What Is an Intrusion Prevention System?

An intrusion prevention system (IPS) is a network security tool that monitors network traffic and analyzes it for signs of malicious activity or policy violations. If such activity is detected, the IPS can take various actions to prevent the activity from succeeding. These actions might include blocking the traffic, sending an alert to a security administrator, or quarantining the offending traffic. Also known as an intrusion detection system (IDS), an IPS aims to detect and prevent security threats in real time rather than waiting for the threats to be detected and dealt with after the fact. This makes IPS an important part of an overall security strategy, as it can help to protect networks and systems from attacks that might otherwise go undetected.

IPS for PCI DSS Compliance

PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It sets security standards to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

The PCI DSS was developed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), a group of the major payment card brands (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB). The standards are designed to help protect cardholder data from being accessed, used, or disclosed without authorization.

To comply with PCI DSS, companies must meet security requirements, including network architecture, security management, and access controls.

PCI DSS Requirement 11.4

PCI DSS Requirement 11.4 states that organizations must employ detection and prevention techniques to mitigate network intrusions. Organizations can use an IPS to monitor their network activity and alert security administrators if any suspicious activity is detected to meet this requirement, as well as implement active security measures to block threats.

According to PCI DSS Requirement 11.4, organizations must implement controls to detect and prevent network intrusions, protect the cardholder data environment (CDE), and maintain the security of their systems. These controls include:

  • Using IPS technology to monitor and protect networks from security threats.
  • Monitoring all traffic in the CDE and at critical points in the CDE to identify potential security issues.
  • Alerting employees to potential security threats.
  • Keeping intrusion detection and prevention engines, signatures, and baselines up to date to ensure that the organization’s security systems are effective.

IPS for GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA. The GDPR strengthens and expands the rights of individuals to control how their data is collected, used, and shared and places several new obligations on organizations that handle personal data.

The GDPR requires organizations to take appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. An IPS can help organizations to meet this requirement by detecting and preventing security threats in real-time. This helps ensure personal data’s confidentiality by blocking traffic attempting to exfiltrate data from an organization’s systems.

IPS for HIPAA Compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. federal law that establishes standards for protecting certain health information. HIPAA aims to ensure the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI) while allowing for the appropriate use and disclosure of this information when necessary for patient care or other authorized purposes.

HIPAA applies to a wide range of organizations and individuals, including healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, as well as their business associates who handle PHI on their behalf. HIPAA sets forth several requirements for the handling of PHI, including requirements for physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to protect data.

Violations of HIPAA can result in civil and criminal penalties for covered entities and their business associates. HIPAA also gives individuals the right to request access to their PHI and corrections if they believe it is incorrect. The HIPAA Security Rule 164.306 stipulates the security obligations of organizations handling PHI, including

  • Ensuring electronic PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • Protecting against anticipated misuse of PHI and other security threats.
  • Ensuring that all employees comply with HIPAA requirements.

Intrusion prevention systems (IPS) are important for HIPAA compliance because they can help covered entities and their business associates to protect relevant health information.

How to Choose an Intrusion Prevention System for a Regulated Industry

Detection Capabilities

An IPS with strong detection capabilities is more likely to identify and prevent a wider range of threats, which can help protect a network or system better.

Several factors can impact an IPS’s detection capabilities, including the types of threats it is designed to detect, the algorithms and techniques it uses to analyze traffic, and the possible level of customization and tuning. Some IPS products offer a wide range of detection options, while others may be more limited in the types of threats they are able to detect.

When evaluating an IPS, it is important to consider the specific security threats and policy violations that the IPS is designed to detect, as well as the overall effectiveness of its detection capabilities. This will help to ensure that the IPS is well-suited to the needs of the organization and able to provide the level of protection that is needed.

In most cases, organizations should combine multiple detection methods to cover a broad range of threats.

Contextual Analysis

This is important because it determines how well the IPS is able to understand and interpret the context in which traffic is occurring. Security threats or policy violations often depend on the context in which they occur.

For example, an IPS that has a strong context understanding might be able to differentiate between normal network traffic and traffic that is part of a security threat, such as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This can help the IPS to more accurately identify and prevent threats, rather than mistakenly blocking legitimate traffic.

Some IPS products offer a wide range of context-understanding capabilities, such as the ability to analyze traffic at different layers of the network stack and to understand the relationships between different types of traffic. Other IPS products may have more limited context-understanding capabilities.

When evaluating an IPS, it is important to consider the level of context understanding that the IPS is able to provide, as well as how this context understanding is used to identify and prevent threats.

Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence refers to information about current and emerging security threats that can be used to improve an organization’s security posture.

An IPS that has access to a wide range of threat intelligence sources and that is able to use this intelligence to identify and prevent threats is more likely to be effective at protecting a network or system. This is because such an IPS will be able to stay up-to-date on the latest security threats and use this information to identify and prevent threats that might otherwise go undetected.

There are a number of ways that an IPS can use threat intelligence, including by analyzing traffic for indicators of compromise (IOCs) and by using machine learning algorithms to identify patterns of behavior that are associated with security threats. Some IPS products offer their threat intelligence feeds, while others can be configured to use third-party threat intelligence sources.


Several compliance standards require using an intrusion prevention system (IPS). The most important standards include the PCI DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA, which require organizations to implement an IPS as part of their security strategy.

The right IPS can help businesses protect their networks and systems from security threats and demonstrate compliance with these and other compliance standards.

Atlantic.Net provides a complete suite of managed and security services to include IPS solutions and more. Contact [email protected] to find out more about HIPAA-compliant hosting and PCI-compliant hosting with Atlantic.Net.