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July 2004

Will intrusion prevention systems live up the hype?

Intrusion prevention systems (IPSes) are being touted as the latest, greatest savior of the network. And why not? Unlike signature-based intrusion detection systems (IDSes), which passively examine traffic and trigger alerts based on suspicious packets, IPSes perform intense application-layer inspection and actively block identified attacks. Where IDSes are good for after-you've-been-hacked forensic analysis, IPSes protect your digital backside while an attack is in progress. That's what the marketing brochures say, anyway. The reality, unfortunately, isn't quite so rosy. The state of the art in IPS is promising but immature and incomplete. Characteristic of many emerging markets, there's little vendor agreement about what IPSes are, what they should do and where they should live in the network. Some vendors pitch IPSes as perimeter-based devices intended to replace firewalls. Others position them in front of or behind firewalls in a belt-and-suspenders topology. Still others say IPSes should reside closer to or on the host ...

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