IDS vs IPS: Intrusion Detection Systems versus Intrusion Prevention Systems – Which is better?

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IDS vs IPS: Intrusion Detection Systems versus Intrusion Prevention Systems
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Intrusion Detection Systems and Intrusion Prevention Systems, or IDS and IPS, are powerful tools designed to help businesses defend against cyber threats. Businesses often employ these tools to protect their network and prevent bad actors from gaining access. However, it is crucial to understand how IDS vs IPS compare, how they differ, and which is better for businesses.

Below, we explore and compare IDS vs IPS to learn the differences between the two systems so that you can determine the one which is best suited for your business.

IDS vs IPS: An Overview

An intrusion detection system is an alert system that notifies an organization if any malicious activity or threat is detected. An intrusion prevention system takes this capability a step further. It blocks the network before any threat can gain access to it to prevent any damage or harm.

So, IDS is a monitoring system, while IPS is a control system. IDS does not alter network traffic, but IPS prevents packet delivery based on content, just like a firewall.

An intrusion detection system is generally used to monitor networks and alert network administrators whenever suspicious activity is detected on the network or system.

On the other hand, an intrusion protection system responds to attacks in real-time, aiming to prevent them from accessing the target network or system.

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What is IDS?

An intrusion detection system is an application that monitors a network for violations of security policy or malicious activity.

It is essentially a diagnostic tool; whenever it detects something problematic, it alerts the security team so that they can respond.

IDS solutions can range in scope from a single device to wide networks and can be broadly classified into two types:

  • Network IDS (NIDS) – This system involves placing the software at strategic points within the network to analyze the traffic passing through the device. It then matches the traffic to a library of attacks and sends an alert to the admin when an attack is detected.
  • Host-Based IDS (HIDS) – It is a system that runs and monitors operating system files on devices and hosts. It monitors the packets going through the device and notifies the administrator of any suspicious activity if detected.

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What is IPS?

The functionality of an IPS is quite similar to that of an IDS. However, the former also has response capabilities.

An intrusion prevention system has more authority and can take action upon detecting malicious behavior, potential attack, or unauthorized access.

The exact functions of an IPS depend on the solution. However, the goal is to automate actions and mitigate threats without manual intervention.

Intrusion prevention systems are classified into four main types:

  • Network-Based IPS (NIPS) – These systems can detect and prevent suspicious or malicious activity by analyzing packets across the network. It can be integrated with extra tools to get a comprehensive insight into the network.
  • Host-Based IPS (HIPS) – These systems are typically deployed on hosts or devices the business needs to secure. It monitors all the traffic flowing from the host to find any malicious behavior.
  • Network Behavioral Analysis (NBA) – This type of IPS works by finding deviations from normal behavior in a network. It is effective in detecting incidents like malware, behavior against the policy, and DDoS attacks.

IDS vs. IPS: Which should you opt for?

The comparison between IDS and IPS ultimately comes down to the action each one takes whenever an intrusion occurs.

An Intrusion Detection System aims to provide an alert about a potential event, allowing the security analysts to investigate and determine whether any further action is required. On the other hand, an Intrusion Prevention System takes action by itself to block the intrusion.

Though their responses differ, both serve similar purposes, making them seem redundant sometimes. However, the two systems have benefits and applications that make one better than the other in specific scenarios.

  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS): An intrusion detection system aims to detect a threat upon which it generates an alert and does nothing to prevent the potential incident. This may look inferior in functionality as compared to IPS.

However, it is an ideal solution for systems with critical infrastructure and high availability requirements. The most crucial thing for these systems is that they continue running.

Blocking malicious traffic automatically can impact operations for such systems; alerting an operator about the issue ensures they can analyze the situation and decide on the best response.

  • Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): An intrusion protection system, on the contrary, is built to block anything it finds to be a threat. With malware attacks getting faster and more complicated, this capability is useful as it limits the damage an attack could cause.

This system is ideal for environments where an intrusion could result in significant damage, such as databases containing sensitive or personal information.

Can IDS and IPS Work Together?

Many modern vendors combine IPS and IDS with firewalls to deliver Next-Gen Firewall technology that protects the servers and assets of organizations.

Intrusion detection and response capabilities can prove crucial for businesses as they help identify when an attack reaches the infrastructure and understand how to respond. By employing a combination of detection and response solutions, businesses spot bad actors and minimize dwell time, lowering the impact these intruders can have on the system.

Security personnel should understand the organization’s needs and the data they should monitor before choosing the IPS or IDS solution. They should also analyze their security department to determine if they need an automated solution, have an agency to respond, or have a hybrid approach.

A combination of IDS and IPS is recommended for adequate protection. As your business expands and scales, additional IPS/IDS solutions can be added to support more devices, servers, and networks.

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