Intrusion Detection System

IDS vs IPS: What is the Difference?

As cybersecurity threats continue to grow in sophistication and frequency, businesses of all sizes are increasingly looking for ways to protect their networks and sensitive data. Two critical tools in any organization's cybersecurity arsenal are intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS).

While these two technologies are closely related and often used together, there are some important differences between them that can impact how they are deployed and used. In this blog post, we'll explore the key differences between IDS and IPS and discuss how each can help enhance your organization's security posture.

What is an Intrusion Detection System and an Intrusion Prevention System?

IDS and IPS systems are two parts of network infrastructure that detect and prevent intrusions by hackers. Both systems compare network traffic and packets against a database of cyber threats. The systems then flag offending packets.

The primary difference between the two is that one monitors while the other controls. IDS systems don’t actually change the packets. They just scan the packets and check them against a database of known threats. IPS systems, however, prevent the delivery of the packet into the network.

IDS vs IPS: Definitions

  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS): An IDS system monitors and analyzes network traffic for packets and other signs of network invasion. The system then flags known threats and hacking methods. IDS systems detect port scanners, malware, and other violations of system security policies.
  • Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): An IPS system resides in the same area as a firewall, between the internal network and the outside internet. If the IDS system flags something as a threat, the IPS system denies the malicious traffic. If the traffic represents a known threat in the databases, the IPS will shut the threat out and not deliver any malicious packets.

Some manufacturers of IDS and IPS technologies merge the two into one solution. This solution is known as Unified Threat Management (UTM).

Related Reading: From IDS and IPS to SIEM: What You Should Know

IDS vs IPS: How They Work and Why They are Important to Cybersecurity

IDS and IPS systems are important factors in any network. They work in tandem to keep bad actors out of your personal or corporate networks.

IDS systems only look for suspicious network traffic and compare it against a database of known threats. If suspicious behaviors are similar to known threats on the database, the Intrusion Detection System flags the traffic. IDS systems do not operate on their own. They require a human or application to monitor scan results and then take action.

IPS systems work proactively to keep threats out of the system. The Intrusion Prevention System accepts and rejects network packets based on a specified rule set. The process is simple. If packets are suspicious and go against a specified ruleset, the IPS rejects them. This ensures the traffic doesn’t reach the network. IPS systems also require a database that is consistently updated with new threat profiles.

While the two systems seem similar in name and operation, they have a few differences. 

What is the Difference Between an IDS and IPS System?

While both systems analyze threats, it’s the steps taken after threat identification that sets them apart. These differences include:

  • An IDS system requires human interaction. IDS systems scan networks for threats, but require human interaction to read the scan results and determine a plan of action to resolve any identified threats. This work could require a full time position if the network generates a lot of traffic. IDS systems make an excellent forensics tool for security researchers investigating a network after a security incident.
  • An IPS system works on autopilot. An IPS system catches and drops any threatening traffic before it causes damage. IPS systems work automatically to scan network traffic and prevent known threats from entering the network.

IDS vs IPSAlthough both systems provide security, neither have a “set it and forget it” approach. Users should remember these systems scan against known security threats. As such, these tools need regular updates. If the databases are up to date, the system performs more effectively.

Remember, a security tool can’t check for threats it doesn’t know exist! 

What Security Problems Do Both Systems Solve?

Network security is one of the most important things for corporations to keep in mind. When a business protects sensitive customer information like names, addresses, and credit card numbers, network security is even more important. Staying ahead of cyber criminals is another way IDS and IPS systems help organizations and individuals protect their security.

These systems detect and prevent hackers from getting into the network. 

Early detection and prevention is essential for system administrators and network managers. Staying ahead of hackers is critical when protecting your network. Preventing entry into your network is easier than cleaning up after the damage is done.

IDS and IPS systems boost your cybersecurity strategy

  • Automation. In network security, automation is a huge boost. IDS and IPS systems primarily work on autopilot, scanning, logging and preventing malicious intrusions.
  • Hard-coded security policy enforcement. IDS and IPS systems are configurable and allow the systems to enforce security policies at the network level. Even if only one approved VPN is used by your company, you can block any other forms of traffic.
  • Security compliance. Compliance is important for network administrators and security professionals. If a security incident happens, you will need data to show adherence to security protocol. Technologies like IDS and IPS can provide data needed for any potential security investigations.

Not only do these systems detect and prevent intrusions, but they also give you peace of mind. Not having to sit in front of a computer to monitor traffic all day is a great feeling for security professionals.

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