An intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) is a key security strategy in the enterprise environment. An IDPS can protect organizations from cyberattacks and provide an audit log for administrators to do post-security operation analysis.
A decade ago, intrusion detection and prevention technology was regarded as a luxury for enterprises with larger budgets. Today, protection against internal and external threats is an absolute necessity.
After all, organizations can’t survive if they lose their data to malicious attacks or leak proprietary information to competitors. And yet even in today’s cybersecurity-conscious world, many businesses either don’t have proper security systems in place or are unaware of which ones are best suited to their needs.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cyber crime costs are expected to grow by 15% per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. To avoid devastating data breaches, enterprises should deploy high-quality IDPS solutions early.
Here are our picks for the top intrusion detection and prevention systems:
- Cisco Secure Next-Generation IPS: Best for deep visibility into network traffic (Read more)
- Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention: Best for large enterprise (Read more)
- Check Point IPS: Best IDPS for visibility and reporting (Read more)
- OSSEC HIDS: Best IDPS for performing rootkit detection and monitoring file integrity (Read more)
- Snort: Best for budget-conscious businesses (Read more)
- Trellix Intrusion Prevention System: Best for hybrid clouds (Read more)
- Alert Logic Managed Detection and Response: Best for real time threat analysis and behavioral analysis (Read more)
- CrowdSec: Best for real-time threat intelligence (Read more)
- SolarWinds Security Event Manager: Best for large organizations with complex security needs (Read more)
- Security Onion: Best for performing network security monitoring and incident response (Read more)
Top intrusion detection and prevention systems: Comparison chart
|Best for||24/7 network monitoring||Reporting capability||User interface||Pricing|
|Cisco Secure Next-Generation IPS||Deep visibility into network traffic||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end|
|Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention||Large enterprises||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end|
|Check Point IPS||Visibility and reporting||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end|
|OSSEC HIDS||Performing rootkit detection and monitoring file integrity||Yes||Yes||No||Low-end (Starts at $55 per endpoint per year)|
|Snort||Budget-conscious businesses||Yes||Yes||Yes||Low-end (Starts at $29.99 per sensor per year)|
|Trellix Intrusion Prevention System||Hybrid cloud||Yes||Yes||Yes||Moderately priced|
|Alert Logic Managed Detection and Response||Real time threat analysis and behavioral analysis||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end|
|CrowdSec||Real-time threat intelligence||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end|
|SolarWinds Security Event Manager||Large organizations with complex security needs||Yes||Yes||Yes||High-end (Starts at $2,877)|
|Security Onion||Performing network security monitoring and incident response||Yes||Yes||Yes||Free|
- Key features of intrusion detection and prevention systems
- Benefits of working with intrusion detection and prevention systems
- How do I choose the best intrusion detection and prevention systems for my business?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Cisco Secure Next-Generation IPS
Best for deep visibility into network traffic
By leveraging big data analytics and machine learning (ML) techniques, Cisco Secure NGIPS can detect advanced attacks and offer granular protection. The platform leverages threat intelligence, in-depth visibility into traffic flows, real-time analysis of global threat information, and a deep understanding of attack patterns to provide high-fidelity detection for known and unknown threats.
It also offers granular policy controls that allow security teams to determine which applications are permitted to access specific network resources at any given time. And it enables security analysts to quickly identify and block even highly complex DDoS attacks with integrated technology from Arbor Networks.
Cisco NGIPS pricing
Pricing information is not provided on the Cisco website. You can contact the Cisco sales team or a verified partner for quotes. Publicly available data shows that the solution price ranges from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands, depending on your needs.
Cisco NGIPS key features
- Cisco secure IPS receives new policy rules and signatures every two hours, keeping your security updated.
- To secure mission-critical assets, guest access, and WAN connections, Secure IPS can be deployed for in-line or passive inspection and implemented at the perimeter or data center distribution/core.
- It provides real-time visibility into your network’s users, apps, devices, threats, and vulnerabilities.
- The solution allows you to rapidly detect, prevent, contain, and remediate advanced threats integrated with AMP (advanced malware protection) and sandboxing solutions.
- Cisco NGIPS provides global threat visibility and analysis that generates over 35,000 IPS rules as well as integrated IP-, URL-, and DNS-based security information for real-time threat protection.
Cisco NGIPS pros
- Round-the-clock network monitoring.
- Threat intelligence.
- Flexible deployment.
- It receives new policy rules and signatures every two hours.
Cisco NGIPS cons
- Some users reported that the documentation is insufficient.
- The interface can be improved.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention
Best for large enterprises
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention safeguards your network against traditional attacks and targeted, advanced threats perpetrated by organized cyberattacks. It offers extensive exploit, malware, and command-and-control (C2) security.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention also provides log management, comprehensive exploit, malware, and C2 protection to protect the enterprise from cyberthreats.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention pricing
Pricing information is not provided on the Palo Alto website. You can book a demo to get a personalized product recommendation for your enterprise. Some users reported that the solution license cost is expensive, although it can vary greatly.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention key features
- Palo Alto Threat Prevention uses Snort and other advanced IPS technologies with NGFW to create a unified security policy rule base.
- Inspects all traffic threats regardless of port, protocol, or encryption, and provide visibility into attacks to ensure organization safety.
- Automatically blocks known malware, vulnerability exploits, and C2.
- Automates security to get automatic updates for new threats.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention pros
- It includes WideFire malware protection.
- Provides fast and regular automatic updates.
- The solution has a helpful support team.
Palo Alto Networks Threat Prevention cons
- Some users reported that the solution is complex to manage.
- High-end pricing.
Check Point IPS
Best for visibility and reporting
Check Point IPS provides a comprehensive NGFW, with integrated IDS/IPS functionality that combines real-time attack detection and blocking with network security policy enforcement. It can be deployed as a physical or virtual appliance.
With its ability to stop attacks before impacting your organization, Check Point protects enterprises against cyberthreats, including malware and targeted attacks. It uses a combination of signatures, protocol validation, anomaly detection, and behavioral analysis to detect intrusions in real time. You can also use it to enforce security policies across multiple devices on your network from one centralized location.
Check Point IPS pricing
Check Point IPS key features
- With virtual patching, Check Point keeps its management server and security gateways updated every two hours. The administrator is also alerted to any new IPS protections, ensuring they are informed.
- By activating IPS on your current Check Point NGFW, you can reduce deployment time and save costs by using existing security infrastructure. In addition, the optional detect-only mode configures all of your current defenses to merely detect traffic and not block it, allowing you to assess your profile without danger of interruption.
- Check Point IPS defenses include scans for protocol and behavioral anomalies; this enables Check Point to identify vulnerabilities in well-known protocols like HTTP, SMTP, PO3, and IMAP before an exploit is discovered.
- Check Point identifies and blocks DNS tunneling attempts that indicate data leakage or evasion.
Check Point IPS pros
- Prevents tunneling attempts that may indicate data leakage.
- Integrates with SmartEvent, allowing a security operations center (SOC) analyst to respond to the highest priority event first.
- Good reporting capability.
Check Point IPS cons
- Technical support can be improved.
- The solution is cost prohibitive.
Best IDS for performing rootkit detection and monitoring file integrity
OSSEC is an open-source, host-based intrusion detection system that performs log analysis, file integrity checking, policy monitoring, rootkit detection, real-time alerting, and active response. It runs on most operating systems (OSs), including Linux, OpenBSD, and Mac OS X.
Daniel Cid originally developed the software and it has been under constant development since 2004. OSSEC can be deployed either stand-alone or as a client/server architecture.
OSSEC HIDS pricing
OSSEC is a free and open source tool. It is available in three versions: OSSEC, which is the regular version, OSSEC+, which includes additional capabilities and Atomic OSSEC, which is an enterprise version.
The enterprise plan features clustering, agent management, reporting, security, vulnerability management, and third-party systems integration. Pricing starts at $55 per endpoint per year, or less than $5 per month.
OSSEC HIDS key features
- OSSEC leverages a log-based intrusion detection system to actively monitor and analyze data from multiple log data points in real time.
- Respond in real time to system threats and changes through firewall rules, third-party integrations like CDNs, and help portals and self-healing measures.
- OSSEC maintains a forensic copy of data as it changes over time for files and Windows registry settings.
- OSSEC performs compliance audits at the application and system level for a variety of common standards, such as PCI DSS and CIS standards.
- OSSEC processes file-level analysis to detect malicious applications and rootkits.
OSSEC HIDS pros
- Real time community threat sharing.
- Forensic file integrity monitoring (FIM).
- Log-based intrusion detection.
- Host based zero-load vulnerability scanning.
- Native Cloud Provider Integration (AWS, Azure, GCP).
OSSEC HIDS cons
- OSSEC default rules are overwritten on every upgrade.
- The OSSEC Web UI is currently unmaintained and deprecated.
Best for budget-conscious businesses
Snort is an open-source network IDPS developed in 1998 by Martin Roesch, founder and former CTO of Sourcefire. It performs real-time traffic analysis and packet logging on IP networks. It can also detect malicious traffic in your networks, such as DDoS attacks, worms, or viruses.
Snort uses a flexible rule-based language to describe traffic it should collect or pass as well as a detection engine that uses pattern matching rules to identify suspected malicious traffic.
The software can be run in both in-line blocking and passive monitoring modes. In-line blocking mode inspects packets passing through a router or switch, while passive monitoring mode listens to network traffic but does not block any packets.
While Snort is a free, open-source tool, it also offers three subscription-based product rule sets. Snort’s personal rule set subscription costs $29.99 each for a one-year subscription, and Snort’s business rule set subscription costs $399 per sensor for a one-year subscription. For the Snort integrator, prospective buyers can contact the Snort team for details.
Snort key features
- Snort offers real-time network traffic monitoring, giving users real-time alerts when it detects suspicious packets or threats on IP networks.
- OS fingerprinting is based on the idea that each platform has its TCP/IP stack. Therefore, Snort can be used to identify the OS platform used by a system that connects to a network.
- Snort can be run on any OS, including Linux and Windows, and any network environment.
- Snort organizes rules by protocol, such as IP and TCP, then by port, and finally by those with and without content.
- Snort’s packet logger mode allows it to record packets to disk. It captures all packets and organizes them by IP address in this mode.
- It has a large and active user community, allowing for easy access to support, updates, and additional resources.
- It’s relatively lightweight and does not consume excessive system resources.
- Its lack of GUI might make it to be less user-friendly for some administrators.
- Limited centralized management.
Trellix Intrusion Prevention System
Best for hybrid cloud
Trellix Intrusion Prevention System, formerly McAfee Network Security Platform, has advanced threat protection and malware detection. It uses a combination of deep packet inspection (DPI) and threat intelligence to detect unknown attacks, classify threats, and stop attackers in their tracks.
Trellix provides visibility into data packets for more granular control over network traffic, which enables you to block malicious content before it reaches end users. The platform also provides security analytics that help you identify vulnerabilities across your network infrastructure, so you can quickly patch them before hackers exploit them.
Trellix’s IPS pricing
Trellix doesn’t advertise its product pricing on its website. The company encourages buyers to discuss their needs with an in-house expert before sending out personalized quotes based on your needs.
Trellix IPS key features
- Inbound SSL decryption supports Diffie-Hellman (DH) and Elliptic-Curve DH ciphers using an agent-based, shared key solution without impacting sensor performance.
- Allowlist/blocklist enhancements to support Structured Threat Information eXpression (STIX).
- With Trellix, inspection of virtual environments is enabled.
- HTTP response decompression support is available.
- Trellix offers IP defragmentation and TCP stream reassembly.
- Users have access to features for automation and integration into endpoint security.
Trellix’s IPS pros
- Real-time signature-based intrusion prevention.
- Extend botnet intrusion detection and network analysis.
- Flexible deployment.
Trellix’s IPS cons
- It can be complex to configure and manage.
- Infrequent false positives.
Alert Logic Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
Best for real time threat analysis and behavioral analysis
Alert Logic is part of Fortra’s comprehensive cybersecurity portfolio. Alert Logic provides comprehensive IDS coverage for public cloud, SaaS, on-premises, and hybrid environments. It provides protection against both known and zero-day threats and continuous network monitoring.
Alert Logic MDR has an always-on threat monitoring capability, allowing it to detect network intruders more quickly and faster, leading to shorter attacker dwell time and less environmental damage. The managed security solution is designed to help organizations detect and respond to intrusions in real-time by continuously monitoring all devices on a company’s network for suspicious activity.
Alert Logic MDR pricing
Alert logic offers a pay-as-you-grow model, and pricing starts at 25 nodes. Although exact pricing information is not available on the vendor’s website, they offer three pricing plans: Alert Logic MDR essentials, Alert Logic MDR professional, and Alert Logic MDR enterprise. For more information on pricing, prospective buyers can request a quote or book a demo.
Alert Logic MDR key features
- Internal and external vulnerability scanning.
- Log collection and search with 12-month retention.
- User behavior monitoring.
- Real-time reporting and dashboards.
- Weblog analytics and cloud change monitoring.
Alert Logic MDR pros
- Identify lateral movement, brute force attacks, privilege escalation, ransomware, and command and control exploits.
- Users reported good experience with technical support.
Alert Logic MDR cons
- Complex initial setup and configuration process.
- The user interface can be made better and less clunky.
Best for real-time threat intelligence
CrowdSec is an open-source collaborative IPS platform that leverages the community to detect and prevent security threats. Using a combination of ML, predictive analytics, and user-generated data, CrowdSec can detect and block both known and unknown cyberattacks. This approach allows it to provide real-time threat intelligence while protecting its users from false positives.
CrowdSec is designed to run on virtual machines (VMs), bare-metal servers, containers, or called directly via API.
CrowdSec offers two plans: A community plan, which is free and is designed for individual users, hobbyists, and open source software enthusiasts, and an Enterprise plan designed for large organizations and advanced security teams. To get pricing for the enterprise plan, buyers must contact the CrowdSec team.
CrowdSec key features
- CrowdSec is equipped with Metabase and Prometheus to help users better defend their digital assets.
- CrowdSec doesn’t disrupt data streams or create single points of failure by decoupling detection (agent) and remediation (bouncer). Instead, it can fit any serverless, cloud-based, VM, or bare-metal context in one (agent) to one (bouncer), one to many, many to one, and many to many typologies.
- CrowdSec can protect your servers against attackers, whether they use IPV4 or IPV6 addresses. Users’ sessions and other business-oriented layers are included in this next-generation HIDS as well as IPs.
- GDPR compliant.
- Detection and remediation on unlimited machines.
- Local and consolidated data visualization.
- Activity logs.
- Easy to use.
- The UI can get more confusing when you start deploying more complicated bouncers.
- Some users reported that the paid plan is expensive.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager
Best for large organizations with complex security needs
SolarWinds Security Event Manager ensures transparency in showing compliance with features intended to let users conveniently monitor and manage any security event throughout their network infrastructure, including the ability to produce thorough and easy-to-customize reports.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager pricing
SolarWinds offers a 30-day free trial. The vendor subscription starts at $2,877, and the perpetual licensing starts at $5,607. In addition, prospective buyers can request personalized quotes tailored to their enterprise.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager key features
- Centralized log collection and normalization.
- Built-in file integrity monitoring.
- Automated threat detection and response.
- Integrated compliance reporting tools.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager pros
- It can combine network intrusion detection system (NIDS) data with other infrastructure logs to assess the volume and type of attacks on your network.
- Reduce manual network intrusion detection efforts.
- Provides compliance reporting for HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, and ISO.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager cons
- Some users reported that the licensing mode is somewhat confusing.
- It may be too costly for small businesses.
Best for performing network security monitoring and incident response
Security Onion is a free and open source Ubuntu-based Linux distribution for threat detection, IDPS testing, and security monitoring. Security Onion includes several tools for sniffing packets, logging activity, running vulnerability scans, generating reports, etc. It also contains Snort, Suricata, Bro, OSSEC HIDS, Sguil clients, and more.
Security Onion aims to provide an all-in-one platform for performing network security monitoring and incident response.
Security Onion pricing
The tool is free to use and open source.
Security Onion key features
- Users can benefit from enterprise security monitoring and intrusion detection.
- Security Onion includes top free and open tools, including Suricata, Zeek, Wazuh, the Elastic Stack, and more.
- Security Onion can be used to import PCAP files for quick static analysis and case studies.
- Gather network events from Zeek, Suricata, and other technologies to ensure comprehensive network coverage.
Security Onion pros
- It includes third-party tools, such as Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana, Suricata, Zeek (formerly known as Bro), Wazuh, Stenographer, CyberChef, and NetworkMiner.
- High scalability.
- It supports several host-based event collection agents, including Wazuh, Beats, and osquery.
Security Onion cons
- Require expert knowledge to use.
- It can get complex as your network security needs increase.
5 key features of intrusion detection and prevention systems
Although their full packages can vary widely, all IDPS tools should include the basics: constant monitoring, signature-based detection, logging and reporting, traffic analysis, and alerts.
Round-the-clock network monitoring
By monitoring your network infrastructure 24/7, IDPS can identify unauthorized access attempts, unusual patterns of behavior, or known attack signatures. IDPS analyzes incoming and outgoing data packets, looking for signs of potential intrusion attempts, unauthorized access, or abnormal behavior.
Real-time monitoring enables rapid detection and response to security incidents as they happen, minimizing the potential impact of attacks.
IDPS should employ signature-based detection. This method involves comparing incoming data packets or system activity against a database of known patterns associated with specific threats or attacks. When a match is found, the IDPS triggers an alert or takes appropriate action to prevent the attack from succeeding.
Logging and reporting
Logging, reporting, and analysis capabilities are important functionalities of IDPS systems. Logs are valuable for forensic analysis, post-incident investigations, and compliance purposes.
IDPS also helps to generate reports on detected threats, analyze attack patterns, and identify potential vulnerabilities in the network or system. This information helps organizations improve their security posture and take necessary measures to prevent future intrusions.
Network traffic analysis
IDPSs analyze network packets and traffic to identify any anomalies or suspicious behavior. This includes examining protocol anomalies, checking for unauthorized protocols, and identifying unusual traffic patterns.
Alerts and notifications
Whenever an intrusion or suspicious activity is detected, these systems generate alerts and notifications to network administrators or security teams. This enables a timely response to mitigate the potential damage.
6 benefits of working with intrusion detection and prevention systems
There are many benefits to intrusion detection and prevention systems. These range from data safety to financial savings and more. Here are six benefits of IDPS:
- Mitigating data breaches: By detecting malicious activity, intruders can be stopped before sensitive information is stolen.
- Improving productivity: By preventing attacks on your network, you will see improvements in employee efficiency leading to greater overall success for your company.
- Reduce downtime: When your system goes down, so does your ability to do business. With an IDPS in place, you can prevent these situations by quickly identifying problems before they become too big to handle.
- Reduce insurance costs: Having an IDPS also helps reduce insurance costs because it reduces risks associated with liability claims related to cyberattacks and other computer-related crimes.
- Increase compliance: If you run a business that deals with sensitive information such as medical records or credit card numbers, having an IDPS can help ensure compliance with HIPAA and PCI DSS regulations.
- Providing alert and monitoring systems: A well-designed IDPS provides both real-time alerts about potential threats and comprehensive reports about what happened during previous attacks, so you can learn from past mistakes and implement new strategies to keep your business safe going forward.
How to choose the best intrusion detection and prevention system
Many different types of attacks can make their way through an unsecured network, but fortunately, there are many ways to protect against them. For example, IDS and IPS systems may not be able to block every potential security threat, but they monitor activity in real time and detect an attack before any real damage is done.
The type and sophistication of a defense system depend on your company’s resources and goals; what matters most is that you take concrete steps toward protecting your sensitive data.
So when looking for an IDS or IPS system for your organization, you should focus first on how well it addresses specific vulnerabilities identified in research reports, and then, look at its ease of use, so you can set up and maintain a powerful system without sacrificing productivity. The best IDS/IPS system is the one that works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do intrusion detection and prevention systems protect my network?
Yes — IDPSs are designed to detect and prevent unauthorized access, malicious activities, and potential security breaches to your network.
The intrusion detection component scans network traffic and system logs to identify potential threats, such as unusual patterns, known attack signatures, or anomalous behavior.
Once a potential intrusion is detected, the intrusion prevention component takes action to prevent the attack from compromising the network’s security. This can involve blocking malicious IP addresses, isolating affected systems, or even terminating malicious processes.
Can intrusion detection and prevention systems guarantee protection against all cyberthreats?
While IDPS is effective in detecting known attack patterns and signatures, it cannot be considered a complete defense. It may struggle with novel or sophisticated threats that do not match any existing signatures. IDPS should be complemented with other security layers, such as firewalls, antivirus software, behavioral analytics, endpoint protection, and regular security awareness training for employees.
Are intrusion detection and prevention systems suitable for small businesses?
Yes, IDPS is suitable and beneficial for small businesses. Although large enterprises typically have more extensive cybersecurity budgets and resources, small businesses are sadly not immune to cyberthreats. In fact, they can be more vulnerable due to limited IT staff and infrastructure.
IDPS solutions provide an essential layer of defense against various cyberattacks, such as malware, ransomware, and unauthorized access attempts.
We ranked the best IDPS tools based on several core functionalities of IDPS solutions, such as 24/7 network monitoring, alerts and notification, threat intelligence capability, log management, reporting and more.
We gathered primary data about each solution from the vendor’s website and we also analyzed user feedback on review websites to learn about current and past user experience to help us determine each tool’s usability capability.
We understand that our readers are from various industries and organization types and sizes, so our review covers tools that are suitable for small, medium and large enterprises.
Bottom line: Building your network security with IDPS
The best IDPS tool for you depends on your business’s unique network security needs. Hence the need to select a tool based on its ease of implementation and use, its effectiveness in detecting and preventing attacks, its scalability to adapt to growing needs, and its compatibility with existing security infrastructure.
Our top picks stood out for their advanced threat detection capabilities, real-time monitoring, excellent network visibility and comprehensive reporting capabilities. They also offer a good balance of detection and prevention features, making each tool a reliable solution for organizations with both simple and complex IT landscapes.
For deeper and more granular network visibility, you may want to implement one of the best network monitoring tools, which we have also reviewed.