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A Straightforward Guide To IPS Cybersecurity Solutions

A Straightforward Guide To IPS Cybersecurity Solutions


Deploying an IPS cybersecurity solution is now considered an essential part of cybersecurity for most modern organizations. With that in mind, here is a straightforward guide to what you need to know about it.

Defining IPS

IPS stands for Intrusion Prevention System. The core purpose of an IPS cybersecurity solution is to neutralize any potential security breaches within a network. An IPS operates behind a firewall. This means it double-checks traffic that has been through a firewall. It also monitors internal traffic that a firewall does not see.

How IPS cybersecurity works

IPS cybersecurity is essentially a system for monitoring the volume and content of network traffic.

Monitoring the volume of traffic simply requires the IPS cybersecurity solution to track the number of data packets sent over any given period (usually per second). Monitoring the content of the traffic requires the IPS to analyze the packet headers. Since this needs to be done quickly, IPS cybersecurity solutions typically rely on signature- and anomaly-based detection.

Signature-based detection involves comparing observed network traffic against a database of predefined patterns associated with known threats. Anomaly-based detection focuses on identifying deviations from established baselines, allowing IPS to recognize previously unknown or zero-day attacks.

This approach is robust enough to catch a significant percentage of threats. For extra protection, an IPS can be combined with an IDS. This can perform more robust checking and hence detect threats that an IPS would probably miss.

IPS compared to IDS

The headline difference between IPS cybersecurity solutions and IDS cybersecurity solutions is that an IPS can take action to neutralize threats. An IDS only raises an alert when it detects a potential threat.

The more subtle difference between IPS and IDS is that IPS sits within the flow of traffic whereas IDS sits outside it. This is because an IPS has to have direct contact with data packets in order to be able to act on them. An IDS, by contrast, just needs to see the data. This means that it can work on a copy of the original data, while the original data packet continues on its way.

Types of IPS cybersecurity solutions

There are different types of IPS for different situations. Most organizations will probably need to use a combination of different solutions.

Hardware-based IPS: These are standalone appliances dedicated to robust intrusion prevention. They are generally placed at the network perimeter, where they monitor high volumes of traffic.

Software-based IPS: This type of IPS is installed on existing hardware. It provides a flexible, scalable, and economical approach to intrusion prevention.

Cloud-based IPS: This type of IPS leverages the power of the cloud for data processing. It is a natural choice for modern, cloud-centric environments, offering scalability and centralized management.

Network-based IPS: This type of IPS is deployed at strategic network points such as network segments with business-critical and/or sensitive data.

Host-based IPS: This type of IPS focuses on securing specific devices, providing an additional layer of defense for critical assets.

Wireless IPS: This is a specialist IPS cybersecurity solution designed to monitor and protect wireless networks. It is widely used to secure both private and public WiFi networks against WiFi-specific threats such as unauthorized devices and access points and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Considerations for choosing the right IPS for you

Your starting point for choosing the right IPS for you is your current situation. Three basic points that you should be able to determine fairly easily are:

Compliance: Do you have to comply with any data-protection programs? If you do, which ones and what are their requirements?
Budget: How much can you afford to spend? Of this, how much can you spend upfront and how much can you spend over the lifetime of the IPS?
Integration requirements: What existing security infrastructure will the IPS have to integrate with (e.g. firewalls, IDS systems, SIEM systems, and antivirus tools)?

You then need to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your current network situation. This includes the following points:

Topology: You need a deep understanding of the organization’s network topology to identify critical points and potential vulnerabilities where IPS deployment is most effective.
Segmentation: Consider network segmentation to isolate critical assets and create zones with distinct security requirements, enabling focused IPS deployment.
Traffic flows: Analyze traffic flows within the network to align IPS sensors with the paths of maximum risk, optimizing threat detection capabilities.

When you’ve done all this, consider what the future might bring and what will be required of your IPS to cope with it.

Once you have a potential IPS cybersecurity solution, it’s vital that you test it thoroughly before you deploy it in your production environment. Testing your IPS also provides you with an opportunity to test your policies, incident response, and customization strategy.

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