Application Whitelisting – Is There a Simpler Solution?

Teow-Hin NgairArticle

Businesses have used Application Whitelisting for a while now, to keep their computer systems secure. In simple terms, Application Whitelisting permits only a selected number of applications to be installed and launched on a computer system. Any program that is not whitelisted by an IT administrator will be blocked from running.

Application Blacklisting is similar in function, stopping any program in a list from running. However, compared to whitelisting, blacklisting cannot stop zero-day attacks on a computer system, meaning it is less effective at securing a network.

The Origins of Whitelisting

For consumers, there is a basic security implementation called User Account Control, or UAC in modern Windows versions (7, 8.1 and 10). This asks for the user’s permission whenever a program tries to run as an administrator on the system. When a program runs with elevated permissions, it has much deeper access to the operating system. This means that malicious software can delete files, programs and vital system resources, causing a loss of data to users.

Application Whitelisting has been around for years in the corporate computing space. Pro and Enterprise editions of the Windows operating system have built-in whitelisting tools, accessible through the ‘Local Security Policy Editor’.

It is possible to configure the LSPE to automatically blacklist new programs, but whitelisting will have to be done manually with this tool.

There is also the ‘Windows AppLocker’ tool. This takes things a step further, stopping any new installations on a system, dependant on the user type. AppLocker can block .exe, .DLL, and Windows Store app installations, greatly reducing the chance of malicious software being able to run. This is only available on Enterprise editions of Windows.

Everyday users will not have these powerful security features available, as the majority of retail computers come with Windows 10 Home edition.

Why Blacklisting isn’t good enough

Application Blacklisting offers some protection from malware but is unable to stop zero-day threats. This is because Blacklisting relies on using previous observations to determine whether a file is safe or not.

According to studies by the AV-Test Institute, over 350,000 new malicious programs are registered in their systems each day across Windows, macOS, iOS and Android operating systems. When isolating this data to Windows, over 14 million threats were detected in 2018. With such a high number of zero-day threats, malicious software is bound to slip through.

The Disadvantages of Application Whitelisting

IT Administrators are used to monitoring and making security decisions on their systems. For a consumer, this may be more daunting. Application Whitelisting will require you to actively authorize each program you install, adding extra steps to the installation process. For those that simply want to click ‘install’ and go, this may be off-putting.

This is the only main disadvantage with Application Whitelisting, but modern Whitelisting programs can streamline this process.

The Advantages of Application Whitelisting

Application Whitelisting is a comprehensive way of securing your system. Traditional antivirus solutions are slow to respond to zero-day threats. This means that despite having a security solution in place, you may still be vulnerable to threats. Adding a Whitelisting application into the mix can offer more security. Since the majority of virulent threats are packed into programs, simply blocking them from running is an excellent way of protecting your data.

As consumer Windows editions do not have the LSPE and AppLocker security features, it can be tempting to upgrade to the Pro or Enterprise editions of Windows. Sadly, these Windows editions are much more expensive, making it cost-prohibitive for general users. Thankfully, there are 3rd party solutions that have all the features we’ve mentioned.

Whitelisting with SecureAPlus

SecureAPlus has a comprehensive security package that includes an Application Whitelisting function. It is compatible with Windows XP and above, in both 32bit and 64bit editions.

The program can run alongside other antivirus and antimalware programs, making it a great addition to your security suite.

Upon installation, SecureAPlus will start blocking any new programs from running. By default, any programs already present on the Operating System are automatically whitelisted.

Unlike LSPE, each time you install a new program, SecureAPlus will create a security popup. You can allow, or deny, an application from running, without having to go and manually create a rule in LSPE. For those less technically inclined, this is a great way of securing your device without the complexity of traditional whitelisting methods.

There may be instances where you’re unsure if you should allow a program to run. SecureAPlus offers a real-time diagnosis using its APEX and Universal AV engines. These will tell you the risk level of running the program using color coding, allowing you to fully take charge of security on your system.

SecureAPlus also offers an AI-powered antivirus solution, and the Pro editions are free to try for 90 days. Over 10+ antivirus cloud databases are referenced when scanning a file, offering comprehensive analysis for peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Application Whitelisting is one of the most effective ways of securing your Windows device. While Microsoft only integrates these features into Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows, SecureAPlus brings a comprehensive antivirus and whitelisting package to all consumers.

SecureAPlus is light on system resources and automates the whitelisting of new programs, simplifying security for end-users. For added protection, over 10+ antivirus engines are referenced in the cloud using the APEX Engine, offloading processing from your device and maximizing detection rates.

SecureAPlus Pro Trial is free to try, so secure your device today