The Evolution of IDS and IPS – What’s Next for Network Security?

The Evolution of IDS and IPS - What's Next for Network Security?

The Evolution of IDS and IPS – What’s Next for Network Security? – As hacking evolves and people’s personal information takes on a higher level of importance, the case for strong security becomes stronger. Yet, there have been fairly cumbersome solutions to identify personal and network devices and compare activity with known threats.

Evolution of IDS and IPS

IDS analyzes real-time network traffic and compares it to known attack patterns and signatures. It can drop the traffic once it spots suspicious activity or alerts network security staff.

Evolution of IDS

An IDS identifies threats through traffic analysis. It creates a normal activity profile and then looks for anomalies, such as unusual incoming or outgoing data spikes. It also analyzes communication protocols and their ties to specific users and applications. If it finds a protocol that isn’t part of the usual mix, it will flag it as potentially dangerous and alert an administrator.

The amount of data that IDS and IPS solutions, like those provided by companies like Versa Networks, can check is also a limitation. For instance, they must first decode encrypted communication to evaluate it, which might affect performance and pose a security risk.

An IPS complements an IDS configuration by actively blocking incoming attacks and notifying security personnel of possible incidents. It does this by analyzing the behavior of network traffic and matching it against preexisting databases to recognize signatures and other patterns of known attacks.

Some vendors combine IDS and IPS capabilities into one device, called a Unified Threat Management (UTM) system. This approach is typically more cost-effective than buying two separate devices. It allows administrators to set up one appliance for detection and another to take a more proactive approach to stop threats.

IDS and IPS systems are susceptible to false positives, where legitimate traffic is mistaken for a threat. That means they must be carefully tuned to maximize their ability to detect real threats while reducing the number of legitimate messages they erroneously flag.

Evolution of IPS

The P in IPS stands for prevention, and whereas IDS can detect an attack after it happens, IPS prevents attacks by blocking malicious traffic before it even reaches the network. An IPS solution is deployed in line with the traffic flow, and it can drop packets, block connections, or reset them to keep malicious traffic from reaching its destination.

Early IPS solutions were signature-based, with the technology recognizing malware by matching bit patterns in the affected files or packets. Signatures could identify most types of malware, but the time gap between vulnerabilities and exploits left signature-matching systems struggling to detect attacks that had yet to be discovered.

As the need for protection grew, vendors introduced a more granular approach. This was called state tracking, and it could distinguish between a packet or file that had been compromised or lacked the required security configuration. This type of IDS avoided false positives by only detecting changes.

During this time, vendors started to stop bragging about how many different signatures they had in their IPS databases. Once IPS became in line with the traffic, they discovered that having thousands of signatures tended to slow down performance because each connection would have to be checked against all those different signatures.

Evolution of Policy Monitoring

The earliest IDS systems relied on statistical anomalies to identify threats. They build a profile of normal activity for all the communication protocols in your network and then compare that to each new incoming or outgoing packet. If a pattern matches a known threat, the system generates an alert and stops or blocks the activity. This approach is useful for monitoring ICS and other industrial systems where uptime is critical since a sudden change in traffic could impact operations.

More recent IDS and IPS solutions use signature-based technology to scan for existing malware attacks, just like antivirus software does. Some also incorporate heuristics and traffic pattern analysis algorithms often boosted by artificial intelligence (AI). These solutions are either network-based and monitor the entire network or host-based and only look at traffic to or from a single device or application.

The complexity of modern networks makes it hard for IDS and IPS to monitor them all effectively. These tools also have limited visibility on encrypted traffic. Some have decryption capabilities, which can slow performance and introduce a security risk. The best option is to choose a solution that fits your network and environment. For example, a small business may not need to invest in an IDS solution, while larger enterprises will want one as part of their overall security stack.

Evolution of Endpoint Policy Enforcement

IDS and IPS monitor network traffic to look for signs of attacks. They work proactively to keep threats out of the system by accepting or rejecting packets based on rules that identify specific patterns.

The first intrusion detection systems were signature-based, using bit patterns to recognize malware, but they had problems with false positives. Then the focus shifted to behavior-based detection, looking for changes in normal traffic to detect malicious activity, but they couldn’t catch new attacks as quickly.

To help solve these problems, IDS and IPS solutions started to include additional technology such as decryption, sandboxing, and threat intelligence. These added capabilities can speed up response times but add cost and complexity to the solution. They also limit visibility, as they can only take action on packets they can see, not on encrypted traffic that must be decrypted to be inspected.

IDS and IPS solutions are often used alongside other security methods, such as firewalls and SIEM, to provide more coverage and protect against attacks. To be effective, these tools require constant attention from the team responsible for monitoring and responding to them. Without this, they can become a source of false positives that slow down the network for no reason. 

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