Intrusion prevention is a security tool that is often a component of a larger network security platform. An intrusion prevention system will often be situated behind a firewall to analyze the flow of network traffic and filter out anything that may have evaded the firewall’s policies. It works by detecting, reporting, and blocking network traffic to prevent anything malicious from infiltrating the network and causing harm such as data loss, ransomware attacks, or a Distributed Denial of Service attack.
An intrusion prevention system is often implemented as a part of a next-generation firewall or a unified threat management (UTM) solution but can be acquired and deployed as a standalone feature.
How An Intrusion Prevention System Works
Intrusion prevention works by the tool sitting behind a firewall and analyzing all incoming traffic for any anomalies blocking anything that is deemed harmful. Intrusion prevention will reset connections, block any traffic from the source, and drop the offending packets from the network. This will be done automatically, with an alarm being sent to admins to flag the issue, with additional reporting.
Reporting will be done either directly to admins or the report will be collected by any security information and events management (SIEM) tool that may be in place. The benefit of having SIEM configured alongside any intrusion prevention measures means that SIEM can aggregate other data from other sources, reducing the number of false positives.
Intrusion prevention systems can automatically prevent attacks, provided that pre-set policies and rules have been configured ahead of this. Policies and fail safes that can be configured include administering specific firewall settings, installing blocklists based on certain domains and IP addresses, and blocking based on specific network packets. These packets are what inform networks where a message has come from and where it is headed, as well as containing the actual message itself.
What Types Of Intrusion Prevention Systems Are There?
There are a number of intrusion prevention solutions that can be deployed. Companies either choose one that will fit their needs or, if a more robust approach is required, use a blend of multiple. The different types of these systems all function slightly differently.
Host intrusion prevention system (HIPS): This system is installed as software directly onto an endpoint and can only analyze traffic and operate on that endpoint. It’s more frequently seen in conjunction with network intrusion prevention systems as HIPS can provide security against anything that may have evaded the network intrusion solution.
Network intrusion prevention system (NIPS): NIPS has a more overarching view and reach of network activity. It is placed at strategic points throughout the network and oversees all traffic that occurs within it.
Wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS): Perhaps one of the more straightforward options listed here, a WIPS solution scans the Wi-Fi network for anything that has gained unauthorized access to the network before removing and blocking it.
Network behavior analysis (NBA): This system runs a deep analysis on incoming network traffic to find any anomalies within it, such as potential DDoS attacks which flood network traffic with requests to override the network and stop it from functioning temporarily.
Intrusion prevention systems are usually made up of either one or more techniques, each operating in a slightly different way, in order to catch as many anomalies in traffic as possible. The more common ones are:
- Anomaly-based technique: This facet relies on detecting any abnormal traffic entering the network by measuring network activity against certain protocols and standards. It’s one of the stronger methods, but it can be too effective on occasion, resulting in false positives. This part of an IPS solution is frequently being constructed with the use of AI and machine learning technology.
- Signature-based technique: Signature-based relies on matching incoming signatures with the signatures of known threats. It looks for anomalies in byte sequences and confirmed malicious sequences. When new harmful signatures are discovered, they can be added to a database that the system can refer to. However, because it can only pick up on known signatures, it cannot detect new threats, so it is often used in conjunction with anomaly-based detection.
- Policy-based technique: Policy-based techniques are seen implemented much less than the previous two, but it can be a strong option for enterprises to deploy. This type of system will block anything based on policies that have been pre-set and configured by the company administrators.
Intrusion Prevention Vs Intrusion Detection
Before intrusion prevention, there was intrusion detection. The monitoring of traffic was the same, but the intrusion detection system was much more passive in nature. As the name might imply, it could only analyze the flow of traffic and create reports to send to administrators, rather than offering any sort of preventative measure. Intrusion prevention is a newer invention that consolidates detection and prevention methods for a more robust, effective solution that has become the preferred option when it comes to creating a cybersecurity strategy.
Why Do You Need Intrusion Prevention?
While they might seem unimportant or not as impactful as other security measures, intrusion prevention systems are a critical component of a wider cybersecurity strategy and they’re particularly adept at preventing common yet serious cyberattacks. When configured correctly and as part of an enhanced security solution, intrusion prevention systems can prevent DDoS and DoS attacks, viruses, vulnerability exploits, and more. It’s especially important with cyberattacks ever on the increase. With DDoS attacks in particular, Cloudflare noted a staggering 95% increase in DDoS attacks at layer 3 in company networks in Q4 in 2021.
Part of intrusion prevention’s appeal also lies in the fact that all its processes are immediate and automated. It takes a considerable workload off over-stretched IT teams and saves time and money.
The solution comes with other benefits. Intrusion prevention systems include increased efficiency for other security measures; it reduces the load on other network security tools and the system itself doesn’t reduce network or app performance. It’s highly customizable and falls in with compliance regulations such as HIPAA and more.
It is worth noting that an IPS solution isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to network security. It is limited in function and security, but it is still highly valuable. It is best implemented alongside several other cybersecurity measures to enhance protection. While it was initially introduced as a standalone product shortly after its inception, nowadays it is more commonly seen as one part of a more comprehensive solution like UTM or a next-gen firewall.
An intrusion prevention system is a critical component of certain network cybersecurity measures that complements other security measures to create a robust filtering solution that comes with strong customization and reporting capabilities. Often as part of other products or as a standalone feature, intrusion prevention systems can be beneficial to any organization looking to enhance network protection.