Network IPS is now an integral part of the most robust cybersecurity defenses. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know about it.
Network IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) is an advanced security solution designed to detect and neutralize malicious activities within a network. It continuously monitors and analyzes the flow of network traffic in real-time. This analysis takes two main forms. These are volume analysis and content analysis.
Volume analysis refers to monitoring the rate of traffic flow and comparing it to the expected flow. Content analysis refers to analyzing the data packet headers for signs of potential threats. With network IPS, the two main detection methods used are signature-based and anomaly-based detection.
Signature-based detection involves comparing network traffic against known attack signatures, while anomaly-based detection focuses on identifying deviations from established baselines.
Network IPS is often used with (and sometimes confused with) network IDS. Both security tools perform the same function of monitoring traffic for signs of security threats. The key difference between them is that network IPS can autonomously respond to these threats. By contrast, network IDS can only raise an alert about them.
The reason network IPS can respond to threats is that it has direct access to the network traffic. Network IDS, on the other hand, only receives a copy of the traffic. This difference means that using network IPS delays traffic delivery whereas using network IDS does not.
Many organizations therefore choose to keep network IPS processing to a minimum. Essentially the network IPS does just enough to protect the network from simple threats. The network IDS does the rest of the work. This is often the most appropriate balance of security and speed.
Network IPS leverages predefined rules and policies to determine the severity of the detected threat and apply appropriate countermeasures. The following actions are commonly undertaken by IPS systems in response to malicious activities:
Blocking malicious traffic: The IPS can instantly block or restrict the flow of traffic associated with the identified threat. By preventing the malicious data packets from reaching their intended destination, the IPS disrupts the execution of the attack and safeguards the network.
Isolating affected network segments: In more advanced IPS implementations, the system may dynamically isolate the affected network segments or devices. This containment measure prevents the lateral movement of threats within the network, limiting their impact and preventing further compromise.
Neutralizing the threat source: In certain cases, the IPS may take actions to neutralize the source of the threat. This could involve terminating connections, blocking IP addresses, or implementing other measures to render the malicious entity ineffective.
The three main types of network IPS are hardware-, software- and cloud-based network IPS. Here is a brief overview of each of these types.
Hardware-based network IPS solutions are implemented as standalone devices, distinct from general-purpose servers or networking equipment. These dedicated appliances are purpose-built to handle the processing demands of intrusion prevention tasks.
Hardware-based IPS appliances are designed for high-performance operation, capable of handling substantial network traffic volumes without compromising detection accuracy or response speed. This is particularly important in enterprise environments with large and complex networks.
The use of specialized hardware architecture allows for optimized threat detection capabilities. The dedicated processing power, memory, and other hardware components enable efficient analysis of network packets, ensuring timely and accurate identification of malicious patterns or behaviors.
Software-based network IPS solutions provide a flexible implementation model, allowing organizations to deploy intrusion prevention capabilities using standard servers or virtualized environments. This flexibility enables customization based on specific network requirements and infrastructure preferences. This in turn makes it relatively easy for organizations to adapt their intrusion prevention capabilities as their network evolves.
Additionally, updates and patches to software-based IPS can be more straightforward to implement compared to hardware-based solutions. This is because updates can be delivered as software packages that are applied to the existing deployment, reducing the need for physical maintenance or hardware replacements.
Cloud-based network IPS delivers security services through cloud infrastructure, offering a distributed and scalable model for intrusion prevention. This allows organizations to offload the computational and analytical aspects of IPS to cloud servers.
One of the significant advantages of cloud-based network IPS is centralized management. Administrators can access a unified management console hosted in the cloud, providing a single point of control for configuring, monitoring, and managing IPS policies across the entire network.
It also benefits from real-time updates delivered through the cloud. This ensures that the intrusion prevention capabilities are continuously enhanced with the latest threat intelligence, signature updates, and detection mechanisms. Real-time updates are crucial for effectively countering evolving cyber threats.
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