Understanding IDS and IPS - How They Protect Your Network From Cyber Threats

In addition to spotting attacks and closing sessions, IPS can take other actions, such as strengthening firewalls. They can even help train employees to avoid threats that might slip through.

Unlike IDS, which only monitors traffic, an IPS stops threats from entering the internal network. To do this, they use a database of known threats. Some of these are signature-based, while others are anomaly-based. Your network is constantly monitored by IDS/IPS, which detect potential incidents and record their details. These incidents are prevented and security administrators are promptly notified.

Real-time Detection

With real-time threat detection, a risk detection tool can monitor all user actions on your network. This enables your cybersecurity firm or IT team to identify potential threats early on, preventing damage to your business.

This can include any suspicious malware downloads, unauthorized user behavior, and other activity that could risk your network architecture or website security. For example, suppose cybercriminals exploit any vulnerabilities on your website and can access sensitive data. In that case, this can undermine the integrity of your brand and make it difficult to recover from a security breach.

These known threats can be stopped with the right cybersecurity tools and solutions. A robust system like NDR (Network Detection and Response) can monitor all your network assets, resources, endpoints, URLs, and hardware and assess them for any security risks in real time. This can help protect your business from common threats like malware, ransomware, and Distributed Denial of Service attacks – common during geopolitical unrest as in 2020.

Passive Detection

In this type of detection, a device monitors network traffic and looks for patterns that indicate cyberattacks. This approach can help thwart attacks from both outside and inside the network.

A computer infected with malware can cause serious harm, such as stealing data or encrypting files until a ransom is paid. Some malicious software used in passive attacks include spyware, botnets, and particularly dangerous ransomware.

The first step an IDS takes after discovering a potential incident is to alert the user. An IPS can do this, but it also performs automated responses to the discovered threat, making it more effective at protecting your network in real time.

Defensive Detection

Unlike an IDS that only detects a possible attack and notifies an administrator of the issue, an IPS can stop the threat. This makes it a much more effective network security solution.

An IPS can take proactive actions such as blocking malicious traffic sources, dropping malicious packets, and sending alerts to the user. It also utilizes signature-based and anomaly detection to identify vulnerabilities, exploitation attempts, and performance anomalies.

Many IPS systems are built into firewalls, routers, and gateway devices. This makes them much more effective because they align with network traffic. This can also reduce the total cost of ownership for your network security.

Some networks have critical infrastructure that must be up and running at all times, so an IPS system isn’t always an option for these situations. These systems have high availability requirements, and blocking all suspicious (and potentially dangerous) traffic can negatively impact their operations. A better alternative may be to use an IDS that can detect an incident and alert a human operator without interfering with system usability.

Adaptive Detection

An IPS works with an IDS to identify and prevent destructive cyber attacks. Unlike an IDS, which only raises alerts, an IPS can actively respond to detected threats based on its configuration and policy settings.

This can include blocking traffic, shutting down unauthorized systems, removing malware from infected machines, or stopping attackers from progressing into your network. This is a critical difference between an IDS and an IPS, so some organizations are moving away from IDS solutions in favor of a more comprehensive IPS offering.

Signature-based IDS systems use pre-existing patterns and a large library of known attack signatures to detect suspicious activity. These may include scanning file hashes, sending information to known malicious domains, or byte sequences linked to phishing attacks.

An IPS is more advanced and uses anomaly-based detection to recognize new types of malicious behavior appearing on your network. It can then compare these against a knowledge base and take action accordingly. Depending on the configuration of your solution, this can include either raising an alert or automatically remediating the threat.


While IDS is passive, IPS go one step further and actively take action against threats. This is a critical part of the process, preventing attackers from causing further damage or establishing a foothold within your network.

IPS can do some things to defend against attacks, such as sending an alarm, dropping detected malicious packets, or blocking traffic from a specific IP address. It can also use stateful protocol analysis detection and anomaly-based detection.

IDS systems can be prone to false positives where they mistake normal network activity for a security threat. The best IDS systems can minimize this risk using various techniques, including heuristics. They can also learn from previous alerts to recognize patterns indicative of a security threat.

This is particularly important for detecting zero-day threats. They can also provide a log of the alerts they send so you can review them and determine if further action is required. You will often want to deploy a hybrid IDS solution that utilizes signature- and anomaly-based detection.