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Network Security Using Cisco IOS IPS

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Jun 8, 2009.

Introducing Cisco IPS Appliances

Cisco IPS solutions run on a variety of devices, either as standalone sensors or as a module inserted into another appliance. The following is a brief description of the available Cisco IPS appliances. Each appliance is introduced further later in this section:

  • Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance Advanced Inspection and Prevention Security Services Module (ASA AIP SSM): The Cisco ASA AIP SSM uses advanced inspection and prevention technology to provide high-performance security services, such as intrusion prevention services and advanced anti-x services, defined as antivirus and antispyware. The Cisco ASA AIP SSM products include a Cisco ASA AIP SSM-10 module with a 1-GB memory, a Cisco ASA SSM AIP-20 module with a 2-GB memory, and a Cisco ASA SSM AIP-40 module.
  • Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors: Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors offer significant protection to your network by helping to detect, classify, and stop threats, including worms, spyware and adware, network viruses, and application abuse. Using Cisco IPS Sensor Software Version 5.1, the Cisco IPS solution combines inline intrusion prevention services with innovative technologies that improve accuracy. As a result, more threats can be stopped without the risk of dropping legitimate network traffic. Cisco IPS Sensor Software includes enhanced detection capabilities and improved scalability, resiliency, and so forth.
  • Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Intrusion Detection System Services Module (IDSM-2): The Catalyst 6500 Series IDSM-2 is part of the Cisco IPS solution. It works in combination with the other components to efficiently protect your data infrastructure. With the increased complexity of security threats, achieving efficient network intrusion security solutions is critical to maintaining a high level of protection. Vigilant protection ensures business continuity and minimizes the effect of costly intrusions.
  • Cisco IPS Advanced Integration Module (AIM): Cisco offers a variety of IPS solutions; the Cisco IPS AIM for the Cisco 1841 Integrated Services Router and the Cisco 2800 and 3800 Series Integrated Services Routers is made for small and medium-sized business (SMB) and branch-office environments. Cisco IPS Sensor Software running on the Cisco IPS AIM provides advanced, enterprise-class IPS functions and meets the ever-increasing security needs of branch offices. The Cisco IPS AIM can scale in performance to match branch office WAN bandwidth requirements today and in the future, because IPS functionality is run on its dedicated CPU, thus not hogging the router CPU. At the same time, the integration of IPS onto a Cisco Integrated Services Router keeps the solution cost low and effective for business of all sizes.

Cisco IPS 4200 Series Sensors

The Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors, shown in Figure 6-9, are market-leading dedicated appliances for intrusion detection and prevention, with the highest performance and lowest false alarm rates of the industry. The Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors are focused on protecting network devices, services, and applications. They are capable of detecting sophisticated attacks such as the following:

  • Network attacks
  • Application attacks
  • DoS attacks
  • Fragmented attacks
  • Whisker (deprecated in favor of Nikto) attacks using IDS-evasive techniques
Figure 6-9

Figure 6-9 Cisco IPS 4200 Series Sensors


The Cisco ASA AIP SSM, shown in Figure 6-10, provides the intrusion detection and prevention security feature set for the Cisco 5500 series adaptive security appliances. It runs the same Cisco IPS Sensor Software Version 6.0 or later software image as the sensor appliances and, therefore, provides the same security features as the sensor appliance.

Figure 6-10

Figure 6-10 Cisco ASA AIP SSM

The Cisco ASA AIP SSM is available in three models:

  • The Cisco ASA AIP SSM-10
  • The Cisco ASA AIP SSM-20
  • The ASA AIP SSM-40

The Cisco ASA AIP SSM-20 has a faster processor and more memory than the Cisco ASA AIP SSM-10. The Cisco ASA AIP SSM-40 works only in the Cisco ASA 5520 and 5540 and has a maximum throughput of 650 Mb/s.

Figure 6-11

Figure 6-11 Modes of Operation for Cisco ASA AIP SSM

Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series IDSM-2

The Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series IDSM-2, shown in Figure 6-12, provides full-featured intrusion protection in the core network fabric device. The Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series IDSM-2 is specifically designed to address switched environments by integrating the IDS functionality directly into the switch. The Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series IDSM-2 runs the same software image as the sensor appliances and can be configured to perform intrusion prevention.

Figure 6-12

Figure 6-12 Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series ISDM-2 Module


The Cisco IPS AIM for the Cisco 1841 and Cisco 2800 and 3800 Series Integrated Services Routers, shown in Figure 6-13, is an internal security service module that provides dedicated CPU and memory to offload inline and promiscuous intrusion prevention processing. The AIM runs the Cisco IPS Sensor Software Version 6.0 to provide feature parity with Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors and Cisco ASA 5500 series adaptive security appliances.

Figure 6-13

Figure 6-13 Cisco IPS AIM

By integrating IPS and branch-office routing, Cisco Integrated Services Routers can secure remote branch networks from threats originating from the Internet and reduce the WAN link overload from infected hosts at the branch. The integration of IPS into the branch-office router provides numerous important customer benefits:

  • Physical space savings: The Cisco IPS AIM occupies the internal AIM slot on the router motherboard and can possibly saves space in the wiring closet.
  • Inline and promiscuous modes: Both inline and promiscuous IPS inspection modes are supported. Inline mode places the IPS module in the packet path and can be configured to drop violated packets.
  • Common management tool for Cisco IPS solution: Cisco Security Manager supports Cisco IPS AIM, with the same management tool used on Cisco IPS 4200 series sensors, enabling you to use one centralized management system for both appliance and router sensors.
  • Flexibility in monitoring interfaces: The Cisco IPS AIM connects directly to the router backplane and can monitor packets coming in and going out of any router interface, including T1, T3, DSL, ATM, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet.
  • In-band management: An internal Gigabit Ethernet port is used for in-band management of the Cisco IPS AIM CLI and for the web-based management application, Cisco IDM. Access to the IPS AIM can be done through the router console port or through the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol to any Layer 3 interface. No physical management port is required.
  • Simple power and cable management: Cisco IPS AIM takes advantage of the power options of the router, including DC power and redundant power.
  • Dedicated processor to maximize performance: Cisco IPS AIM has its own CPU and DRAM for all IPS functions. It offloads the router CPU from processor-intensive tasks, such as deep packet inspection from the host router.
  • Performance: The Cisco IPS AIM can monitor up to 45 Mb/s of traffic and is suitable for T1, E1, and up to T3 environments.
  • Security in depth: The Cisco IPS AIM interoperates with security and WAN optimization features such as VPN, firewall, Network Address Translation (NAT), Web Cache Control Protocol (WCCP), and Cisco Wide Area Application Services, and all common Cisco IOS Software functions.
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