems, and advanced threat protection to provide more granular security controls.

Firewall Configuration and Rule Sets for Threat Prevention and Detection

firewall configuration

Step-by-Step Process

The following sequence allows us to configure firewalls and set rules to prevent and detect threats effectively. It provides a critical layer of security in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Let’s see how firewall configuration can be set up to act as barriers to intelligent systems that adapt and evolve in response to the changing landscape of network security threats.

1. Defining Network Security Policies

The first step is to define clear network security policies that identify which types of traffic should be allowed or blocked. This involves understanding the organization’s network architecture and the nature of the typical traffic for the business.

2. Setting Up Basic Firewall Rules

Based on the network security policies, basic rules are set up to define what traffic is allowed or denied. Rules can be based on IP addresses, domain names, protocols, ports, and other criteria.

3. Configuring Advanced Features

For advanced firewalls like NGFWs, additional features like intrusion prevention, deep packet inspection, and application-level filtering are configured. This includes setting up rules to inspect the content of the packets and checking for signatures of known attacks.

4. Testing and Deployment

Before being fully deployed, the firewall configuration is tested to ensure it effectively blocks unauthorized access while allowing legitimate traffic. This testing phase is crucial to balance security with functionality.

5. Monitoring and Updating

Once deployed, the firewall must be continuously monitored. This involves checking for attempted breaches, ensuring the firewall functions as intended, and updating the rule set in response to emerging threats or changing network configurations.

6. Regular Audits and Reassessment

Regular audits of firewall configurations and rule sets are vital to adapt to new threats and changes in the network environment. This step ensures that the firewall remains effective over time.

Endpoint Threat Detection and Response (EDR)

Endpoint security is another cybersecurity approach primarily focusing on protecting an organization’s network by securing its endpoints. These endpoints include any device that connects to the network, such as computers, smartphones, and smartwatches.

Setting up an endpoint security solution aims to protect the client end devices from modern cyber threats like ransomware, malware, phishing, etc.

Don’t forget to read the second part of this guide here to understand how fully-enabled endpoint threat detection and network intrusion detection systems (NIDS) work.

Conclusion

The 2023 IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report indicates that the average worldwide expense of a data breach rose to $4.45 million, marking a 15% increase from the figure reported in 2020. Consequently, more than half of the organizations surveyed (51%) have announced plans to augment their cybersecurity budgets this year.

From this statistic, it can be inferred that data breaches are becoming more frequent and costly. The significant rise in the global average cost of these breaches reflects the increasing complexity and severity of cyber-attacks.

Organizations recognize this trend and respond by allocating more resources to strengthen their cybersecurity measures. This proactive increase in cybersecurity spending and interest suggests growing job avenues for information security and IT professionals.

Therefore, Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention in FE Electrical is an important exam topic that you must prepare. The techniques and cases discussed in this study guide can help you prepare for your FE exam.

Don’t forget to check out Study for FE for a more detailed FE Electrical exam preparation. We offer extensive resource libraries and tailored exam preparation courses to meet your needs.

wasim-smal

Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.