How IPS & IDS Work Together for Threat Remediation

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The modern business should not only be looking at customer engagement strategy and how it  improves the customer experience; they should also be looking at how to improve security and protect their data and their customers. Your security software – or hardware – is as essential to your business as your call center phone software and CI

Cyber attacks are assaults by criminals from a single computer or from a network that can target one computer, multiple computers, or entire networks. It is also worth remembering that if you have staff working remotely, you may need extra layers of security. 

As criminals become more sophisticated, so too must the methods utilized to combat them. Two of the most important tools to fight – or prevent – cyber attacks are IPS (intrusion prevention systems) and IDS (intrusion detection systems). 

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IPS: Your Front Door Guard

IPS (intrusion prevention system) is a form of cybersecurity that’s designed to prevent cybercriminals from intruding into your system or network. An IPS is constantly monitoring your system. 

If your IPS detects an attempted intrusion, it alerts the administrators and takes action to try and prevent this. It may close the access points being used to mount the attack or reconfigure your firewalls to prevent similar attacks. 

IPS can also be used internally to identify whether any of your company’s security policies are being breached and if employees are violating any of those rules.

Criminals may look to breach any part of your system, from individual computers to your ACD phone system. 

1. Rejection based on ruleset

When you install an IPS, you will configure a ruleset that instructs the IPS as to what protection to provide, where it is applied, and what actions to take if those rules are ‘broken’. 

IPS is a passive system that operates autonomously with no need for human interaction other than to regularly update the IPS with any new known threats. The basic job of an IPS is to examine all data packets and see if they match any threats listed on its database. 

2. Threat data and threat intelligence

Knowing the definitions of the terms used across your digital map can help make things clearer when making plans. From the chatbot definition to that of VoIP calls, the digital world often has a dizzying array of terms.  

Threat data is a collection or summary of potential threat sources. This can include known malicious domains, IP addresses, and hash values (that identify data). 

Once you add context to that threat data, it becomes threat intelligence. This is when your information has been scheduled to be analyzed and organized to give the cybersecurity professionals responsible for protecting your company a better view and understanding of the threats you face.

3. False positives

A false positive occurs when your IDS wrongly identifies a particular activity as a threat and your IPS prevents that activity from happening. While annoying, the real danger lies in your security measures causing a false negative to happen.

A false negative is when your security systems identify that an activity is acceptable and does not go against your established rulesets. In other words, a failure to prevent an attack that could cause significant damage. 

It is important to recognize that security management is as important, if not more, than other aspects of your business such as call managing and cloud telephony

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IDS: Your Virtual Building Security

If IPS is your guard at the front door, then IDS (intrusion detection system) is your internal security patrolling your building. Your IDS can be either software or hardware-based.. 

IDS will monitor all traffic that moves through your network or on your system looking for any sort of suspicious activity. When it finds any, it will send out an alert to system administrators and/or your cybersecurity team. Network attacks are not only annoying, they can lead to major financial losses. There are two types of IDS:

1. NIDS (network-based intrusion detection system)

This type of IDS works at your network level and monitors all traffic, both incoming and outgoing. It analyses this traffic and looks for any unusual patterns or behaviors. When it identifies one, it flags it and sends an alert. It will also raise a warning if there are significant changes in packet sizes or loads. 

2. HIDS (host-based intrusion detection system)

A more focused version of IDS, HIDS concentrates its efforts on an individual host. It will take snapshots of activity on the host and look to see if there are changes over time that indicate any malicious activity involving that host.

If you have an individual computer or small network using or storing more sensitive material, then HIDS can identify any changes in OS files, logs, software activity, and more. 

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IDS: Need for Commands

One issue many cyber professionals highlight about IDS is that it is not completely autonomous nor is it self learning. To utilize it to its full effect, it needs a high degree of human interaction for making graphs and more. 

This need for commands is why IDS is not a suitable standalone solution. To be totally effective, it needs to be partnered with IPS or other cybersecurity solutions in the cloud infrastructure

IDS: Reviewing Detection Results

If using an IDS system on its own, there is a requirement to review any results when the system detects anomalies. The problem with this is that you are looking at events that may have already caused significant damage.

But where you have your IDS ‘partnered’ with other solutions, reviewing these results allows you to add new rules and to program the IDS to detect new threats that have been identified. These reviews are an essential part of improving your cyber defenses. 

IDS: detection vs. prevention

As a standalone solution, IDS does not offer any tangible prevention. It is merely a detection tool and needs other systems to act on any threats it identifies (or for a human to act on them). 

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The Ultimate Cybersecurity Strategy

As mentioned, IPS and IDS working on their own may not offer sufficient levels of protection. But when they work together, they create UTM (unified threat management). UTM can bring together several different security features onto one single hardware platform.

1. Automation

UTM systems that utilize IPS and IDS are usually automated. They require little human action or interaction and operate autonomously. This can offer a great advantage to organizations with fewer resources and will protect your network and systems to a high degree. 

2. Compliance 

Compliance is a major consideration for most businesses. The regulations and laws governing how you store and work with sensitive data will often require stringent security measures to be in place. A UTM system that implements IDS and IPS solutions together will tick most if not all regulatory boxes. 

3. Policy Enforcement 

As well as external compliance, a UTM systemw with IDS and IPS also helps you to enforce all your internal security policies at your network and private cloud solutions. So if your network only uses one VPN, your UTM system can be configured to block any traffic from other VPNs.  

Vulnerability Assessments

IPS and IDS are designed to usually work within established networks. But there are other potential threats if you are using web applications. 

A vulnerability assessment is an essential step in ensuring your company’s systems, network, web applications, and data are safe from potential cybercrime. How often you have these will depend on your size and type of business. The best practice is to have them around once per quarter. But compliance and regulatory needs may dictate a more frequent schedule. 

Once the assessment is complete, you can then look at strategies to solve any issues and to improve your security level. A large part of any requirements that you may need to consider includes compliance and regulations on storing and holding sensitive data such as financial data. This includes things such as the EU’s GDPR rules that came into effect in 2018. 

Compliance is key for modern businesses, especially in the areas of eCommerce websites or businesses that handle sensitive data. Even the use of a predictive dialer is now covered by regulations. 

While it may be fair to say that there are a lot of generic cybersecurity risks out there, the nature of your business may make you a specific target for cybercriminals.  A good vulnerability assessment means that you recognize and understand any particular risks you face. This allows you to build the defense system you need. 

Web Application Security 

If your business is web based in any way, then you also need to consider web application security. Threats may come from anywhere and can be fairly simple or incredibly complex in nature. 

While IPS and IDS will look to ringfence and protect your company network, you also need to consider web application security to ensure that your websites, services, and applications are also protected from attack. 

There are various ways to protect your websites and applications from vulnerabilities. These include using constantly updated encryption, ensuring high levels of authentication are in place, carrying out regular vulnerability assessments, and fixing any discovered vulnerabilities. 

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Threat Remediation

To recap a little, here are some ways you can prevent and remediate possible threats:

Safeguarding the database

Keep the sensitive information kept in a database safe, there are several steps you can take:

  • Keep the database on a completely separate device from web servers
  • Use firewalls
  • Encrypt your data
  • Minimize access to the database and keep tabs on who accesses it and when

Identifying the threats

Knowing what kind of threat you may face is the first step to take towards fixing the problem. Here are some common types of attack:

  • XSS (cross site scripting): This vulnerability allows the cybercriminal to insert scripts into your website or page in order to impersonate a user, to access and steal important information, or to deceive the user or site into giving out sensitive info.
  • DoS (Denial of Service)/DDoS(distributed denial-of-service): Perhaps the most commonly known type of attack due to frequency and media reporting. Using different methods, the cybercriminals will attack a server or its infrastructure with wave after wave of vectors. This will eventually overload the server and it will either perform very slowly or will deny service to legitimate users. 
  • SQi (SQL injection): This may happen if there are vulnerabilities in how your database performs searches. A cyber attack will exploit these vulnerabilities so as to gain access to data (or to destroy it), to access sensitive info, and to create new user permissions. 
  • Data Breach: This happens when there is a cyber attack (though it can happen accidentally too) and involves the release of user or customer information that can include sensitive or financial information. 

Configuration alterations

  • Reconfigure your firewalls to prevent attacks. This may also be done automatically after a threat is detected.
  • Configure a ruleset that helps your software to know what constitutes an attack in the first place.
  • Remember also to configure your UPN systems to block attacks from other VPNs, if you only use one VPN.

Software updates

As well as configuring rulesets and encrypting data, it is important to keep software updated to prevent attacks. IPS software will update automatically. IDS will require some human assistance.

Analyzing security blind spots

It is important to not only stay updated and predict types of attacks, but to regularly check in with your software and keep an eye for any possible chinks in the armor. A security team should be frequently checking for this and carrying out vulnerability assessments. 

Takeaway 

IDS and IPS are critical components in a modern cybersecurity defense system. Working in partnership, they can offer you a high level of threat remediation and protection. As the methods used by cybercriminals become more sophisticated, the defenses put in place to prevent such attacks also evolve and become equally – if not more – sophisticated. 

You may well use cloud integration software to retrieve and analyze data. Even at that level, this data has a high value, and as with any data, you want a certain level of protection.

Even if you are managing your own business in the SME sector, then security is something you need to consider. Try looking at packages from reliable providers to find a solution. How good your security provisions are can be an integral part of your brand communication strategy.

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