What Are Intrusion Prevention Systems and How Do They Work?

You don’t have to be an IT expert to know that protecting confidential data starts with a hi-tech cyber security policy. But there are countless solutions available and few are of the set-it-and-forget-it variety. That’s where managed IT services providers come in.

They monitor and optimize your network 24/7 to ensure you always have the latest and greatest technology available. One such solution is an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), which is designed to protect your organization by stopping outside threats from reaching your network and doing any serious damage.

Intrusion Detection vs. Intrusion Prevention

These two systems are often confused, for obvious reasons. Beyond their naming convention, they also rely on the same underlying technology, and both systems work by monitoring your network around the clock.

However, there is a critical difference between the two. An intrusion detection system (IDS), which typically comes integrated into hardware firewalls, is designed to alert you whenever someone attempts to access your network by suspicious means. By contrast, intrusion prevention solutions take a more preemptive approach by actively trying to prevent access in the first place.

An IDS works like conventional antivirus software in that it constantly monitors your network to look for activities that look like malware that has already been cataloged.

When something is found, the network administrator will receive an alert, and it will be up to them to take the necessary action. That’s probably fine if you have an in-house IT department that works around the clock, but it’s not going to do much good if there’s no one around to do anything about it. Furthermore, just like antivirus software, an IDS relies on its ability to uncover known malware – if a particular exploit isn’t known, an IDS won’t be able to do much about it.

Many enterprise-grade firewalls go a step further and include IPS which, rather than simply looking out for known exploits, prevents access to potential hackers in the first place. Given the constantly evolving cyber threat landscape, it’s extremely important to take this proactive approach.

Unlike an IDS, an IPS sits directly on your lines of communication, acting as a gateway that no one can pass unless they meet the demands of your security policies. Not only does this approach help proactively protect your business from the growing multitude of online threats – it also helps in a variety of other ways:

    • Detect and prevent both known and unknown threats
    • Reduce the workload on other security controls to free up bandwidth
    • Customize detection capabilities per the rules of your security policies

Since an IPS resides in your communications path, it analyses all traffic entering the network. As such, it can proactively block traffic from suspicious addresses, prevent hackers from dropping malicious packets, and use heuristic scanning methods to find and prevent suspicious activities without relying purely on a database of known exploits. Like an IDS, it will also send an alert to the network administrator in the event of suspicious activity.

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Why You Need a Customized Approach

As any business leader should know by now, there’s a lot more to cybersecurity than simply installing the latest antivirus software and rooting all network traffic through a firewall. Every organization has different vulnerabilities, attack surfaces, and countless other variables.

That’s why you need business-specific detection capabilities. After all, the main job of an IPS is to enforce your security policies, and that’s not something that can be done effectively if you’re relying on a more generic and reactive approach.

To give some examples, many businesses have blacklists of forbidden applications and websites, or there might be a spear-phishing email going around that specifically targets your company and its employees. In both cases, administrators will need to identify the attacks, which they’ll be able to do simply by adding a new signature to the IPS. That way, those blacklisted applications, websites, and malicious emails won’t be able to get anywhere near your network in the first place.

Every IPS provides a degree of customization so that it can work perfectly within the bounds of your business.

At Dyrand Systems, we understand that data security and business continuity are the same thing. That’s why we protect and secure your network by proactively monitoring and controlling all incoming and outgoing traffic based on your own rules. Call us today if you’re ready to put an end to security vulnerabilities in your company.