A host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) is an intrusion detection system that is capable of monitoring and analyzing the internals of a computing system as well as the network packets on its network interfaces, similar to the way a network-based intrusion detection system (NIDS) operates. This was the first type of intrusion detection software to have been designed, with the original target system being the mainframe computer where outside interaction was infrequent.
A host-based IDS is capable of monitoring all or parts of the dynamic behavior and the state of a computer system, based on how it is configured. Besides such activities as dynamically inspecting network packets targeted at this specific host (optional component with most software solutions commercially available), a HIDS might detect which program accesses what resources and discover that, for example, a word-processor has suddenly and inexplicably started modifying the system password database. Similarly a HIDS might look at the state of a system, its stored information, whether in RAM, in the file system, log files or elsewhere; and check that the contents of these appear as expected, e.g. have not been changed by intruders.
One can think of a HIDS as an agent that monitors whether anything or anyone, whether internal or external, has circumvented the system’s security policy.