How to Choose the Right Defense Mechanism – IDS Or IPS?

Both systems monitor network traffic and alert when suspicious behavior is detected. However, they differ in their approach to detection and response.

Signature-based IDS uses fingerprinting to identify known threats and adds them to a database. This can be helpful but is less effective against zero-day attacks. In addition, signature-based IDS can be overwhelmed with data and create large bandwidth demands. To safeguard against malicious activity, the network is monitored by IPS and IDS. These systems detect any attempts by attackers to exploit weaknesses in devices or software. If an exploit attempt is identified, the IDS/IPS system will prevent it from compromising network endpoints. 

What is an Intrusion Detection System (IDS)?

A common type of network security solution, an IDS watches network packets in motion, notifying a team when there are suspected threats. This allows an incident response team to evaluate the threat and respond accordingly.

IDS can be deployed on a host or as an inline network device. They use one of two methods for detecting suspicious patterns. Signature-based detection looks for known attack signatures, such as byte or instruction sequences. This IDS is effective against attackers who have been detected before, but it doesn’t detect zero-day attacks or other unknown malicious patterns.

Another type of IDS is an anomaly-based IDS, which establishes a baseline model of normal behavior for a network. Then, current network traffic is compared to the baseline to identify anomalies. However, this technique is prone to false positives and can miss potential threats.

An IDS should be carefully configured to match the organization’s unique environment and operations to avoid generating too many false positives. However, if an IDS is over-tuned or misconfigured, it can be triggered by harmless traffic and raise unwarranted alarms. This can overburden IT teams and reduce their confidence in the IDS’ warnings. An IDS can be paired with managed detection response (MDR) to avoid these issues, which takes the weight off IT staff by handling detection and alerts.

What is an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)?

An IPS scours your entire network and automatically takes action to protect against cyber threats. Unlike an IDS, which merely detects a potential breach and alerts the security team, an IPS prevents an attack from occurring in the first place or stops unauthorized users from embedding themselves further into your infrastructure. Depending on your preferences and the type of threat detected, an IPS may take action by blocking malicious traffic or rerouting it to another device. IPS solutions also log observed events, which can be reviewed and monitored by your security information and event management (SIEM) tool.

An IPS can be deployed at a host or network level. A host-based IPS monitors traffic entering and leaving a specific endpoint, tracking processes, file modifications, and system logs. A network-based IPS monitors a whole network by sniffing wired or wireless traffic from a network tap, analyzing protocol behavior to identify and block potential threats.

An IPS can use signature-based or anomaly-based detection strategies. Anomaly-based detection analyzes data to determine if it matches a threat profile and can be more accurate at detecting unknown attacks. Still, it comes with a higher false positive rate. Both types of detection are effective and can be used in conjunction with other detection mechanisms to create a powerful defense mechanism against potential breaches.

Which is the Right Defense Mechanism for Your Network?

The answer depends on the needs of your network. IDS solutions detect incidents, generate an alert, and stop suspicious or malicious traffic. They are often a good choice for systems that must remain up and running, like industrial control systems or critical infrastructure, where blocking traffic could impact the system’s operation. One type of intrusion detection system is the anomaly-based IDS. It establishes a standard model of regular network behavior and notifies administrators when any changes occur. This technique can effectively detect unknown threats by incorporating machine learning or artificial intelligence.

IDS solutions typically examine the entire network or a specific set of devices. Five main types of IDS exist: network-based, host-based, protocol-based, and cloud-based.

Signage-based detection compares pre-defined signatures of known attacks to incoming data in real time to identify potential incidents. This is a quick and effective way to spot threats but can easily miss new or evolving attacks. Anomaly-based detection compares models of normal activity with current events to identify significant deviations. This method can effectively spot unknown threats but requires significant bandwidth and memory resources. Organizations can utilize cloud-based solutions that utilize signature-based and anomaly-based detection techniques to rapidly detect and respond to known threats without affecting the network’s speed. This is especially crucial as enterprises strive to become more connected, enabling them to safeguard their digital presence with fewer resources.

Which is the Right Defense Mechanism for Your Organization?

With a proliferation of mobile devices, work-from-home policies, and cloud services that connect everything, it’s no longer enough to shield internal enterprise networks behind beefy firewalls. Organizations must also vigilantly monitor their security to detect and stop threats as they enter the network.

IDS can help organizations identify threats that have made it past their firewalls by monitoring traffic on the network. Once a threat is detected, the system will alert the appropriate team to the activity. IDS solutions can also identify patterns and anomalies, such as very large packet sizes or traffic coming from ports that have not been accessed previously.

Unlike IDS, an IPS solution can act on any detected threat and prevent it from propagating within the network. IPS can use either a database of known attack signatures or machine learning to detect patterns and behaviors of malicious traffic. Once a threat is detected, the IPS can close sessions, turn off IP addresses, shut down communication, or take other actions to prevent malware from spreading.

Host intrusion detection systems (HIDS) are deployed on individual host devices to monitor traffic as it comes in and out of the device and look for suspicious activity. HIDS can also monitor running processes, examine system logs and track user activities. However, a HIDS solution can be limited in scope as it only protects the host rather than the entire network. It also can be susceptible to false alarms if the system is not properly tuned.

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