Application Whitelisting: What it is and how to use it

Application Whitelisting: What it is and how to use it

Application whitelisting is the act of allowing only approved applications to run. The application whitelisting tools have a variety of features that a business will require to properly whitelist. This could include whitelisting executable names, paths or even generating signatures of the application to be stored in a database. It could even use all of these and heuristics in order to determine the application’s risk score.
Large organizations use application whitelisting tools to reduce the number of unsupported applications that they don’t want running. This can be done for many reasons. It can be used to prevent unauthorized or unsafe software from getting on the network in highly secured environments. It can also help reduce malicious software by allowing only the good and desired software to be allowed on the network. It can be used to prevent malicious software being injected or infected when computers are shared.
Application Whitelisting vs. Blacklisting
There are two ways to look at the same problem: application whitelisting or blacklisting. You can create a list of good applications that you want to allow with application whitelisting. This is based on Zero Trust, where everything is assumed to not be trusted unless it’s whitelisted. This can be the best way to go if you have a small number of applications and a good team to maintain and update a whitelist. Problems can arise when new applications are needed or signatures of existing apps change due to software upgrades and the team isn’t responsive enough to rectify it promptly.
Blacklisting, on the other hand, requires much less overhead. It is assumed that everyone can be trusted, except for a few bad actors. As soon as they become known, organizations may blacklist applicants. Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep up with the new applications that might need to be added.
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Start trainingSome organizations use a mix of blacklisting known bad apps and whitelisting known good ones to determine if an application is worthy of consideration. This hybrid approach usually allows for a default to be used, if there is no clear decision.
How does Application Whitelisting work?
There are several ways that application whitelisting can be done. Basic ones may use the name and path of the application to whitelist. This is problematic because malicious software could use the same paths and names of the applications to bypass whitelisting. Whitelisting packages that go into greater detail tend to use signatures or checksums of the application. If the application has been altered, the signature would be different and not allowed on the whitelist.
Recent years have seen application packages signed by a publisher. This not only ensures that the application packages are authentic, but also guarantees that they have been properly verified. Microsoft signs all its applications, so you can be sure they are genuine Microsoft applications. This is important because Application Whitelisting Tools that are aware can make it easier to whitelist by the publisher.
How to implement Application Whitelisting
A few tools can be used for application whitelisting. While most antivirus software is built around the blacklisting concept, with particular code segments being blacklisted, some antivirus software works off application whitelisting. It’s great if your antivirus software works off whitelisting, and meets your needs. This is not the case for many people.
Application whitelisting tools, which are more specific applications, are geared towards this type and are often a be