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An Overview of IDS IPS Compared

An Overview of IDS IPS Compared

Security is essentially about trying to stay (at least) one step ahead of threats as much as possible but still being ready to neutralize them quickly when they do strike. In cybersecurity, it’s particularly important to have robust defense capabilities as new threats are continually emerging. With that in mind, here is an overview of IDS, IPS compared. This will help you decide which is right for you (or if you need both).

The basics of IDS IPS

To cover the basics of IDS, IPS, IDS stands for Intrusion Detection System while IPS stands for Intrusion Prevention System. Both IDS and IPS monitor network traffic for signs of concerning activity.

The key difference between the two options is how they react to it. IDS alerts another security tool and/or a human agent. IPS takes preventative action based on the guidelines it has been given.

The overlap of IDS IPS

The fact that IDS IPS are so similar means that there is a lot of overlap between them. For example, both can be deployed through dedicated hardware or software applications that sit on top of existing hardware. They are also both available in network-based, host-based, and cloud-based versions. You can also get special IDS IPS for wireless networks.

Furthermore, the considerations for which version(s) you use are the same for IDS IPS. For example, hardware-based IDS is typically used when high performance is a priority. Software-based IPS is used when cost-effectiveness is a priority. The same is true of IPS.

Likewise, IDS IPS both tend to use the same detection mechanisms in the same way. The main detection mechanisms are:

Signature-based detection

This relies on predefined patterns or signatures of known cyber threats. These signatures represent specific characteristics or behaviors associated with known malicious entities. Signature-based detection is highly effective against known threats but can struggle with detecting novel or previously unseen threats.

Anomaly-based detection

This focuses on identifying deviations from established baselines or normal behavior within a network or system. Instead of relying on predefined signatures, anomaly detection systems establish a profile of expected behavior and react when activities fall outside this norm.

Anomaly-based detection is particularly valuable for detecting unknown or zero-day attacks that may not have recognizable signatures. It can, however, need human assistance to adapt to any sudden changes in network behavior.

Heuristic-based detection

This involves the use of general rules and algorithms to analyze patterns or behaviors that may indicate potential threats. This approach is valuable for recognizing novel attack patterns without relying on predefined signatures, offering a more adaptive and dynamic method of threat detection. It is, however, quite resource-intensive. This is why signature-based and anomaly-based detection are generally used first.

Less common methods of detection are:

Behavioral-based detection: This approach observes the typical behavior of users, systems, or networks and looks for anomalies, even if they are not statistically significant. It is effective in identifying subtle and persistent threats.

Network Behavior Analysis (NBA): This approach involves monitoring and analyzing patterns in network traffic to detect unusual or suspicious behavior. It provides a holistic view that enhances the capability to identify potential security threats comprehensively.

Advantages and challenges of IDS as compared to IPS

The main advantage of IDS as compared to IPS is that it gives the business running it much more control over threat response than IPS. Businesses can still leverage automated threat response if they wish. They just need to delegate the response to other tools. Alternatively, they can have a human oversee threat response. In the real world, most businesses will probably want to do a combination of both.

On the flip side, this greater level of control requires businesses to exercise a greater level of responsibility and hence dedicate a greater level of resources to threat response. Each business will have to decide for itself if that extra resource is justified. When making this decision, it may be worth keeping in mind the fact both IDS and IPS generate false positives. With an IDS, however, these can be marked as safe without any disruption to the business.

Advantages and challenges of IPS as compared to IDS

By contrast, the advantage of an IPS as compared to an IDS is that threat-response can be automated. This often makes for the quickest response times. On the flip side, however, using automated threat response means that humans lose direct control over it. This can result in false positives creating avoidable business disruption. It’s also worth noting that even an IPS will need some level of human oversight to function effectively.

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