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IPS Security: Safeguarding Networks From Cyber Threats

IPS Security: Safeguarding Networks From Cyber Threats

Security in general is a constant battle between attackers and those who could be attacked. This is particularly true of cybersecurity as technology develops at a notoriously fast pace. Currently, IPS security is at the forefront of cybersecurity. With that in mind, here is a brief guide to what you need to know about it.

Understanding IPS security

IPS security stands for Intrusion Prevention System security. As the name suggests, its core purpose is to protect an organization from having its network used for unauthorized activities. These range from general malware attacks to more targeted attacks such as DDoS attacks and hacking.

The main difference between IPS security and IDS security is that IPS security is proactive. In other words, once an IPS has identified a potential threat, it can take steps to neutralize it. An IDS (Intrusion Detection System) will simply raise an alert about it.

Using IPS security can also be an effective prerequisite for achieving compliance with data-security compliance programs both mainstream (PCI/DSS) and niche (StateRAMP). It may not be explicitly specified as a requirement. It will, however, probably be necessary to meet the stated requirements (or at least make it a lot easier to do so).

Types of IPS

IPS can be initially divided into two main types. These are hardware-based IPS and software-based IPS.

Hardware-based IPS: This involves physical devices dedicated to intrusion prevention. These appliances operate as standalone units, providing real-time examination and filtering of network traffic. Their advantages lie in high performance and reliability, making them suitable for enterprise-level security needs.

Software-based IPS: This implements intrusion prevention through software applications. This type of IPS integrates with existing hardware infrastructure, offering flexibility and scalability. It is cost-effective, particularly for smaller organizations, and allows for easier updates and customization.

They can then be divided into three sub-types.

Host-based IPS: This is installed on individual devices, such as servers or endpoints, focusing on the security of a specific host system. It monitors activities and prevents unauthorized access, providing tailored protection for individual devices, which is crucial for securing endpoints and servers.

Network-based IPS: This is deployed at key network points, such as routers or switches. It monitors and filters network traffic, blocking malicious activities in real time. This type of IPS provides comprehensive network protection, capable of blocking threats before reaching internal systems.

Cloud-based IPS: This delivers IPS services through cloud platforms. It analyzes network traffic in the cloud, offering centralized security for distributed or cloud-centric environments. This type of IPS is scalable, provides real-time updates, and is well-suited for organizations with cloud-focused operations.

All of these types provide the same (or similar) IPS security benefits. They just go about delivering those benefits in slightly different ways.

How IPS security works

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) conduct continuous, real-time analysis of network traffic. They monitor its volume and analyze its content. Monitoring volume is done by tracking the number of data packages sent per second. Analyzing the content of the traffic is done by checking the data package headers for concerning signals.

IPS security detects suspicious traffic using a combination of methods. The main ones are:

Signature-based detection: This relies on a database of known attack signatures, enabling the system to recognize and block well-known threats.
Anomaly-based detection: This focuses on identifying deviations from normal network behavior, allowing IPS to detect previously unknown or evolving threats based on abnormal patterns.
Heuristic-detection: This approach uses problem-solving methodology to detect unauthorized behavior that is not picked up by other detection methods

Upon detecting a potential threat, the IPS security can follow pre-defined rules to deal with it. These may involve taking actions itself (e.g. blocking IP addresses) and/or alerting human users. The IPS will also log the event so that it can be analyzed later if desired.

Deployment, integration, and management

Before deploying IPS security, organizations should clearly define their needs, wants, and budget. To define their needs and wants, organizations will need to undertake a thorough risk assessment. This will involve ensuring that their network architecture is correctly mapped and that they understand their traffic patterns.

Most organizations will need (or at least) want to integrate their IPS security with their other security tools, particularly their Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems. This means that it’s highly advisable to check for compatibility before an IPS is purchased. It’s also highly advisable to think about compatibility with any future changes you might need (or want) to make.

Once your IPS has been deployed, it will need periodic updates and will generally benefit from ongoing monitoring. In the real world, an IPS will generally need to be updated regularly to reflect changes in both usage and prevalent threats.

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