IDS Versus IPS

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Intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) are an extension of intrusion prevention systems (IDSs). Just as you can have both a Host-based IDS (HIDS) and a network-based IDS (NIDS), you can also have a Host-based IPS (HIPS) and a network-based IPS (NIPS), but a NIPS is more common. If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of IDS and IPS. This post should help.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. Which of the following network tools includes sniffing capabilities?

A. IDS

B. WAP

C. VPN

D. NAC

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

IDS and IPS Comparison

There are two primary distinctions of an IPS when compared with an IDS:

  • All IPSs will detect and block attacks, whereas only active IDSs will detect and block attacks. A passive IDS only detects attacks and logs or records them.
  • An IPS is in-line with the traffic. In other words, all traffic passes through the IPS and the IPS can block malicious traffic.

Both IDSs and IPSs have protocol analyzer or sniffer capabilities. This allows them to monitor data streams looking for malicious behavior. An IPS can inspect packets within these data streams and block malicious packets before they enter the network.

In contrast, a NIDS has sensors that monitor and report the traffic. An active NIDS can take steps to block an attack, but only after the attack has started. The in-line configuration of the IPS allows an IPS to prevent attacks from reaching the internal network.

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As an example, the figure below shows the location of two network-based IPSs (NIPS 1 and NIPS 2). All Internet traffic flows through NIPS 1 giving it an opportunity to inspect incoming traffic. NIPS 1 protects the internal network by detecting malicious traffic and preventing attacks from reaching the internal network.

IDS Versus IPS

NIPS 2 is protecting an internal private network. As an example, imagine that Homer needs to manage some equipment within a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network in the nuclear power plant. The SCADA equipment is in the private network. The firewall next to NIPS 2 can have rules that allow traffic from Homer’s computer into the network, but block all other traffic. NIPS 2 will then inspect all the incoming traffic and block malicious traffic.

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This might seem like overkill, but many advanced persistent threats (APTs) have successfully installed remote access tools (RATs) onto internal systems through phishing or malware attacks. Once the RAT is installed, attackers can now attack from within. If an attacker began launching attacks on the private network from Homer’s system, the firewall wouldn’t block it. However, the NIPS will prevent this attack from reaching the private network.

Last, notice that each IPS is placed on the edge of the protected network. NIPS 1 is placed on the edge of the network between the Internet and the demilitarized zone (DMZ). NIPS 2 is on the edge of the SCADA network between it and the intranet, or local area network (LAN). This placement ensures that the NIPS can inspect all traffic going into the network.

Remember this

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a preventive control. It is similar to an active IDS except that it’s placed in-line with traffic. An IPS can actively monitor data streams, detect malicious content, and stop attacks in progress. It can also be used internally to protect private networks.


 

Q. Which of the following network tools includes sniffing capabilities?

A. IDS

B. WAP

C. VPN

D. NAC

Answer is A. Intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) include sniffing capabilities allowing them to inspect packet streams for malicious activity. None of the other tools have the capability of inspecting packets.

A wireless access point (WAP) provides access to a wired network for wireless devices.

A virtual private network (VPN) provides access to an internal network for remote users.

A network access control (NAC) system inspects clients to ensure they meet minimum security requirements.

See Chapter 4 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on IDSs and IPSs.

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You might also like to view this post: Intrusion Detection Systems Intrusion Prevention Systems.

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