Best intrusion detection software for Windows

Radu Tyrsina
by Radu Tyrsina
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
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Intrusion detection software for Windows checks for changes that are made by all sorts of unwanted programs that could be injected into your system by cybercriminals.

These tools study the data packets, both incoming and outgoing, to check what kind of data transfers are at hand. It will alert you in case they find any kind of suspicious activity on the system or in the network.

Intrusion Detection Software exists as an answer to the increasing frequency of attacks made on systems. Such tools usually inspect the host configuration for risky settings, password files, and more areas. Then, they detect all kinds of violations that could prove dangerous for the network.

IDS also set in place various ways for the network to record any suspicious activities and potential attack methods and to report them to the admin.

In other words, an IDS is quite similar to a firewall but more than guarding against attacks from outside the network, an IDS is also able to identify suspicious activity and also attacks coming from within the network.

Some IDS software are also able to respond to the potential intrusion. This is Host Intrusion Prevention System software (HIPS) or just IPS (Intrusion Prevention System).

Generally speaking, an Intrusion Detection Software for Windows shows what is happening. The IPS solutions also act upon the known threats. There are some products which combine these two features, and we’ll present you the best on the market.

Best intrusion detection systems to install on PC


Snort for Windows

Snort for Windows is an open-source network intrusion software that is capable of performing real-time traffic analysis and packet logging on IP networks.

The software is able to perform protocol analysis, content searching/matching and can be used to detect a variety of attacks and probes, such as buffer overflows, stealth port scans, CGI attacks, SMB probes, OS fingerprinting attempts and much more.

The program is straightforward to deploy, and it has a huge number of open-source developers. The Snort community supports the software, but it also provides the core rule sets for some commercial IDS/IPS products.

Snort can act as a sniffer, and it will return everything that it sees including detailed packet decodes. Also, you can configure it to only present alerts from its set of rules.

However you decide to use the software, you will find out that it is a robust tool for gathering and for analyzing network traffic. With its add-ons, the software can perform just as good as the most commercial IDS products.

The deployment across very large network infrastructures is also possible even it will turn out to be a bit challenging. Almost all commercial SIEM products can take Snort input either as a text file or as a binary file, for correlation and analysis.

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Due to its ability to be quickly deployed, to its very comprehensive capabilities and its great open source community support, Snort is usually everyone’s favorite. There is also the commercial version which is available as an appliance from Sourcefire, and it’s guided by Snort’s developer as its CEO.

Roesch managed to blend perfectly the best parts of the open-source and the commercial worlds into the Sourcefire offerings, and for organizations that want Snort with the reliability of the commercially supported product, Sourcefire will turn out to be their perfect choice.

Get Snort for Windows



Suricata is a free and open-source that is extremely fast, robust and mature threat detection engine. Some call Suricata the ‘Snort on steroids, ’ and it can deliver real-time intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, and network monitoring.

The software uses rules, signature language and Lua scripting to detect sophisticated threats. It is available for Linux, macOS, Windows, and other platforms.

Suricata is free, and there are also a few fee-based public training events for developer training. These dedicated training events are available from the Open Information Security Foundation (OISF) which also owns the whole Suricata code.

With standard input and output formats like YAML and JSON integrations with tools like existing SIEMs, Splunk, Logstash/Elasticsearch, Kibana, and other database become effortless.

This software’s fast-paced community-driven development focuses on security, usability, and efficiency.

The features of Suricata engine include the following as it is presented on the software’s official website:

  • ‘Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) engine
  • Network Intrusion Prevention System (NIPS) engine
  • Network Security Monitoring (NSM) engine
  • Offline analysis of PCAP files
  • Traffic recording using pcap logger
  • Unix socket mode for automated PCAP file processing
  • Advanced integration with Linux Netfilter firewalling.’

The software features fully configurable threading from a single thread to lots of them, pre-cooked run modes and some optional CPU affinity settings. It makes use of fine-grained locking and of atomic operations for optimal performance.

Regarding the IP reputation, the software allows loading of large amounts of host-based reputation data and matching on status information in the rule language that it uses.

Suricata is open-source and will remain open-source, that will be governed equally by the community and vendors who rely on and help maintain the engine. Therefore Suricata is entirely vendor and platform-neutral.

The software’s bug tracker, development roadmap, and code are available for all to see at any time. The community makes input and feature decisions.

In case you are building a commercial product using Suricata under the hood you can count on the software’s community for support. Non-GPL licenses are available to organizations that provide support and development for Suricata through the OISF.

Get Suricata


The Bro Network Security Monitor

This is a powerful network analysis framework that is very different from the typical IDS you may have known until now. Bro’s domain-specific scripting language will enable site-specific monitoring policies.

The software targets especially high-performance networks, and it a variety of large sites uses it. The program comes packed with analyzers for lots of protocols, and it enables high-level semantic analysis in the application layer. It also keeps a great application-layer state about the network that it monitors.

The program doesn’t rely on traditional signatures. Bro interfaces with other applications for real-time exchange of information.

The program will comprehensively log all that it sees, and it will provide a high level achieve of a network’s whole activity. Bro comes with a BSD license, and it will allow for free use with virtually no restrictions at all.

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While the program focuses on network security monitoring, it will provide users a comprehensive platform for more general network traffic analysis as well. It is well-grounded in more than 15 years of research the software managed to successfully bridge the traditional gap between the academic and operations since its very beginning.

The user community of Bro includes some major universities, supercomputing centers, research labs and also lots of open-science communities.

Bro was initially developed by Vern Paxson who continues to lead the project now jointly with a large team of researchers and developers at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, CA; and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana-Champaign, IL.

The Bro Project is a member of Software Freedom Conservancy. SFC is a non-profit organization created to support and protecting Free, Libre, and Open Source Software (FLOSS) projects.

Get The Bro Network Security Monitor


Malware Defender

This is also a free Windows-compatible IPS software that provides network protection for its advanced users.

The software will successfully handle intrusion prevention and also malware detection. It is very well-suited for home use even if it’s instructional material is a bit too complex for average users. The software is a host intrusion prevention system that monitors a single host for any kind of suspicious activity.

Malware Defender was initially a commercial program, but its excellent features changed its ownership a while ago and then a new version was released that was freeware.

According to more reviews, it seems like this type of program is not for the faint-hearted. To use it in the most efficient possible way and also to avoid the possibility of damaging your system, you will need more reliable knowledge of Windows processes and of all its services.

You will also need to pay very close attention to all the information that will be displayed in the alerts and to the opinions associated with each one of them.

On the other hand, it’s pretty high that the program installs by default into learning mode and this will successfully reduce the number of initial alerts to a minimum.

Another important aspect is that you only install this software on a clean system or otherwise you will just be creating ‘allow’ rules for your malware collection to try and function normally.

Besides the usual files, registry and application modules, Malware Defender will also provide your network protection, and you should enable it. There is also the Connection Monitor, and this makes it the perfect companion to Windows own firewall, but who wants more detailed control.

The software is an excellent performer, but its only minus would be the fact that its complexities make it unsuitable for the average user.

On the other hand, all mistakes can be rectified by changing rule permission from the log entries, although if you have already denied a vital system function, you won’t be able to do much more to get things back the way they were before, so you should pay attention.

Get Malware Defender


OSSEC Free IDS for Businesses

OSSEC Free IDS for Businesses

This is an open-source host-based intrusion detection software system that performs file integrity checking, log analysis, policy monitoring, rootkit detection, real-time alerting and active responses and it runs on almost all platforms including Windows.

The software watches it all, and it actively monitors all aspects of Unix system activity. With this program, you will not be in the dark regarding what is happening to your valuable computer system assets anymore.

In the case of attacks, OSSEC will quickly let you know via alert logs and email alerts, so you will be able to take quick action. The software also exports signals to any SIEM system through Syslog and this way you will be able to get real-time analytics and also insights into your network security events.

If you have lots of operating systems to support and to protect, this software will have you covered with full host-based intrusion detection across multiple platforms.

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OSSEC is a fully open-source, and it is free for your use. You will be able to tailor it for all of your security needs via its extensive configuration options, and you will also be able to add your very own customized alert rules and writing scripts that will take action in response to the security alters. You have the ability to modify the source code and to add new capabilities.

The program helps its customers to meet specific compliance requirements, and it lets them detect and also alert unauthorized file system modifications and malicious behavior based on entries in the log files of COTS products and also on custom apps.

The software gets support from a large community of developers, users and also IT administrators. Atomicorp is the developer of Atomic Secured Linux which offers the most secure Linux kernel on the market.

It combines OSSEC host intrusion detection, a threat manager that hardens both your web applications and the OS, and a self-healing system that automatically fixes problems as they occur, from crashed processes on the server, to problems with users’database, to even basic system errors.


Securing your enterprise these days doesn’t have to be a nightmare and a back-breaking ordeal. All the solutions that we mentioned above are will provide you industrial-strength protection against all intrusion attempts.

Many of their tools are complementing each other when you use them at the same time. All these tools combine the most popular open-source security software into one unified solution stack that will turn out to be easy enough to install and use. So feel free to pick your favorite one according to your needs.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2017 and has been since completely revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.