Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to Cisco Secure IDS

Last Updated on April 16, 2022

Cisco Systems, Inc. is an American multinational technology corporation that focuses on networking hardware and software. It has over 75,000 employees with its headquarters in San Jose, California.

Cisco has been participating in open source development for almost 30 years including founding projects like OpenDaylight,, VPP, PNDA, SNAS, and OpenH264, and contributing to projects like OPNFV, Kubernetes, OpenStack, Ansible, Chef, Puppet, Maven, and many others.

Cisco has also been a key contributor to the Linux kernel over the years, accounting for about 0.5% of total kernel commits, and is a Platinum Member of the Linux Foundation and Premium Sponsor of the Open Source Initiative.

From a software perspective, Cisco’s main focus is developing proprietary programs. In this series we look at free and open source alternatives to their products.

Cisco Secure IDSCisco Secure IDS is a network-based intrusion detection system that uses a signature database to trigger intrusion alarms. The major components are a sensor platform and a director platform. The sensor platform monitors the network and the director platform provides a single GUI management interface for the end user.

Cisco Secure IDS is proprietary software. What are the best free and open source alternatives?

1. Suricata

Suricata is a high quality intrusion-detection system available for a wide range of operating systems including Linux, FreeBSD, macOS, and Windows. It also offers intrusion prevention (IPS) and network security monitoring.

Suricata can be used as part of a Network Security Monitoring (NSM) ecosystem. You could use it to log HTTP requests, log and store TLS certificates, extract files from flows and store them to disk.

Suricata is commonly used for information gathering, intrusion detection, network analysis, or threat discovery. It’s particularly strong at deep packet inspection and pattern matching.

2. Snort

Snort is another superb network-based intrusion detection/prevention system. It performs protocol analysis, content searching and matching. With real-time traffic analysis and data packet logging, it offers a good range of features. And it’s easy to set up.

Snort is now developed by Cisco, which purchased Sourcefire in 2013.

3. Zeek

Zeek (formerly known as Bro) is designed to be a network security monitor (NSM) but can also be used as a network intrusion detection system (NIDS) coupled with additional live analysis of network events. Zeek takes a different approach to Suricata and Snort by providing users with a flexible framework that facilitates customized, in-depth monitoring far beyond the capabilities of traditional systems.

The Zeek project is headquartered at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, CA.

All articles in this series:

Alternatives to Cisco's Products
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DNA CenterDNA Center is a centralized automation and management platform for the entire network.
FirewallSecure Firewall is a complete security portfolio that protects your applications and users. It includes a Snort 3 next-generation intrusion prevention system.
Cisco Secure IDSSecure IDS is a network-based intrusion detection system that uses a signature database to trigger intrusion alarms. The major components are a sensor platform and a director platform.
WebexWebex offers calling, meetings, and messaging in the cloud for teams of all sizes. It offers a way of collaborating that focuses around the work you do, not your location.
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2 years ago

Zeek gets my vote