• Scott McKellar

    Scott McKellar is currently a Technical Consultant at Mimecast where he has been since early 2019. Scott has been working in the technology industry for fifteen years and is passionate about technology & security. Scott enjoys understanding his  customers and prospects often complex business challenges and aligning them with technology to solve problems and add value. Prior to his role at Mimecast, Scott headed up the technology team for an Australian leading Wi-Fi analytics SaaS and IaaS provider; Discovery Technology (a Data#3 company).

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Cybersecurity solutions can be grouped into two main categories.

Depending on their ability to detect and defend against cyberattacks -Intrusion Detection Systems(IDS) andIntrusion Prevention Systems(IPS). IDS and IPS tools can both detect security threats but go about it in different ways. Let's look at the differences and similarities and understand which one to choose.

IDS vs IPS: What's the difference?

The main difference between IDS and IPS cyber solutions is that IDS is adiagnostic solutionand IPS is anincident response solution.IDS will only alert you to a potential incident, while IPS will try to remediate it.

Speed is a critical factor when it comes to fighting cyberattacks. If not caught in time, cyberattacks can damage a company's information assets. These attacks can cost well over a million dollars on average, so the consequences can be severe. IDS and IPS tools equip you to detect or block these cyberattacks.

There is no doubt that both IDS and IPS are capable of detecting vulnerabilities exploits, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, and hacking attacks that are used by cybercriminals to be able to prevent businesses from accessing their systems. Therefore, it is likely that each of them will play a part in the cybersecurity strategy of most organisations. But to get a better understanding of these two approaches, we first need to take a peek under the hood.

How does an IDS solution work?

The IDS monitors the network to detect suspicious traffic. IDS compiles traffic data from several locations and operates across packets and sources data from different streams. It then alerts the IT security team when it identifies suspicious traffic. After receiving the alert, the IT team can immediately take action by reviewing the affected nodes and remedying them. Broadly speaking, there are two types of IDS solutions:

  • NetworkIntrusion Detection Systems(NIDS)
    NIDS solutions is a device or software deployed throughout the network to detect malicious activity.
     
  • Host Intrusion Detection Systems(HIDS)
    HIDS solutions monitor traffic to the system or device they are installed on.

Both these systems usesignature-basedandanomaly-basedmethods to detect threats.

How do IPS solutions work?

It's important to keep in mind that an IPS solution isn't just a diagnostic tool that detects threats to the network. It can trigger preconfigured responses in response to malicious traffic on blogs. IPS works behind the firewall and uses anomaly detection or signature-based detection to identify threats within the network. The firewall functions as a boundary, and when that boundary is breached, your IPS is the second layer of security to block malicious activity. if it detects suspicious activity, it triggers an automated response toblock the traffic source address,drop malicious packetsorsend alertsto the admin.

There are four types of IPS solutions are:

  • Network-based intrusion prevention system (NIPS)
    NIPS can monitor the whole network and look for malicious traffic by reviewing protocol activity
  • Wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS)
    WIPS monitors wireless networks for malicious activity by reviewing wireless networking protocols
  • Host-based intrusion prevention systems (HIPS)
    HIPS monitors for malicious activity that occurs in a single host.
  • Network behaviour analysis (NBA)
    NBA monitors network traffic to identify threats that cause unusual traffic flows, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and policy violations.
     

The two standard detection methods used by IDS and IPS solutions are signature-based detection and anomaly-based detection. Most security solutions combine these two methods to provide broader protection against cyber threats.

Signature-based Detection

Signature-based IDS and IPS solutions look for activity and malicious code that matches known attacks. This method examines data patterns, packet headers, source addresses and destination of traffic to detect malicious activity. However, signature-based detection is ineffective in detecting sophisticated and zero-day attacks.

Anomaly-based Detection

Anomaly detection methods detect more sophisticated threats using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). IDS and IPS tools with anomaly detection can also detect malicious behaviour to protect against zero-day attacks.

 

IDS vs IPS - which one is better?

IDS and IPS have their strengths, but for most organisations, IPS would be a more comprehensive security solution. Its ability to detect and remediate attacks using predefined auto response actions in real time gives it an edge over IDS.

However, implementing an IPS solution on its own won't protect you against all threats. While it can automate a lot of security tasks, you will still need a human security team to keep you ahead of cybercriminals and hackers.

The answer is not an easy ‘IDS’ or ‘IPS’. It depends on your organisation’s needs and your cybersecurity goals. What are the unique security challenges that you want to tackle? What controls do you have in place? How mature is your security posture? The answers to these questions will define which solution you choose for your organisation.

Consider your cyber strategy and goals before you make a choice. When implementing either IDS or IPS you will still need a security team to configure the solutions, monitor the network and address security events. So, if you are not expecting to use the features that make IPS a robust solution, you can avoid committing to a significant investment.This is where having a clear strategy becomes essential and helps you make the best use of your resources.

Scott McKellar is currently a Technical Consultant at Mimecast where he has been since early 2019. Scott has been working in the technology industry for fifteen years and is passionate about technology & security. Scott enjoys understanding his  customers and prospects often complex business challenges and aligning them with technology to solve problems and add value. Prior to his role at Mimecast, Scott headed up the technology team for an Australian leading Wi-Fi analytics SaaS and IaaS provider; Discovery Technology (a Data#3 company).

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