Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and targeted than ever before. These are impacting all organizations, especially SMEs as they don’t have effective resources. A report by Accenture shows that 43% of cybercrimes are targeting small businesses. Only 14% of these have the ability to defend themselves. Further, 66% of businesses have reported an attack in the last 12 months! Alarming statistics, right?
One of the easiest ways to prevent a cyberattack is to have an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS). Having these on your network’s endpoints helps detect threats. These can stop them before they enter your network. In this article, I’m going to tell you about what an IPS is and what to look for when choosing an IPS. Here we also take a look at some of the most popular choices available today.
Let’s get started with what an IPS is and read on, to identify the appropriate IPS tool for your organization.
What’s an Intrusion Prevention System?
In a nutshell, an IPS is a firewall that sits at the entry points of your network. As you can expect it examines the packets that enter and exit your network. Yet an IPS not only detects malicious packets but also prevents them. What’s great is that IPSs examine packet headers and their contents; unlike firewalls. As a result, it can stave off cyberattacks such as a Denial of Service (DoS) and more.
Now you know what an IPS can do, let’s look at features you need to consider when choosing one!
What to Look for in IPS’s
Choosing an appropriate IPS is often the first step towards enhancing your security. This is also the most difficult task given the many choices available in the market today. This is why let’s look at some important criteria that you can consider while making this choice.
The detection technique is the most important feature for choosing an IPS. Unfortunately, this is also the most challenging because detection capabilities are subjective. It depends on various factors such as:
- Your infrastructure setup
- The existing cybersecurity tools and practices
- The attacks you’re trying to get protection from, and more
The above features are key because every IPS comes with unique detection capabilities. These are effective at identifying and mitigating certain types of attacks only. This is why it’s a common practice to combine an IPS with other tools for comprehensive protection.
That said, look for an IPS that uses many different types of detection techniques. Helping you get a broader coverage against different attacks. For instance, a signature-based detection technique for identifying known attacks. This compares the packets’ pattern against a set of predetermined patterns. An anomaly-detection IPS looks for anomalies in the packets. This helps identify new and unknown patterns and attacks. This is why it’s important to choose an IPS that has a combination of different techniques.
Integration with Existing Infrastructure
The IPS you choose must integrate well with your existing infrastructure. This is an important and often overlooked aspect while choosing an IPS. When the IPS you choose integrates well with your existing infrastructure, you can have better performance from it. The alerts will also be accurate and useful.
An IPS will send an alert when it detects attack patterns. Yet, with a better assessment of the host system like its patching status can help. This information the IPS can send a more appropriate alert status. Let’s say, the host patches are up to date and aren’t vulnerable to the attack. The IPS can send a low-priority alert instead of a high-priority alert.
Such contextual knowledge can help the IPS to provide more protection and better alerts. This helps the system and administrators respond appropriately. Note that this context has to be provided by the organization only and it becomes easier with a well-integrated IPS.
Ease of Configuration and Use
Another important aspect is the ease of configuration and use. The IPS must be intuitive to use. No elaborate training for administrators is a must and it must be easy to configure. Today, many cloud-based IPS tools come pre-configured to help administrators.
Reporting and Logging
Look for an IPS that comes with extensive logging and reporting features. These logs provide valuable information about attacks and vulnerabilities within your organization. This information, you can identify the gaps in your security and plug them quickly. Reporting is also important as it can help with internal auditing and compliance with industry standards.
Cost and Support
The last aspect to consider is the cost of the tool and the level of technical support offered by the IPS vendor. Ideally, choose an IPS that has extensive coverage for many types of attacks and top-notch technical support. Yet, this can prove to be expensive especially if you’re an SME. Hence, strike a balance between your budget and the IPS capabilities and pick the one that offers the best value for your money.
Thus, these are some of the important aspects to consider while choosing an IPS. Still, it can seem overwhelming for you as many IPS may check all these criteria. To further ease your buying experience, we’ve come up with a list of top software that has extensive coverage and good technical support.
The last aspect to consider is the cost of the tool and the level of technical support offered by the IPS vendor. Ideally, you’d want to choose an IPS that has extensive coverage for many types of attacks and top-notch technical support from the vendor. However, this can prove to be expensive, especially if you’re a small business grappling with limited budgets. Hence, strike a balance between your budget and the IPS capabilities and pick the one that offers the best value for your money.
All these are important aspects to consider while choosing an IPS. Still, it can seem overwhelming for you as many IPS may check all these criteria. To further ease your buying experience, we’ve come up with a list of top IPS software that has extensive capabilities and good technical support.
Analysis of the Top Software
In this section, we will be presenting the top five IPS in no particular order. These are some of the leading IPS tools in the industry today and are comprehensive enough to cover most challenges. Some have anomaly detection and network flow analysis capabilities. This helps provide a calculated guess for suspected unknown attack patterns. Read on as we briefly explain each tool and its salient features.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager
SolarWinds Security Event Manager is a powerful IPS. It uses both network-based and host-based intrusion detection. Network-based detection analyzes events in real-time. The host-based system however examines the contents of log files and packets. The advantage of this tool is you can always change the detection rules. You can also set automatic remediation actions for this tool to take.
Check Point IPS
Check Point IPS comes with a hybrid detection engine that can identify known and unknown attacks. It offers excellent performance, configuration flexibility, and deploys easily. The user interface for centralized management is also easy to use for new users. Check Point can generate the actionable insights you need for protecting your network.
Cisco Firepower Next-Generation IPS
This IPS from Cisco provides visibility for more than 4,000 commercial applications. It even offers integration with custom apps to detect the possibility of application threats. Advanced malware protection to detect and stop malware is also available. The advantage of this tool is you can set custom rules and alerts. Finally, it comes with embedded DNS and URL security intelligence. This combines with its exhaustive 35,000+ IP rules to create a protective environment for your organization.
Datadog Real-Time Threat Monitoring IPS
Datadog real-time threat monitoring IPS is an add-on module to Datadog’s network monitoring system. This module comes with built-in threat detection capabilities that span across networks, devices, data sources, and applications. It also has pre-created threat detection rules and you can also add more rules if required. All these rules establish a pattern that the platform should watch out for and prevent.
McAfee Network Security Platform
McAfee offers a comprehensive threat intelligence platform that integrates with your organization’s policy management tool to handle even sophisticated threats. It comes with Advanced Threat Defense capabilities that work well with its Enterprise Security Manager, Policy Orchestrator, and other tools to provide the widest visibility and security for your organization.
Thus, these are some of the best IPS tools and software available today, and they would fit well into most organizations’ infrastructure.
To conclude, IPS is an important part of every organization’s security as it detects and prevents malicious data packets from entering the network, thereby reducing the chances of an attack. Over the years, IPS has advanced to detect threats from known and unknown attack patterns using a variety of defense mechanisms.
As a user, this also means a large pool of IPS tools. In turn, this can make it difficult for you to choose an appropriate one for your organization. This is why we’ve listed some criteria that you can use to narrow down the choices and some of the best tools available today to choose from. We hope this was insightful for you. We’ve more such articles that can help you make critical buying decisions for your organization.
What are signature-based and anomaly-based IPS?
The IPS type depends on the underlying strategy used to detect and prevent cyberattacks. This can be signature-based or anomaly-based. In a signature-based detection, a packet is compared against patterns to identify the possibilities of threat. An anomaly-based detection, on the other hand, samples network traffic and compares it to a predetermined baseline for threat evaluation.
Is a firewall the same as IPS?
No, an IPS is a more advanced version of a firewall. In general, a firewall detects malicious packets and sends notifications or alerts whereas an IPS not just detects, but also prevents the packets from entering the network.
What’s the difference between a host-based and a network-based IPS?
A host-based intrusion system can detect internal changes such as the accidental download of a virus by an employee, insider threats, etc. A network-based IPS, on the other hand, detects the malicious packets that enter your system and prevents them from doing so. Ideally, you must choose an IPS that supports both.
What is an IPS signature?
An IPS signature is a set of rules that an IPS can use to detect malicious packets. Often, these rules are pre-configured and they can also be changed by organizations to beef up security. Organizations can specify the actions that an IPS must take when the packets match any of the IPS signatures.
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