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Unveiling the Potential Attacks Detected and Prevented by an Intrusion Prevention System

by Nyra

An IPS monitors your network around the clock, looking for the first signs of a cyberattack. It spots things like known vulnerabilities and exploits and proactively reacts to stop them from entering or spreading throughout your system.

Detection methods include signature-based, statistical anomaly-based, and network behavior analysis. IPSs also prevent attacks by blocking or removing suspicious traffic at the network level.

Intrusion Detection

As the first step in any cybersecurity setup, an intrusion detection system (IDS) monitors network traffic and identifies potential threats. IDSs are broken into two broad categories based on where their sensors reside: host-based and network-based. A network-based IDS uses sensor data from across the entire network, while a host-based IDS analyzes traffic at one host or endpoint. Both can be used to detect certain types of attacks, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and other forms of malware.

Network-based IDSs are more effective at detecting new attacks because they can use various methods to identify suspicious activity, including signature-based and anomaly-based monitoring. These techniques compare current activity with a set of pre-determined attack patterns so they can quickly recognize known threats. However, attackers can use tricks such as fragmentation to hide malicious activity by breaking packets into smaller pieces, making it difficult for an IDS to detect.

Anomaly-based IDS monitoring takes a snapshot of existing system files and compares it against the previous image to see if any files have changed. This method is more accurate than signature-based IDS but can still be prone to false positives. Some IDSs can take action when they detect a threat, such as alerting administrators, dropping the packets, or blocking the source IP address.

Intrusion Prevention

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a network security application that monitors network traffic and systems for suspicious activity and identifies malicious threats. It is often deployed with an IDS to provide a complete threat detection and response solution. Moreover, it’s also essential to learn what attacks are detected by an IPS.

Unlike IDS, which only detects an attack and then alerts the user, an IPS takes action against threats. This may include blocking a malicious IP address, killing malware processes, or quarantining files. IPS solutions can also be used to protect a network against attacks that exploit vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability is discovered, there is a window of opportunity for exploitation until the vulnerability is patched, and an IPS can quickly block these types of attacks.

Signature-based IPS solutions compare all incoming traffic, files, or activity to a database of known signatures of common threats and malware. This is a great way to stop well-known attacks but isn’t as effective against new, unknown attacks. On the other hand, behavioral-based IPS solutions learn what constitutes normal behavior through various methods and then look for deviations from this profile to generate an alert.

Another essential function of an IPS is to remove or replace any malicious content left on the network after an attack has been detected and logged. This can be accomplished by repackaging payloads, removing header information, or deleting infected files.

Data Loss Prevention

As cyberattacks continue to target data and exploit vulnerabilities, businesses need more visibility into how sensitive information is moved. That’s where DLP, or data loss prevention, comes in. A DLP solution detects and prevents threats like malware, phishing, ransomware, data exfiltration, and compromised privileged accounts from penetrating security perimeters and stealing sensitive information or exposing it to the public.

DLP monitors and protects data in motion, use, and rest. It also helps ensure compliance with regulations and internal policies. It does this through several ways, including alerts, quarantine, and data encryption.

IPS solutions have several methods to identify malicious activity and stop it from occurring, including signature-based detection, which matches suspicious packets with known attack patterns. This method can lead to false positives (benign packets mislabeled as threats) and is ineffective against new and unknown exploit variants.

Another way to find attacks is through a stream-based scanning engine. This type of technology examines data inline at high speeds to identify known and unknown threats, such as obfuscated or encrypted malware, and then blocks the activity. Unlike intrusion detection systems, which must alert human administrators after finding a threat, this approach can take immediate action to thwart bad actors. Lastly, an IPS can prevent attacks by identifying and blocking the command-and-control channels that attackers create to communicate with a host machine. This virtual patch provides protection against malware that uses these channels to download and execute additional tools, steal more sensitive information, or encrypt files and ransomware that requires payment for decryption.

Network Security

A security solution can do more than identify a cyberattack—it can prevent it from occurring. A network security device will monitor both inbound and outbound traffic to detect activity that could lead to an attack. It analyzes system files against malware signatures, scans processes for suspicious behavior, and tracks user activity to see malicious intent. If a threat is detected, the security device can kick an offending user off the network or alert security personnel.

An IPS will also monitor network-level activities and take action based on predefined formulas. It may respond by blocking incoming traffic, killing a malicious process, quarantining a file, or redirecting the attacker to a honeypot (a decoy asset that makes the hacker think they’ve succeeded when it’s the security team watching their activity). IPS solutions can be software applications installed on an endpoint, dedicated hardware devices connected to the network, or delivered as cloud services.

A common way for adversaries to access a company’s network is through vulnerabilities. It only takes one to launch a successful breach and infection or to install ransomware that locks down data and demands payment for its return. An IPS can block the exploitation of critical vulnerabilities and prevent attacks that attempt to exploit them. It can also implement micro-segmentation to reduce your organization’s attack surface and contain the impact of a breach should it happen.

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