Forrester Research recently published a report on application security that basically condemned blacklisting to...
By submitting your personal information, you agree that TechTarget and its partners may contact you regarding relevant content, products and special offers.
the dustbin in favor of whitelisting when dealing with next-gen malware. Do you think blacklisting still serves a purpose for enterprise security moving forward, or are organizations abandoning the tactic in favor of whitelisting?
I’ve always been a fan of whitelisting and it is becoming more popular. For example, Microsoft's new Secure Boot feature is effectively a whitelist of signed drivers. Whitelisting enforces the classic security rule, "Deny all and allow only what is necessary." Whereas traditional antivirus technologies scan every file looking for known malware, whitelisting automatically blocks everything except those applications known to be trusted. This is a less resource-intensive approach and provides better protection against unknown and zero-day threats.
Signature databases -- the blacklist approach -- are becoming bloated as the amount of malware continues to explode. Keeping a blacklist up to date now requires cloud-based services that aggregate threat data from millions of endpoints, which makes maintaining a whitelist a less onerous option in the whitelisting vs. blacklisting comparison.
However, while the traditional blacklist-based approach may be losing effectiveness, there are operational challenges involved with implementing an application whitelist. A whitelist can prevent malicious or inappropriate programs from entering the enterprise, but it can stifle innovation and early adoption of the latest technologies. A correctly enforced application whitelisting policy requires the IT department to review each application that departments, managers or employees want to use to ensure that it passes performance and security thresholds, meets security policy requirements and is value for money. This entails completing a business case, a risk assessment and an ROI evaluation. Employees may also think that whitelisting gives too much control to the IT department and may try to circumvent whitelisting controls if they feel they're too restrictive.
Some application whitelisting services are built around reputation-based technology, which essentially rates software based on characteristics such as age, prevalence and digital signatures. This makes it quicker and easier for enterprises to allow access to rated applications while still blocking unrecognized software; but, like blacklisting, this approach requires a lot of effort to keep up to date.
In its report "Application Control: An Essential Endpoint Security Component," Forrester recommends the use of whitelisting as a means of supplementing traditional antivirus technologies to reduce the number of potential avenues for attack. As always, applying layers of defense is the best approach and certainly some form of whitelisting may well be essential for protecting mobile devices. They do not receive updated signatures as often as their desktop counterparts, but still have access to thousands of apps. You will still need a straightforward approval process, though, so that innovative new applications can be assessed and, if appropriate, quickly approved. This way, IT will not be seen as a business inhibitor.
Dig Deeper on Network Access Control technologies
Related Q&A from Michael Cobb
Geofencing technology is increasingly being used as a security tactic, such as to control access to servers with DNS settings. Expert Michael Cobb ...continue reading
After a remote code execution flaw in PHPMailer was patched, the problem persisted, and had to be repatched. Expert Michael Cobb explains how the ...continue reading
The same-origin security feature in Adobe Flash Player was implemented incorrectly, allowing local attackers to spy on users. Expert Michael Cobb ...continue reading
Have a question for an expert?
Please add a title for your question
Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.