Choose the Right Application Control for your Organization with Whitelisting and Blacklisting

Application whitelisting and application blacklisting are the two main approaches to application control. With no clear guidelines on which is superior, IT administrators are frequently torn when forced to choose between the two. We’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of both so you can decide which is best for your organization. Some businesses may station a security guard at their entrance to ensure that only employees with a valid ID are allowed in. This is the fundamental idea behind whitelisting; all entities requesting access will be validated against an already approved list and will be permitted only if they appear on that list. Employees fired for misconduct, on the other hand, are frequently placed on a banned list and denied entry. Blacklisting works in the same way: all entities that may be dangerous are typically placed on a collective list and blocked. Non-employees who attempt to gain entry, such as interview candidates, will be placed on the greylist because they are not on the whitelist or the blacklist. Based on the authenticity of their entry request, the security guard either grants or denies it. In a network, the administrator usually acts as a security guard and has complete control over everything that enters it.

What is blacklisting?

Most antivirus software uses blacklisting to block unwanted entities. The process of blacklisting applications entails creating a list of all the applications or executables that may pose a threat to the network, either through malware attacks or simply by interfering with its productivity. Blacklisting can be thought of as a threat-centric method.

The obvious advantage of blacklisting is its simplicity. Administrators can easily block only known malicious software while allowing everything else to run. Users will have access to all of the applications they require in this manner, reducing the number of admin tickets raised or essential applications blocked. For enterprises that want to take a more relaxed approach to application control, blacklisting is a good option.

However, while blocking everything that is distrusted is simple and efficient, it may not be the best approach. Every day, approximately 230,000 samples of malware are created, making it impossible for an administrator to keep a comprehensive and up-to-date list of malicious applications. And, given that 30% of malware targets zero-day vulnerabilities, there is the possibility of a security breach.

Unfortunately, regardless of the security system in place, enterprises will be vulnerable in the event of a zero-day attack. Administrators should be concerned about the recent increase in targeted attacks aimed at stealing confidential data from businesses. Using blacklisting to predict and prevent these types of attacks would be ineffective.

What is whitelisting?

Whitelisting is the inverse of blacklisting in that it creates a list of trusted entities such as applications and websites that are only allowed to operate in the network. Whitelisting is considered to be more secure because it is based on trust. This method of application control can be applied on an executable level, where the digital certificate or cryptographic hash of an executable is verified, or it can be based on policies such as file name, product, and vendor.

Though blacklisting was once popular, the recent exponential growth in malware suggests it is no longer effective. Whitelisting restricts the number of applications that can run, effectively reducing the attack surface. Furthermore, creating a whitelist is much easier because the number of trusted applications is undoubtedly lower when compared to the number of distrusted ones. Whitelisting can benefit businesses that adhere to strict regulatory compliance practices.

Building a whitelist may appear simple, but one mistake can result in a flood of help desk requests for the administrator. The inability to access critical applications would halt a variety of critical tasks. Furthermore, determining which applications should be allowed to run is a time-consuming process in and of itself.

Building a whitelist may appear simple, but one mistake can result in a flood of help desk requests for the administrator. The inability to access critical applications would halt a variety of critical tasks. Furthermore, determining which applications should be allowed to run is a time-consuming process in and of itself.

As a result, administrators may create overly broad whitelisting rules in some cases. This misplaced trust could jeopardize the entire enterprise. Another disadvantage is that, while blacklisting can be partially automated with antivirus software, whitelisting cannot operate without human intervention.

Final words

There is no definitive answer to the widely debated topic of “Whitelisting vs. Blacklisting.” In fact, with technological advancements and the development of application control tools, there is no need to choose just one. Organizations can combine these features to meet their specific needs and reap the benefits of both at the same time.

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