The Ultimate Guide to Understanding IPS 

Intellectual property (IP) is essential to business growth and innovation. Learn more about patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other IP types. 

The scarcity of IP addresses spawned new technologies and strategies to maximize usage, making TCP/IP more attractive for network managers. Learn how it all works with The Ultimate Guide to Understanding IPS. 

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What is an IPS? An IPS works as part of a network security architecture, typically in tandem with firewalls and other technology. Unlike an IDS, which detects attacks through mirroring data flows, an IPS stops threats by proactively filtering traffic to block access and improve performance for other security controls. 

An IPS can protect against both known and unknown threats, providing security teams with real-time protection that prevents attacks from doing any damage. IPS solutions use multiple methods to detect and defend against threats, including signature-based, anomaly-based, and policy-based. Advanced IPS solutions integrate these techniques with AI and machine learning to offer the best security without generating erroneous alarms. 

IPSs can be deployed inline, where network internals meet external internet traffic, or via span or tap technology. They monitor and analyze traffic in real time, comparing it against the known threat patterns and signatures of common attacks. The IPS can block or signal a potential threat, allowing additional investigation and human intervention. IPSs can also close security holes that firewalls leave open by blocking evasive command and control (C2) communications. 

What is an IPS Engine?

IPS engines are based on counter-rotating propeller pods built into the hull and shafts that run parallel to them. It enables significant fuel savings and achieves significantly greater distances between refueling. It also makes for a much quieter, smoother ride than traditional shaft lines. 

IPS can be deployed as a standalone device or as a consolidated IPS function within an AI firewall. IPS devices typically use signature-based or statistical anomaly-based detection to identify threats. 

The former uses a database of exploit- or vulnerability-facing signatures to identify malicious traffic. This method can reduce false positives (benign packets mislabeled as threats) but requires frequent signature updates to stay effective. 

The latter method utilizes a statistical anomaly detector to track suspicious patterns, such as slow scans or large numbers of connections from one host. It can detect attacks that evade detection by other components of the security system, such as layer two firewalls. The IPS engine can then initiate immediate responses to these threats, such as reassembling IP fragments and blocking network flows. 

What is an IPS Module? 

IPS modules monitor network traffic in real-time, comparing it against known attack patterns and signatures. They then block any malicious activity or traffic that violates network policies. It significantly reduces enterprise cybersecurity risk by stopping threats in their tracks rather than generating security alerts that require IT personnel to investigate and respond to. 

Traditionally, IPS solutions are deployed as standalone appliances (physical or virtual) at the network perimeter, alongside other security solutions that monitor for and protect against threats. This approach requires frequent updates to ensure the IPS can detect evolving threat campaigns. It can also result in excessive false positives, burdening security personnel with non-threat-related alerts that require them to focus on other duties. 

Generally, an IPS can be deployed as either a network intrusion prevention system (NIDS) or a host-based intrusion detection and prevention system (HIDS). IPS deployed as NIDS can access the entire network and use signature-based detection methods. These techniques involve predefined signatures identifying well-known attacks or statistical anomaly-based detection, randomly sampling traffic, and comparing it against a performance level baseline.

What is an IPS Policy? 

IPSs perform security checks on data packets, and if they spot dangerous activity, they act immediately to stop threats before they cause harm. They can do this because they sit in line, usually right behind the firewall, and inspect all traffic that moves through the network. It makes them a key component of multi-cloud network security architectures. 

They can also detect vulnerabilities and exploits and then protect against them by deploying a virtual patch. It works because IPS technologies are often aware of new vulnerabilities before they’re widely known. 

IPSs use different threat detection methods to analyze traffic. For example, signature-based detection identifies the characteristics and behaviors of a specific attack. It includes identifying a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack by detecting the pattern of fake Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) spoofing messages. Other detection methods include stateful protocol analysis and anomaly-based detection. IPSs may also redirect suspicious traffic to a honeypot or scrub the malicious parts of a stream of traffic. It reduces the burden on enterprise security teams and can help meet compliance requirements such as those for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). IPSs can work as standalone solutions or as a feature of unified threat management systems and next-generation firewall solutions. 

What is an IPS Configuration? 

An IPS configuration is the list of IPS rules defining preventive actions to detect and block threats. It includes IPS signatures (which Zscaler creates and manages, and those from industry-leading security vendors) and IPS policies that dictate how the Zscaler service should handle each kind of threat. 

Unlike intrusion detection systems, which observe network behavior for signs of threats, IPS solutions take action to thwart them in real time. Depending on the solution, this may include ending a hacker’s session, blocking traffic from specific IP addresses or domains, scrubbing malicious data from email attachments, dropping packets, or redirecting attackers to a fake honeypot. 

IPSs also monitor and report detected activity. They can be set up to deliver IPS notifications and alerts from other tools to a security information and event management system (SIEM) as part of an integrated cybersecurity system. It

enables SOCs to enrich IPS alerts with additional intelligence, filter out false alarms, and follow up on threats other tools fail to detect.