How to Secure Your Network Using IDS/IPS Tools

Network security helps organizations to add new devices, applications, and services without causing any harm to the network and its performance. It protects against internal and external network attacks, ensures the privacy of all the communications, controls access to information by identifying and authenticating users and systems, and makes the business reliable and efficient. While network security doesn’t rely on a single method and uses a set of barriers to protect sensitive information, it still has some loopholes which stop it from detecting advanced network attacks. Therefore, organizations cannot solely rely on network security layers to safeguard their critical business information. Having an additional layer of security ensures even if one solution fails, others can guard the critical data from a wide variety of network attacks.

Taking proactive monitoring measures and approaches like IDS and IPS (collectively known as IDPS) helps to eliminate the scope of network hindrance. Let’s understand what IDS and IPS are, and their role in monitoring and securing the network.

What Is IDS?

Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is an application used to monitor network traffic for malicious activities and policy breaching. When it detects any suspicious activity within a network, it sends alerts to the network administrators in the form email, SMS, and push notification. IDS is also capable of monitoring network packets (flowing between computers on a network) for data loss and malicious activities.

Types of Intrusion Detection System (IDS)

  • Network-based intrusion detection
  • File integrity check
  • Host-based intrusion detection
  • Logfile monitoring

What Is IPS?

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is used to monitor the network for suspicious activities. IPS is also known as the augmentation of IDS as they perform similar functions of monitoring network traffic. The major role of IPS is to monitor the attack, collect information about the attack, report to the administrator, and block the malicious activity. IPS also records the observed events to generate activity reports. It uses various response techniques including changing the security environment, the attack’s content, or successfully blocking the attack itself.

Types of Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

  • Network-based intrusion prevention system
  • Wireless intrusion prevention system
  • Network behavior analysis
  • Network behavior analysis

Two Common Ways to Detect and Prevent Malware Intrusions

Signature-Based Intrusion Detection

Signature-based IDS/IPS identifies network attacks based on specific patterns. These patterns can be in the form of 0’s, 1’s, and the number of bytes. IDS assigns unique patterns to specific attacks stored in the system as a future reference, often known as signatures. With these signatures, IDS/IPS can easily detect the malicious instruction sequence as they already exist in the system. The only drawback of signature-based intrusion detection is they’re vulnerable to new attacks.

Anomaly-Based Intrusion Detection

Anomaly-based IDS/IPS is designed to detect new and unknown malware attacks. This type of intrusion detection uses AI and machine learning capabilities to create reliable activity models by training and learning the behavior of malicious activities. Any new malware attack or malicious activity hitting the system is compared to these activity models and declared as suspicious if they aren’t listed in this model.

Difference Between IDS and IPS

Although IDS and IPS are used to read the network packets and compare the content patterns of the malicious activity with the database of known threats, they differ slightly in their functionalities. The significant difference between them is IDS helps in monitoring the network and detection of malicious activity while IPS is a control system designed to detect suspicious activity and block it based on a ruleset.

Secondly, IDS requires manual effort to view the results and take action soon after the detection of any malicious activity. The process can be time-consuming as the job entirely depends on the amount of traffic generated every single day. Whereas IPS, soon after the detection of suspicious activity, starts the investigation automatically without the need for manual support.

The primary purpose of IPS is to find malicious packets and stop them before they reach their target destination and harm the entire network. However, the database needs to be regularly updated, so IPS can quickly detect emerging threats.

Best IDPS (IDS+IPS) Tool

screenshot of solarwinds security event manager's rules dashboard showing all enabled rules

As IPS are more advanced and are also known as the augmentation of IDS, organizations prefer tools capable of performing the functionalities of both IPS and IDS. SolarWinds® Security Event Manager (SEM) is one of the best IDS/IPS tools designed to provide regular database updates and improve the security of your network. It’s a lightweight, ready-to-use, and cost-effective event management solution not only automating threat detection but also blocking harmful network threats automatically. It consists of several pre-built connectors to collect logs from various sources, parse them, and put them in a commonly readable format at a centralized location. The compliance reporting tools of SEM generates real-time reports about the malicious activities observed within a network. SEM also includes a Snort IDS log analyzer tool designed to perform better than the open-source, popular IDS/IPS software called Snort. SolarWinds Security Event Manager is one of the best enterprise-grade solutions available in 2020 with its free trial version of 30 days.

Conclusion

Network security is the major concern of organizations handling large networks. Packet loss, latency, data breaches, malware attack, are some common troubles an organization has to face daily. This not only impacts the efficiency of the business operations but also makes the business unreliable. With the use of IDS and IPS applications, it’s possible to identify potential threats and block them before they harm the organization’s network. SolarWinds Security Event Manager is one such tool designed to take care of the events, update the database regularly, and resolve the issues automatically without the need for manual support. Teams can also customize features like reporting, alerts, and more to meet their requirements.