What Is an Intrusion Prevention System?

When you need a tool to find and detect malicious activity within a network, an intrusion prevention (IPS) fills that role. They first detect any malicious activities in the network, create a report on the information, and try to block or stop it from further operating.

An intrusion prevention system expands the capabilities of an intrusion detection system (IDS), which monitors network and systems traffic. The advantage of an IPS over an IDS is the fact that these are found in-line, at the path of the source and the destination, and can block malicious activities from occurring in the network.

How Do Systems Work?

Usually found behind a firewall, an intrusion prevention system functions as an additional layer of filtering for malicious activities. If something gets through the firewall, the IPS is there to catch it. They are capable of analyzing and taking action on network traffic. Actions include sending out alerts to admins, dropping potentially dangerous packets, stopping traffic from a source of malicious activities, and even restarting connections.

It is important to note, however, that an IPS should be efficient so it does not hinder the performance of a network. At the same time, the intrusion prevention system should be able to act quickly and accurately to catch malicious activities in real time and detect false positives.

How an Intrusion Prevention System Detects Malicious Activities

There are several ways that an intrusion prevention system can find and detect malicious activities. The two main methods are statistical anomaly-based detection and signature-based detection.

Signature-based detection involves using a dictionary of identifiable signatures, located in the code of an exploit. This can be categorized further to two more methods: vulnerability-facing and exploit-facing. The first detects malicious activities based on specific network vulnerabilities, while the second one checks for common patterns.

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For statistical anomaly-based detection, intrusion prevention systems use random samples of network traffic, then compare them to predetermined baseline performance levels. If something is off, it will then send out an alert or take action.

Comparing Intrusion Prevention Systems

There are four common types of an intrusion prevention system. First is the network-based intrusion prevention system, which has the ability to check and monitor the entire network to look for suspicious activities based on protocol activity.

A wireless intrusion prevention system, on the other hand, checks wireless protocols to catch anomalies and suspicious activities.

Network behavior analysis checks the network traffic flow for unusual activities such as a spike in traffic or anything that may seem different, like a DDoS attack.

The final common type is the host-based intrusion prevention system, which is an installed that checks a single host for suspicious activities.

Which Intrusion Prevention System to Use?

There are many offerings when it comes to intrusion prevention system. To help choose the best one, it is best to set a budget first, define the requirements of your network, and then research the different systems available in the market to see if they fit what you need.

Remember, an intrusion prevention system is not a comprehensive security solution. While it can be a valuable asset in any organization’s security to detect malicious activities, other tools are needed for endpoint security, protection, incident responses, and more.

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