IDS and IPS Implementation: All You Need to Know

In recent years, there has been an increasing need for sophisticated security systems within cyber networks worldwide. Attacks are ever-evolving, and hackers are becoming more adept at using advanced techniques to steal personal information for criminal purposes. 

News of devastating data breaches now come every day, and the estimated costs of these breaches have attained record levels. A single data breach could be devastating for your business and can even shut down your operations for good. Up to 60 percent of enterprises that suffered cyber attacks never recovered and eventually folded within six months.

Imagine investing your life savings in a business venture only to lose everything to ruthless hackers. That’s why you need to invest in solid cybersecurity systems such as Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS).  Both are valuable security tools for keeping your networks safe, but each one isn’t a complete package on its own.

So, what are IDS and IPS? What are the differences between them, and why have they become essential cybersecurity tools for every organization? 

Continue reading below to learn more about these similar but distinct threat management systems, as well as IDS and IPS implementation in your multilayer security architecture. You will also learn one or two things about network IDS/IPS deployment strategies, including how they function to safeguard your network.

What Is an IDS?

An IDS is a security device that monitors the traffic on your network and then analyses this traffic for malicious activity. Any intrusion activity is typically reported to an administrator or archived centrally using a SIEM system. Such a system merges outputs from several sources and deploys alarm filtering mechanisms to identify real threats from false alarms.

Classification of IDS

1- Network Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS)

NIDS are installed at strategic points within a digital framework to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic from every device on the network. It then analyses the traffic by matching the outputs with a library of known threats. Once a threat is identified, the administrator will be promptly alerted.

2- Host Intrusion Detection Systems (HIDS)

HIDS is usually placed on individual hosts on a network. The device monitors traffic to and from the host only and then alerts the administrator or user if it notices any suspicious activity.

3- Signature-based Intrusion Detection Systems (SIDS)

A signature-based IDS involves the detection of cyberattacks by identifying specific patterns like byte sequences in packets. In SIDS, the signatures are usually released by the vendor for all its products.

Although a SIDS device can detect known threats, it may still find it challenging to identify new ones for which there is no existing pattern.

4- Anomaly-based Intrusion Detection Systems

These are configured to detect previously unknown cyberattacks due partly to the rapid development of different kinds of malware. The main idea is to use machine learning (ML) to generate a model of ethical activity, which we then compare with any new activity on the network.

Since these models are often developed according to hardware configurations and applications, this ML-based approach has more generalized capabilities when compared with conventional signature-based IDS.

What Is an IPS? 

An IPS is a network security appliance that monitors your network for malicious activities. The primary functions of IPS are to detect malicious system activities, log information about those activities, report, and block or stop them.

IPS will send alarms on detecting threats, drop detected malicious packets, reset a connection, or block traffic emanating from the offending IP address.

Besides, an IPS could minimize TCP sequencing issues, rectify cyclic redundancy, check errors, remove unwanted traffic or transport layer options, and defragment packet streams.

Classification of IPS

There are four main types of IPS, namely:

1- Network-based Intrusion Prevention System (NIPS)

NIPS monitors the network for suspicious traffic by analyzing protocol activities.

2- Network Behaviour Analysis (NBA) 

NBA tracks system activities to identify any threat that generates strange traffic volumes, policy violations, and some forms of malware, such as DDoS attacks.

3- Host-based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS)

HIPS is an application that you can install on a network to monitor a single device for harmful activities by analyzing events as they occur within that device.

4- Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS)

WIPS monitors a wireless network to identify cyber threats. As the name implies, this is done by analyzing wireless networking protocols.

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Differentiating Between IDS and IPS

Both IDS and IPS can read network traffic and then compare their contents to a known database of threats.

Similarities

1.  Monitor: Both can monitor your network for threats within specified parameters.

2. Alert: Both can send alerts/notifications to network administrators if a potential threat is detected.

3. Learn: The two security systems can understand system patterns and new threats through machine learning.

4. Log: They also keep records of threats and responses to enable you to adjust your security accordingly.

After detecting attacks within a network, the main difference between IDS and IPS implementation occurs next. IDS, as a detection and tracking tool, does not take action on its own. On the other hand, IPS controls a network by accepting or rejecting traffic based on specific guidelines.

Further, IDS requires active human or software intervention to monitor and determine the direct line of action. Hence, IDS is a better post-attack forensics tool to be used as part of any investigation into security breaches.

In comparison, you can use the IPS to catch malicious traffic and stop them before they cause any damage. It is a more passive application than an IDS since it only requires that the database is continuously updated with a library of newer threats.

Differences

The significant differences between IDS and IPS are broadly identified under:

1. Accuracy of False Positives: Basic rules guiding the process of getting false positives in both systems are: 

  • Intrusion Detection Systems have features to minimize false positives, while Intrusion Prevention Systems do not give false positives. This function dramatically alters the writing and configuration of alert filters.
  • The IDS sends false-positive alerts on any intrusion that may or may not succeed. As a result, you can’t deploy the anomaly filters used in IDS for blocking attacks. In contrast, the IPS false positive will block legitimate traffic.

2. Accuracy of False Negatives: The accuracy of False Negatives within a security network indicates missed attacks. This parameter highlights the coverage given to high-profile attacks. 

IDS may be overwhelmed by high traffic volumes, which often leads to the dropping of packets required to detect attacks. However, when an IPS gets overwhelmed, the device may start blocking traffic to prevent attacks, which may also drop legitimate traffic in the process.

3. Primary Function: IDS is a monitoring system, whereas IPS exerts control. While the former doesn’t alter network packets in any way, the latter acts like a firewall preventing their delivery based on their content.

Final Thoughts 

Data breaches pose increasing security threats to business organizations every day. As a result, intrusion systems often get deployed on cyber networks as viable solutions for detecting and blocking those threats.

However, the choice between IDS and IPS implementation for any use is a crucial one. As highlighted above, IDS and IPS are similar in certain respects but different in action and capabilities.

 Moreover, both are vulnerable to false positive and false negative detections. They could allow real threats to pass through or even block legitimate traffic. While there may be a compromise between both scenarios, it is sometimes advisable to install a multilayer security solution that features both. 

Such a solution offers you strong protection against cyberattacks. And you will also avoid letting attacks go unchecked.

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