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Fighting hackers with freeware

A new team effort between government and private firms to thwart computer break-ins and security breeches results in free intrusion detection software systems.

    Been hacked? Only the Shadow may know for sure.

    The Shadow is the latest weapon in the ongoing war against hackers and the first result of a new cooperative effort between government and private industries to thwart computer break-ins and security breeches.

    The product is an intrusion detection software system designed by a consortium comprised of the Defense Department, private industry, and security professionals. The Shadow is available for free to any U.S. organization.

    "The key problem is that hackers win because they cooperate and security people don't," said a press release from the SANS Institute, an educational group for systems administrators and network security specialists. "It is time to begin the hard work of cooperating in search of solutions."

    That work is resulting in such products as the Shadow. The detection device is already in use monitoring more than 40 known attack profiles in incoming network traffic for more than 14,000 hosts. According to the SANS Institute, analysts using the tool have also found three new types of attacks.

    Features of the Shadow include the following:

  • Uses traffic analysis rather than content analysis to assure privacy for users.

  • Monitors all ports for all protocols instead of just a few.

  • Combines signature monitoring with statistical assessment which detects events that filters are unable to decode.

  • Requires computing power that costs less than $10,000 which includes the large capacity disks needed to store massive amounts of data.

    Details about the Shadow including how to download and install it are available by emailing the institute at info@sans.org with the subject SHADOW Description. The return email will also include agendas on two-day training seminars for using the system, which begin July 24 in San Francisco but are also being held in Orlando, Washington D.C., and New York.