focus-ids December 2007 archive
Main Archive Page > Month Archives  > focus-ids archives
focus-ids: Re: ICSA Labs Network IPS Testing

Re: ICSA Labs Network IPS Testing

From: Rahul K <rahulmk_at_nospam>
Date: Tue Dec 11 2007 - 19:03:24 GMT
To: "Stefano Zanero" <>


Having some experience in developing and testing IPS, I have my two bits to add. Most IPS tests, like Stefano said, are tricky at best and pointless at worst. I don't want to take any potshots at ICSA or anyone else, but it is not simple for anyone to do an exhaustive test of an IPS and that too with the same test plan for every IPS.

ICSA, to their credit, say that of all the vulnerabilities they will only focus on remote server-side vulnerabilities and that too only those that they (and other vendors) think will affect enterprises. Fair enough. They don't care about client-side vulns, local vulns and vulnerabilities in Shoutcast.

They test a particular subset (however small it may be) and certify the IPS. So even if one buys an IPS that blocks all server side attacks launched by ICSA, it does not mean that the server behind the IPS is secure from remote attacks. Vendors and buyers need such certifications so that it is easier to make a sale and deploy an IPS respectively after all, not everyone subscribes to focus-ids.

It would be reasonable to criticize ICSA if one finds out they are not doing what they promise correctly. But if the criticism is for not testing exhaustively, that seems excessive.


On 12/5/07, Stefano Zanero <> wrote:
> Hi, didn't mean to interfere in your ongoing flame, but:
> > IPS certification testing, I thought I ought to correct some misleading
> > information
> Oh, good, let's see! You don't mind if instead of going through your
> whitepapers I just use your own email as a source, right?
> > IPS certification testing program. The truth is that we do not "pick
> > specific attacks and say that you must block these."
> That's wonderful to hear. So, what do you do instead?
> > provides coverage protection for all attacks targeting an evolving set
> > of medium-to-high severity vulnerabilities that we and a consortium of
> > 15 network IPS vendors
> > ($5813f3e2-37b77ee3$3b4a-
> > f1d4a32d) believe are relevant to enterprise end users.
> So, you pick specific attacks (which are a snapshot of a set of
> vulnerabilities that you + the tested vendors believe are relevant) and
> say "you must block these", right ?
> This seems exactly the same sentence that Joel posted, only a bit more
> elaborate :)
> And just to shoot another shot in the dead horse of IDPS testing,
> testing MISUSE based detectors (as most IPS are) on "detection rate" is
> pointless. Testing them on coverage is tricky at best, and does not
> really provide any useful insight at all on IPS where (as Joel pointed
> out) having 60k signatures instead of 30k does not really mean anything.
> Oh, and on a side note:
> > a) is in no position to speak authoritatively about ICSA Labs network
> > IPS testing,
> The sheer fact that someone is "in no position to speak" about your
> tests means that your tests are lacking. If a test is properly
> documented and scientific, everybody is in a position to speak about it.
> In the particular case of Joel Snyder, who has been doing excellent
> tests for a long time, I'd say he is in a particularly good position to
> comment.
> If this email sounds harsh, well, it is. I just don't like people
> commenting AGAINST other people, instead than pointing out the specific
> flaws in their posts.
> Best,
> Stefano
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Test Your IDS
> Is your IDS deployed correctly?
> Find out quickly and easily by testing it
> with real-world attacks from CORE IMPACT.
> Go to
> to learn more.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Test Your IDS

Is your IDS deployed correctly?
Find out quickly and easily by testing it with real-world attacks from CORE IMPACT. Go to to learn more.