Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


12:00 PM
Connect Directly

IPS: Still Playing Catch Up

IPS isn't dead, but it's still not taking enterprises by storm

Network intrusion prevention systems (IPSes) have taken plenty of heat for their limitations, but new products are still coming. (See IDS/IPS: Too Many Holes?)

Some non-traditional IPS vendors recently rolled out new products. Juniper Networks, for instance, added a new version of its Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDP) software, version 4.1, for its IDP line that provides more visibility into the application-layer traffic. And Check Point officially released its IPS-1 IPS, a rebranded version of the product it inherited in its acquisition of NFR Security.

IPS devices are indeed getting more sophisticated, but they still aren't a replacement for any other devices at the perimeter, notes Michael Rothman, president of Security Incite. "In general, these IPS announcements are nothing new. NetScreen [for example, had] talked about deep-packet inspection since before the Juniper acquisition."

"IPS is becoming commoditized," says Thomas Ptacek, a researcher with Matasano Security.

Juniper's emphasis with its new IDP Version 4.1 is better visibility into, and control of, application traffic. "Port and source IP don't work anymore to enforce policy," says Sanjay Beri, senior director of product management at Juniper. "The IDP software upgrade... helps in discerning between enterprise IM and consumer IM. Folks are not just using IM but transferring files [with it], so this application-level [view] lets you take control [of the traffic]."

This would help you determine that Joe is on YouTube on his laptop, not just that he's running heavy HTTP traffic, according to Juniper.

Today's IPS products are still playing catch up when it comes to client-side vulnerabilities and file format issues, however, says HD Moore, director of security research for BreakingPoint Systems. "The only trend I see is an increase in the number of protocol decoders and stateful inspection systems, combined with an increase in performance."

Moore says another new feature for IPSes is the ability to determine which operating system is under attack, and to prevent the attack using that knowledge. But even that's old news technology-wise, he says.

And the trouble with "learning" type IPSes, he says, is that they provide hackers more options for evasion. "They open up even more ways to evade," he says. "[An attacker] sends just enough of one protocol string to make it think the port is something else, and then send the real exploit."

Ptacek says IPSes haven't proven that they're indispensable to the enterprise. "The reality is IPS just doesn't do much for enterprises," he says. "We've had the technology for coming up on 10 years now. Enterprises have had a chance to see whether their lives get simpler with IPS or not, and my perception is, most of them don't see a major change."

What about those enterprises that run both IPSes and firewalls? "If you ask most enterprise security teams, they'll admit they could remove all their IPSes and not suffer a major security incident because of it," Ptacek says. "They can't say that about firewalls."

But Spartaco Cicerchia, manager of network infrastructure for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which runs various Juniper products including its IPS systems, says he runs IPSes with his firewalls because firewalls alone aren't enough. It's all about layers, he says.

"It's important to understand where we put IPS -- both inside and outside," he says. "I always like to know who's knocking at the door, and if somebody got in. We have two different [IPS] hardware platforms that" do this.

Cicerchia says the ultimate goal is determining behavioral trends and making decisions on what to do with traffic based on abnormal behavior.

Meanwhile, Moore says IPSes work best for stopping known threats, enforcing policies, and basically keeping an eye on the network. "What they aren't good at is stopping dedicated or intelligent attackers," he says. "I consider them just another type of fancy firewall."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • BreakingPoint Systems
  • Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP)
  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
  • Matasano Security LLC
  • Security Incite

    Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
    Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
    Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
    Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Current Issue
    7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
    This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
    Flash Poll
    2019 Online Malware and Threats
    2019 Online Malware and Threats
    As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    In xsltCopyText in transform.c in libxslt 1.1.33, a pointer variable isn't reset under certain circumstances. If the relevant memory area happened to be freed and reused in a certain way, a bounds check could fail and memory outside a buffer could be written to, or uninitialized data could be disclo...
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    HCL Traveler versions 9.x and earlier are susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks. On the Problem Report page of the Traveler servlet pages, there is a field to specify a file attachment to provide additional problem details. An invalid file name returns an error message that includes the entere...
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, improper validation of data may cause the system to write outside the intended buffer area, which may allow arbitrary code execution.
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    In Horner Automation Cscape 9.90 and prior, an improper input validation vulnerability has been identified that may be exploited by processing files lacking user input validation. This may allow an attacker to access information and remotely execute arbitrary code.