Application Control: 5 Best Practices for Effective Implementation

Hackers are increasingly making convincing applications containing malicious code to infiltrate devices and steal pertinent user or business information. Access to sensitive data without moderation, could possibly cause a major damage to the enterprise.

The state of shadow IT is likely much deeper than most tech departments realize. A 2015 survey by Cloud Security Alliance found that 72 percent of executives don’t know how many shadow IT applications are being leveraged, and that only 8 percent of respondents know the true scope of shadow IT at their organization. Application control is absolutely essential to regain governance and reinstate security. Let’s take a look at five best practices to leverage for effective application control:

1. Blacklist Wisely

Blacklisting an application isn’t always feasible, particularly when considering employee-owned devices. Organizations want to ensure that staff members are focused on working and enable them to use the hardware effectively. Leaders should block different programs based on the time of day through their application control portal. By creating an operating schedule, businesses can block games and other undesirable applications and create policies regarding when staff can access this software. Scheduling authorizations in this way will help keep employees on task and prevent the misuse of business files.

Application control can be useful in upholding security. In a similar instance, perhaps only certain users need to access a particular application for work purposes. To ensure that these individuals can do their job effectively, application control can be used to allow an application for a specific department or user group. This type of authorization lowers risk and makes authorized users more accountable for upholding security.

2. Leverage Dynamic Application Whitelisting

In addition to creating a list of applications that aren’t allowed, it’s just as important to establish which programs are authorized by the IT department. Leveraging dynamic application control/ whitelisting technology alongside application control will help protect systems from known and unknown threats by ensuring the administration has total control over what kinds of programs are running on business endpoints. Whitelists add an extra layer of security by checking an application when it attempts to execute. If it’s on the whitelist, it’s allowed to run in accordance with administrator-specified rules and policies. When an unauthorized program tries to run, it’s blocked until an administrator approves it. This level of control is a major driver of cyber security efforts and prevents a number of critical threats.

“Create a clear, step-by-step implementation plan and leverage a phased approach.”

3. Plan Deployment Appropriately

Application control and its various features like whitelisting aren’t always plug-and-play solutions. They require a degree of planning and analysis to ensure the deployment is handled appropriately. The National Institute of Standards and Technology suggest creating a clear, step-by-step implementation plan and leverage a phased approach to minimize unforeseen issues and identify potential pitfalls as early as possible. Organizations can use NIST guidelines to meet the minimum recommended controls based on impact categories.

When planning out your application control and whitelisting deployment, it will be essential to consider the environment that these systems will run on. Hosts that are centrally managed and have a more consistent application workload are more practical for whitelisting. How tightly hosts are managed and the extent of the risks they face might determine the benefits and suitability of application control solutions in specific business settings. This type of evaluation will help choose the right application control system and implement it effectively.

4. Conduct Regular Software Maintenance

Defining what applications are authorized isn’t the end of application control. It’s important for businesses to ensure that these programs are being maintained and that any updates are implemented. Threats are increasingly being created to exploit vulnerabilities within an application or operating system, and if businesses don’t enforce patching, it could leave critical systems open to exploits using the same security gap. For example, Microsoft issued a patch following the WannaCry attack, but any organization that didn’t update its systems was a potential victim to the subsequent NotPetya campaign.

Company IT departments must regularly define what files are trusted and which are malicious. This effort ensures continual adaptation to emerging threats while still enabling employees to do their jobs and execute approved applications. It will also be necessary to create relevant rules that process events generated at endpoints. Relevant scenario-based rules will help review events, allow organizations to update their control settings accordingly and reduce the number of received incidents.

Enforcing application updates will ensure vulnerabilities are patched.

5. Team Up With a Capable Partner

The fast pace of evolving cyber threats is enough to overwhelm any business IT team. As more organizations look to provide their employees with the flexibility to work according to their preferences, it’s equally as important to uphold security.  For busy IT professionals or those without the necessary expertise, it’s vital to have a partner in your corner that understands how to configure application control systems to your needs and enable your business to implement them effectively.

For more information on how your business can implement effective application control, contact Faronics today.

About The Author

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape and windows technologies like steady state alternative that change our lives, and what we can expect in the future.

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