Intrusion Detection System (IDS) Vs Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

While both Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Protection Systems (IPS) are designed to help protect against threats to an organization, there is no clear winner in the IDS vs IPS debate – depending on the precise deployment scenario, either can be the superior option.

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What is IDS?

An intrusion detection system is a passive monitoring solution for detecting cybersecurity threats to an organization. If a potential intrusion is detected, the IDS generates an alert that notifies security personnel to investigate the incident and take remediative action.

 

An IDS solution can be classified in a couple of ways. One of these is its deployment location. An IDS can be deployed on a particular host, enabling it to monitor the host’s network traffic, running processes, logs, etc., or at the network level, allowing it to identify threats to the entire network. The choice between a host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) and a network-based IDS (NIDS) is a tradeoff between depth of visibility and the breadth and context that a system receives.

 

IDS solutions can also be classified based upon how they identify potential threats. A signature-based IDS uses a library of signatures of known threats to identify them. An anomaly-based IDS builds a model of “normal” behavior of the protected system and reports on any deviations. A hybrid system uses both methods to identify potential threats.

What is IPS?

An intrusion prevention system (IPS)  is an active protection system. Like the IDS, it attempts to identify potential threats based upon monitoring features of a protected host or network and can use signature, anomaly, or hybrid detection methods. Unlike an IDS, an IPS takes action to block or remediate an identified threat. While an IPS may raise an alert, it also helps to prevent the intrusion from occurring.

Why IDS and IPS are Crucial for Cybersecurity

In the end, the intrusion prevention system vs intrusion detection system comparison comes down to what action they take if such an intrusion is detected. An IDS is designed to only provide an alert about a potential incident, which enables a security operations center (SOC) analyst to investigate the event and determine whether it requires further action. An IPS, on the other hand, takes action itself to block the attempted intrusion or otherwise remediate the incident.

 

While their responses may differ, they serve similar purposes, potentially making them seem redundant. Despite this, both of them have benefits and deployment scenarios to which one is better suited than the other:

 

  • Intrusion Detection System: An IDS is designed to detect a potential incident, generate an alert, and do nothing to prevent the incident from occurring. While this may seem inferior to an IPS, it may be a good solution for systems with high availability requirements, such as industrial control systems (ICS) and other critical infrastructure. For these systems, the most important thing is that the systems continue running, and blocking suspicious (and potentially malicious) traffic may impact their operations. Notifying a human operator of the issue enables them to evaluate the situation and make an informed decision on how to respond.
  • Intrusion Prevention System: An IPS, on the other hand, is designed to take action to block anything that it believes to be a threat to the protected system. As malware attacks become faster and more sophisticated, this is a useful capability because it limits the potential damage than an attack can cause. An IPS is ideal for environments where any intrusion could cause significant damage, such as databases containing sensitive data.

 

IDSs and IPSs both have their advantages and disadvantages. When selecting a system for a potential use case, it is important to consider the tradeoffs between system availability and usability and the need for protection. An IDS leaves a window for an attacker to cause damage to a target system, while a false positive detection by an IPS can negatively impact system usability.

IDS vs IPS: The Verdict

The choice between IDS software and IPS software for a particular use case is an important one. However, an even more vital factor to consider is the effectiveness of a given IDS/IPS solution. An IDS or IPS can suffer from false positive or false negative detections, either blocking legitimate traffic or allowing through real threats. While there is often a tradeoff between these two, the more sophisticated the system, the lower the total error rate an organization will experience.

 

Check Point has years of experience in developing IDS/IPS software, and Check Point next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) contain the latest in threat detection technology. To learn more about how Check Point can help to improve your network security, contact us for more information. Then, schedule a demonstration to see the power of Check Point’s advanced network threat prevention solutions in action.

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