While threat management continues to be a top priority for IT professionals, it is important to understand the capabilities of intrusion defense tools and how they can benefit and protect your organization. There any many different network security tools that IT professionals choose to use, or not use, to help defend their organization’s critical information. By choosing the right tools, or a combination of defense tools, you organization will be able achieve highly-efficient and proactive network security.
Today we will be discussing what an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is and how it can aid security admins in their fight to keep their organization secure while tracking down infected computers on the network.
What is an IPS?
An Intrusion Prevention System is a network security and threat prevention control device that monitors network traffic to detect and prevent cyber-attacks and vulnerable exploits. These attacks usually try to bypass your security by coming in the form of malicious inputs to a target application or service that cyber criminals can use to gain control of an application or machine. A successful exploit can potentially disable a complete application or machine, or gain access to all the rights and permissions of the compromised application or machine.
An IPS is placed as an inline security component (in the direct communication path between source and destination) to actively analyze and take automated actions on all traffic flows. Some of the actions include:
- Sending an alarm to the administrator
- Dropping malicious packets
- Blocking traffic from the source address
- Resetting the connection
An IPS can be compared to a firewall in terms of their functions. A typical firewall will have a set number of “pass rules”. When traffic comes in, the firewall will start to filter through these rules to see if the packet is allowed to gain access. At the end of the “pass rules” there is a “deny” rule that in absence of a reason to pass the traffic, the firewall will drop the packet.
An IPS is similar, but works in the opposite way. The IPS has a set number of “deny” rules – “block this known security problem”. When a packet arrives to the IPS, it will start to filter through the deny rules looking for a reason to drop the traffic. Similar to a firewall, there is an implicit “pass” rule, which allows traffic to pass through if there is no reason to drop the packet. The IPS often sits directly behind the firewall and acts as a complementary layer of analysis that specifically selects dangerous content. The IPS must work efficiently and fast to avoid degrading network performance because of real-time exploits.
An IPS has many different types of detection methods for exploiting vulnerable attacks, but there are two dominant mechanisms – signature-based and statistical anomaly-based detection.
- Signature-based detection – This is when the IPS will monitor packets in the network and compare them to a database of pre-configured and pre-determined attack patterns (known as signatures). As exploits are discovered, its signature will be recorded and stored in the continuously growing database of signatures.
- Statistical Anomaly-based detection – The IPS will take a pre-determined baseline performance sample of network traffic (what protocols are used, bandwidth, ports, devices, etc.) and compare this to incoming traffic activity. When traffic is outside of the parameters of the baseline activity, the IPS will alert the administrator and take actions to drop the packet.
The Future of Intrusion Prevention Systems
An Intrusion Prevention System’s main goal is to identify, log, block, and report malicious activity in an organization’s network. An IPS is an older technology, but it is still very important for your organization’s network security. Throughout the years, vendors have advanced detection technology from the bare-boned traditional IPS to create Next-Generation Intrusion Prevention Systems (NGIPS) that are designed to layer additional network security solutions onto a single appliance. With NGIPS you will be able to take advantage of security features that you normally wouldn’t be able to on a tradition IPS. For example, File and DNS inspection, Malware, Application, and URL blocking, and HTTPS session decryption capabilities. These capabilities allow you to address the full attack continuum – before, during, and after – with the most visibility into your environment. While it is important to understand the core of a traditional IPS, these industry-leading threat detection capabilities are becoming the norm with new appliances so organizations can extend security to advanced malware protection and application visibility and control.
Network security is more important now than ever before. As businesses transition into a digital workforce, attacks are becoming more sophisticated and happening in higher frequency. Implementing an NGIPS control device, along with other defense tools, can create a secure and proactive network for your clients and employees while saving your bottom-line from possible future business continuity expenses. NetServe365 is a Pittsburgh-based managed IT services provider that specializes in Managed IT Services, Cloud Computing, and IT Consulting. Network security is top-priority – contact us today to talk to our security experts or call us at 1-800-504-4876
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