Protecting Your Business with Application Whitelisting

 - AZCOMP Technologies

As we discussed in previous articles, cyber-attacks are a serious threat to the continuity of your business, and application whitelisting needs to be included in your plan to defend your business. 

When you routinely read about cyber attacks over several years, all the different ways a criminal can gain access to a computer or network are astounding. Criminals are relentless. They use any methods necessary to hack email accounts, online accounts, bank accounts, computers, servers, phone systems, etc. They do this for fun, to steal money, to steal data, to extort people, to blackmail people, to demand ransom payments, to con people, to ruin businesses, and to inflict any other negative consequence.

That is why businesses need strong protections. All 15 ways we suggest to protect your business from cyber attacks are important. Today, we’re talking about number 7 – application whitelisting.

Application whitelisting might sound complicated, but it’s a simple way to block hackers from installing harmful programs on your devices. This article will explain what application whitelisting is all about and how it can help keep your business safe from ransomware and other cyber threats.

What is Application Whitelisting?

Application whitelisting is a security feature that only allows approved programs to run or be installed on computers. It acts like a bouncer at a club, checking everyone who wants to come in and only letting verified guests through the door.

Application whitelisting employs the Zero Trust principle, which treats every actor and action as potentially harmful. It’s often easier to prevent an attack on the self when you’re suspicious of everyone and require verification. 

When you use application whitelisting, an administrator lists all the programs employees need to do their jobs, like Microsoft Word or your business software. This list of allowed programs is called the “whitelist.” Any program or app not on the whitelist will be denied access and blocked from running.

The main benefit of the Zero Trust principle is that it prevents hackers from sneaking malware or ransomware onto computers through email attachments, websites, or USB drives. Even if cyber criminals manage to install a bad program secretly, the whitelist blocks it from launching so it can’t steal data or encrypt files.

How Application Whitelisting Strengthens Security

Cybersecurity experts recommend application whitelisting because it provides multiple layers of protection:

  • Eliminates human error – Sometimes, employees accidentally download viruses by opening strange email attachments. Security awareness training is important, but sometimes, curiosity can get to even the best of your employees. Whitelisting protects mistakes by not allowing unauthorized downloads.
  • Prevents ransomware – Hackers usually install ransomware by getting users to enable macro scripts in Office files or click “run” on random downloads. With a whitelist, ransomware can’t run at all.
  • Cost cutting – Businesses will often seek ways to ensure optimal cost-effectiveness. A rigorous whitelist strategy translates into reduced reliance on inefficient and often costly reactive measures that clean up messes rather than forestalling them. Security breaches, when they occur, prove too expensive and can inflict enduring damage on a company’s image. Application whitelisting is an effective and cost-friendly additional layer for preventing cyberattacks. 
  • Bolsters other defenses – Even if antivirus or firewalls miss something, the whitelist is the last defense against infected files sneaking onto systems. The malicious programs may sneak into your network through other ways, but they remain toothless if they can’t run. 
  • Secures physical devices, too – Whitelisting works on computers brought from home and USB drives inserted into company machines. Scanning the devices allows an efficient flow of work without limitations and time lost. 
  • Regulatory compliance – Adhering to regulatory standards is crucial, especially if your business is in a highly sensitive sector. Compliance may sometimes require the implementation of application whitelisting as a protective measure. Failure to do so can open the door to dire consequences, such as substantial financial harm to millions of users globally, debilitating fines, and even closure. 

Implementing Application Whitelisting

Setting up application whitelisting does take some effort up front, but it pays off with improved long-term security. Here are the basic steps:

  • Choose a tried and tested whitelisting software for Windows or Macs. Your choice should allow granular controls. It should have remote access controls by tracking file access, changes, and deletions while blocking unauthorized apps. 
  • Configure the whitelisting rules and restrictions. Test the settings and make sure they don’t disrupt workflows.
  • Develop an approval process for any new programs. This is where IT thoroughly vets additions to the list.
  • Provide training so employees know the software installation policy and whom to contact with questions. Your staff must know of the whitelist to prevent frustration when a productivity application is excluded by error. 
  • Constantly review and update the whitelist as software changes occur throughout the business. The tools and applications used by businesses keep changing, and keeping pace is important. 

Shortcomings of Application Whitelisting

With application whitelisting in place, your firm will block unknown programs and ransomware. This will keep networks secure for employees to do their jobs without worrying about cyber threats. It’s an essential part of layered defense.

But keep in mind that whitelisting has its shortcomings. 

For example, the process demands relentless upkeep, and striking the right balance between security and efficiency is walking a tightrope.

Also, implementing a whitelist from scratch is never easy. It’s like renovating a house – you have to tear down the old walls before building new ones. This transition takes time and effort, but it’s worth it, especially with the right support.

Need Help Implementing a Whitelist?

Using whitelisting as part of a layered security plan blocks the many methods criminals use to infiltrate networks and is well worth the investment in security. Our experts at AZCOMP Technologies can help you implement a watertight security system tailored to the needs of your business. 

Ready to chart a course to smoother seas? Contact AZCOMP Technologies today and let us navigate the IT waters for you. Don’t wait; secure your business now!

About AZCOMP Technologies:

AZCOMP Technologies of Mesa, AZ, is a leading provider of Managed IT services and technology solutions for businesses. AZCOMP’s mission is to help enterprises to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase cybersecurity through innovative tech solutions.

AZCOMP Technologies has provided business technology solutions and cybersecurity services since 2000. AZCOMP offers these services in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gold Canyon, and more. Request your IT consultation today!

author avatar
Byron Adams
Byron has spent nearly two decades helping thousands of small businesses resolve technology issues, design technology solutions, improve technology security, plan and budget for technology projects, and improve business productivity through technology. As the Technology Director at AZCOMP Technologies, he leads a team that provides Managed IT Services our clients. Our goal is to "deliver phenomenal" to our clients - AZCOMP's first core value. By outsourcing their IT needs to AZCOMP, Byron serves our clients as their CTO. Byron helps our clients get their time back, allowing them to focus on their business and what they do best. In addition, they enjoy more predictable technology costs, increased employee productivity, and improved cyber-security posture.

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