The IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) is a solution MTG regularly deploy for our clients at their network edge. The IPS has its place for any organisation that does business online and our deployments include solutions in financial services, service provider, banking and healthcare environments. What we frequently find is how many businesses do not understand the role of an IPS, and for those that do – they believe an IPS is only used in highly secure environments or by businesses who are constantly under the threat of attack (which, with opportunists – is every business on the internet).
Is antivirus software still relevant?
In a 2014 study by LastLine Labs, much of the newly released Malware went undetected by nearly half of the leading antivirus vendors. This is a worrying fact, especially given how many businesses rely solely on antivirus as their only form of defense! The general recommendation is a defense-in-depth approach, and an IPS is a key component of that strategy.
What is an IPS?
In brief, an IPS is a system that tries to identify threats and attacks through a combination of pattern recognition, anomalous behavior and traffic signatures. MTG predominantly implement IPS solutions at the network edge, so in the context of IPS – the systems scan all inbound and outbound network traffic, trying to spot potential attacks or behavior that typically proceeds any attack (e.g. network enumeration).
Fortinet describe an IPS as:
a technology protects networks from both known and unknown threats, blocking attacks that might otherwise take advantage of network vulnerabilities and unpatched systems.
FortiGate® IPS technology leverages a database of thousands of unique attack signatures to stop attacks that might evade conventional firewall defenses, plus anomaly-based detection that enables the system to recognize threats for which no signature has yet
How does an IPS defend the enterprise?
You may ask if your business has antivirus, then what sort of malware/attacks can an IPS prevent? The key thing to emphasise here is not every attack or exploit can be classified as a virus. Often antivirus can kick in after the horse has bolted – which is often too late.
Some examples of an IPS:
- Someone on the internet has opened 1000s of connections to your mail server. If this was to continue, the mail server would be starved of resources and be unable to function. An IPS would detect this anomalous behavior and block the attacker.
- A user has browser to a website that is trying to instantiate the Adobe PDF viewer in a malicious fashion, the IPS blocks this.
- An attack is scanning your IP range, the IPS identifies this behavior as an enumeration attempt, assumes ill intent – and blocks the attacker.
- A malicious web request is sent to your website, this specially crafted request is designed to exploit your web server, this is identified and blocked.
Furthermore leading IPS systems are linked to the Cloud, this link provides shared intelligence and a centralised threat resource. If an attack is experienced in the UK and the signature is well known, then this same signature can be distributed to other IPS systems.
The Fortinet IPS systems has several thousand pre-build signatures that are constantly updated. If your business has its own web application or portal, then a Custom signature can be written to help safeguard your system.
- When someone logs into your financial services portal, if they get their password wrong, the browser responds with “Error 2301 – Password incorrect”
- An IPS can log the number of this occurrences per IP address, if that exceeds a threshold, it will block the IP on the firewall!
- MTG typically deploy an IPS system as part of a firewall security solution.
- An IPS will scan traffic in real-time.
- This provides comprehensive security controls that compliment the security provided by antivirus and firewall solutions.
- An IPS protects against a whole range of attacks, not just viruses.
- The IPS can be installed on LAN or DMZ segments, alongside existing firewall environments.
Your business must plan to protect against all threats; not just current threats, but all threats, known and unknown. Speak to MTG about how an IPS can enhance the security within your enterprise.