5 best intrusion detection software [IDS Tools]

Radu Tyrsina
by Radu Tyrsina
CEO & Founder
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  • We've been hearing it's better to be safe than sorry a lot. Well, IDS tools perfectly embody this principle.
  • If you also believe that prevention is the foundation of good protection, we are pleased to provide you with the best Intrusion detection software for Windows.
  • Check out more ingenious solutions to secure your system on our Anti-Malware Tools section.
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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 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 to you the best on the market.

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Best intrusion detection systems to install on PC

Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection

Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection

According to Malwarebytes, the industry-leading security software manufacturer, there is no better protection strategy than proactive prevention and we couldn’t agree more.

Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection is an advanced IDS solution for endpoints that uses a layered approach packed with multiple detection techniques to identify and keep malware and other cyber threats away from your systems.

It delivers best-in-class protection against both known and unknown malware, ransomware, and zero-hour threats within one unified solution meant to reduce costs and to simplify the deployment process.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Web protection (against malicious websites and ad networks)
  • Application hardening (reduces vulnerability exploit surface)
  • Application behavior protection (prevents apps’ leveraging and endpoint infection)
  • Mitigation (blocks ransomware and attempts to execute code on the endpoint from the distance)
  • Machine learning-based anomaly detection
  • Pre and post-execution layered detection techniques
  • Centralized cloud-console (for easy cloud-enabled deployment and management)
Malwarebytes

Malwarebytes

The best protection strategy is prevention. Keep your endpoints safe with Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection!
$69.99/dv. Buy now

Malware Defender

This is 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.

Acting as a host intrusion prevention system, the tool 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.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Default installation into learning mode to reduce the number of initial alerts to a minimum
  • Files, registry, application modules, and network protection
  • Connection Monitor (the perfect companion to Windows native firewall, with 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.

Malware Defender

Malware Defender

Complex and lightweight at the same time, Malware Defender is the best HIPS on the market!
Free Try now

Snort for Windows

 

Snort_best IDS

Snort for Windows is an open-source network intrusion software that delivers 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.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Returns everything that it sees including detailed packet decodes
  • Easy configuration to only present alerts from its set of rules
  • Robust tools for gathering and for analyzing network traffic.
  • Deployment across very large network infrastructures is also possible

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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.

Snort for Windows

Snort for Windows

With great open source community support, Snort is everyone’s favorite IDS/IPS.
Free Try now

The Bro Network Security Monitor / Zeek

The Bro Zeek IDS

Update: The Bro has undertaken a rebranding process and it is now known as Zeek.


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 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.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • No traditional signatures (interfaces with other applications for real-time exchange of information)
  • Comprehensive logs archive
  • Targets especially high-performance networks

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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.

Try The Bro

OSSEC Free IDS for Businesses

This is an open-source host-based IDS 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 the system activity. With this program, you will not be in the dark regarding what is happening to your valuable computer assets anymore.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Real-time analytics and insights into your network security events (via alert logs and email alerts)
  • Full host-based intrusion detection across multiple platforms
  • Fully open-source, and free to use
  • Fully customizable (extensive configuration options, add your very own customized alert rules and writing scripts, modify the source code and  add new capabilities)
  • Detect and alert unauthorized file system modifications and malicious behavior based on entries in the log files

Try OSSEC Free IDS


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

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.

FAQ: Learn more about IDS tools

  • What commercial software can help with intrusion detection system?

For commercial use, our recommendation goes to Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection – a complete suite of protection and prevention tools to cover your entire business.

  • What software is used to detect network intrusion?

Malware Defender is well-known for its capacity to detect and prevent network violations. However, all of the tools on this list are up for this task. Check out this complete guide.

  • What does intrusion detection software do?

Intrusion detection software check for damages that could be injected into your system by cyber threats, inspect the host configuration for risky settings and alert you in case they find any kind of suspicious activity at the system or network level.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been since revamped and updated in May 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.