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Intrusion Detection, Intrusion Prevention, And Antivirus: The Differences

If you’ve ever researched network security strategies, you’ve probably come across phrases like intrusion detection hardware, intrusion prevention systems, and antivirus software. They all kind of sound like they might accomplish the same thing, don’t they? While it’s true that the goal of each of these platforms is similar—protecting your network—the ways they go about accomplishing this goal can be notably different.

In this post, we’ll explore a few of those differences along with some of the areas where they overlap.

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) vs. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)

We’ll begin with the two systems where the differences are often least apparent—intrusion prevention and intrusion detection. The goal of an IPS is to proactively stop potential network threats before they even have a chance to breach your system. An IPS can involve any combination of administrative, hardware, software, or technical controls to stop network threats before they start, thereby preventing any harm to your network.

Whereas an IPS does all of the work to proactively prevent threats in the first place, an IDS retroactively works to mitigate the damage done in the event of a network breach. Like an IPS, an IDS can involve a mixture of administrative, hardware, and software controls to identify and detect network abnormalities. In short, when your IPS works, your IDS doesn’t have to do anything. When your IPS fails, your IDS kicks in to clean up the mess. That’s why having both systems in place is critical to protecting your network both inside and out.

The Overlap Between IDS and IPS

When implementing an IDS or IPS, the systems can involve both software and physical network devices. Whether it’s a software program or a piece of hardware operating on your network, these systems possess a database of known malicious signatures that indicate a network threat. These signatures are updated in real time as your IDS and IPS platforms continually monitor network traffic for potentially malicious activity.

What About a Network Firewall?

You may be wondering: Shouldn’t a system’s firewall already be proactively detecting and preventing network threats before they enter the network? Chances are, your network already uses some sort of firewall, and if so, that means you already have an IPS platform in place.

Although every network security platform is going to look slightly different, often IPS software can be integrated into your existing firewall hardware. That way, your network has the added benefit of two layers of protection. Should a malicious anomaly make it past your firewall, the more stringent IPS software can provide a last point of defense to stop a network breach. At the same time, while a firewall may not alert network administrators of blocked malicious activity, an IPS often does.

If you wish to supplement your existing firewall defenses, developing your IPS strategies offers an ideal place to start. Whether you’re interested in incorporating an additional IPS device into your infrastructure or you’d rather bolster your prevention methods with IPS software, both can take network protection to the next level. It’s worth noting, however, that IPS tools are often more expensive than comparable IDS platforms. Additionally, IPS protocols are often fairly strict, and when misconfigured, they can end up blocking legitimate network traffic and inadvertently disrupting normal operations.

Protection From Unknown Network Threats

You may have noticed earlier that we explain how both an IDS and IPS protect you from known threats by either quarantining them or blocking them altogether. You’re probably wondering: What about the unknown threats? This is a legitimate concern but often doesn’t affect the majority of networks. Because malicious anomaly databases are updated in real time based on evolving threats, an IPS or IDS platform can protect you from just about any threat your network may come up against.

However, for organizations that are prone to repeated attacks, more adept threats, or just want to stay protected from the unknown, an IDS or IPS won’t cut it. That’s where the need for more advanced measures such as automated vulnerability assessments and hands-on penetration testing factor in. While a comprehensive IPS and IDS platform provides a solid foundation for protecting day-to-day operations, implementing vulnerability assessments and penetration testing keeps you protected from the unknown threats that haven’t made it into the IPS/IDS database.

The Role of Antivirus Protection

Now that we’ve covered the nuances of intrusion protection and intrusion detection, you’re likely wondering where antivirus software fits in the picture. Although IPS and IDS tools can involve hardware or software, antivirus protection tools are only ever software programs. At the same time, IPS and IDS tools monitor and protect every device connected to your network, but antivirus software only protects devices on which its installed. Lastly, while IPS and IDS platforms continually analyze incoming network packets, an antivirus program only scans for malicious files on a specific device.

If your IDS and IPS tools are doing their jobs, why would you need to install antivirus software on network computers? Remember, IDS and IPS platforms only protect devices that are connected to your network when they’re connected to the network. That means that if an employee takes a laptop and connects to WiFi at a client’s facility, their device won’t be protected.

Without effective antivirus software, computers, tablets, and phones remain vulnerable to threats when connected to other networks. They can even carry those threats back to your network when they reconnect, and that’s why all three of these platforms are crucial to comprehensive network protection.

The Los Angeles IT Support Experts

Has this post helped you realize that there’s more you should be doing to protect your network from both internal and external threats? If so, contact our cybersecurity experts at Be Structured today. Ready to learn more about network security? Read on about ransomware—the latest cybersecurity threat plaguing organizations in every industry. Quick hint: comprehensive IPS is one of the most effective ransomware protection strategies available today.

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