Nearly half of Australian companies suffered a cyber attack within the past 12 months - an increase of 33% over the previous year.

One of the best ways to stop attackers from corrupting your files is to prevent them from even entering your network. While this sounds overly straightforward, it’s the entire principle behind application whitelisting - a must-know security tactic that you should incorporate into your cybersecurity strategy.

Below, we’ll discuss how application whitelisting works, why it’s important and how you can utilise it to improve your company’s security.

Definition of a Whitelist

Before we get into the details of application whitelisting, let’s first take a look at what a whitelist is. You may also hear of a whitelist as an allowlist. Both mean the same thing.

As NIST defines it, a whitelist is a “list of discrete entities, such as hosts or applications that are known to be benign and are approved for use within an organisation and/or information system. Also known as “clean word list”.

Essentially, a whitelist is an inventory of applications and websites that users are allowed to access from the corporate network.

What is Application Whitelisting?

Now that we know what a whitelist is, we can look more specifically at application whitelisting. Again, let’s go to NIST for a thorough definition: “An implementation of a default deny all or allow by exception policy across an enterprise environment, and a clear, concise, timely process for adding exceptions when required for mission accomplishments.”

In essence, application whitelisting puts a whitelist into practice, ensuring that users only access applications that are allowed and vetted, which reduces the likelihood of malicious code entering your systems.

As well as blocking malicious entities, application whitelisting can also improve productivity. For example, you may ban certain websites and applications in your workplace that distract your employees from performing their roles.

How is Whitelisting different from Blacklisting?

Whitelisting and Blacklisting differ slightly in their approaches. Whitelisting is inherently more restrictive as users can only access applications that are explicitly approved. By contrast, blacklisting involves adding sites to an index for them to be blocked. This means users get access by default until an application is actively blocked by administrators.

The approach you go for will depend on the sector you operate in and your security needs. Generally speaking, because whitelisting is a stricter approach, it is a safer bet if your aim is to deter malware variants and opportunistic hackers.

Do I need to make use of Application Whitelisting?

Definitely! If you’re yet to use Application Whitelisting, we advise you get started urgently. Whitelisting is a straightforward way to protect your data and users from common security threats like ransomware and spyware.

Whitelisting is also one part of the Essential Eight, which are crucial best practices for security.

Are there any downsides to Application Whitelisting?

Application whitelisting can be challenging to implement and manage if you don’t have a technical background. For example, there are many ways to achieve application whitelisting, including:

  • file size,
  • file-path,
  • file name,
  • hash,
  • digital signature/publisher whitelisting

Each type of whitelisting requires specialist knowledge to implement and suits specific use cases. Knowing how each type works and when to use it is vital to successful deployment. If you don’t have in-house IT expertise, we can support you.

Another potential pitfall of whitelisting is the fact that it can be restrictive for employees. There may be instances where unnecessary applications are blocked, hindering employee productivity and causing frustration.

That’s why it’s important to take a dynamic, proactive approach to application whitelisting. You’ll need to adapt the entities on your index in line with what your employees need to complete their jobs successfully.

The last hurdle to application whitelisting is the very first step. Moving from enabling all websites by default to cherry-picking applications for approval is a time-intensive task. Again, though, working with an experienced IT provider can help as they will use their experience to make the process seamless.

Make sure you work with a provider who is able to segregate applications based on user privileges and roles, as opposed to taking a blanket approach to allowing and denying applications.

How does a Managed IT provider support with Application Whitelisting?

We take a three-step approach to application whitelisting using ThreatLocker’s enterprise-grade application whitelisting solution. Firstly, we work with you to conduct an audit of your applications to gain an idea of what applications should be included on the whitelist.

From there, we whitelist these applications on your behalf, protecting you from malicious websites. Afterwards, we move into the monitoring stage, where we regularly check the inventory to ensure its fit for purpose and make adjustments as needed.

Learn more about using Whitelisting to protect your network today!

NetCare can help your business with affordable options for advanced whitelisting protection to keep your business safe from the most prevalent cyber security threats out there.

Contact us today to learn more. Call (02) 9114 9920 or reach out online.