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IDS Versus IPS

June 22, 2021

With so many people working from home, having a sufficient level of security for your networks and data has never been more important. Systems managers at companies all over the world are trying to bolster their security, all the while managing a plethora of devices, many of which are owned and operated by users.

Naturally, this creates a unique challenge for IT professionals, and many have found themselves comparing various security approaches, specifically the value of IDS versus IPS, or Intrusion Detection Systems vs Intrusion Prevention Systems.

In this article, you’ll see the best options available to tackle unified threat management (UTM) and security management in pursuit of protecting your network.

We’ll take a look at these two systems (IDS and IPS), how they are not exclusive, and how they can actually work together by establishing a control system that will bolster your network security and provide a viable, ongoing security strategy.

IDS vs IPS: Strengths and Limitations

There are two main security tools at play when it comes to keeping your networks and data safe from cyberattack:

  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS)
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)

These cybersecurity methodologies both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the types of data you’re dealing with; the security requirements of your organization and what level of protection you require.

Let’s break it down and take a look at what each type of security involves (IDS vs. IPS) and which security philosophy may be appropriate for your organization. It’s also important to consider which suite of tools can reduce false positives.

Intrusion Detection Systems: A First Line of Defence

The best way to think about IDS is as a passive system that acts as a detection and monitoring tool. An IDS is set up to analyze and monitor traffic on your networks for indications of security compromises. This is because the system checks traffic patterns against a database of known security threats. This type of system is also known as a signature based IDS because the software compares incoming potential threats to known attack signatures during a cyber attack.

The key take-away about IDS is that these systems are incapable of taking action on their own. They are simply put in place to monitor traffic. A human or another piece of software must interpret the output of the IDS conclusion and make a decision on whether or not to execute further actions.

Because many organizations process large swaths of data, IDS is often a valuable way to collect post-mortem information about cyberattacks, since it monitors all systems at all times. If you do fall victim to a cyberattack, having an IDS can help you prevent further intrusions and then an audit team can examine precisely what went wrong. You can then iterate and keep your systems stable, in preparation for the next security incident.

Intrusion Prevention Systems: Active Protection

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) software takes a different tack to keeping your data secure. The IPS inhabits the same sort of space as a firewall: it takes up residence in the pocket between the world at large and a company’s internal network.

The main thing to keep in mind about IPS software is that it’s a proactive system, as opposed to its passive cousin, IDS. The IPS system works to proactively deny network traffic. The software makes this decision based on stored security profiles; if the data packet matches the profile of a known threat, the IPS will shut things down and lock them up tight. Since these systems can work autonomously, some IPS technologies use machine learning to improve detection capabilities. IPS works well to root out many types of digital threats in real time.

In short, IPS is a control system: it automatically makes decisions based on a consistent ruleset. Thus, operating an IDS makes it essential to update the database for recognized threats frequently so that the system can make decisions based on the most recent information. This is crucial, as cybercriminals can operate with astonishing rapidity and can iterate their tools extremely quickly to evade detection. If you’re still thinking about an IDS vs. an IPS, it’s important to realize the two technologies work best in tandem to deal with malicious traffic.


IDS and IPS can work together to form the bedrock of a solid cybersecurity strategy. Here are three benefits your organization can take away from installing these technologies together and having them operate in tandem:

  • Automation
    • Fortunately for busy IT professionals, once deployed, IDS and IPS technologies operate largely hands-off. That makes them perfect options for using them as part of your security stack. Even if you’re resource-limited, IPS in particular provides peace of mind that your network is protected from known threats.
  • Compliance
    • One certainty of life, if you’re an IT professional, is that you’re going to be facing regular audits and other compliance-enforcement procedures to ensure your organization is aligned with relevant standards. You’ll need to ask yourself: network IPS vs IDS? What’s the right solution? Which can give you the best spectrum of protection? Having IDS/IPS technologies operating in your stack is an easy way to meet compliance obligations and can provide valuable data in case you’re facing an audit.
  • Policy Enforcement
    • Another side benefit of deploying IPS/IDS tech is you can use the systems to enforce internal security policies, right at the network level. For example: if your organization supports only one type of VPN, you can specify how the IPS can automatically block traffic from other VPNs.

No matter what your security needs, having both IPS and IDS technology operating in your IT stack makes good sense in case you need to prove compliance or submit evidence for an audit.

To help ensure the stability and security of your network environment, work with Quadrant Security today and make sure you’re ready to meet the challenges ahead.

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