When it comes to protecting your computers and network, there are many different tools at your disposal. Two of these tools are whitelisting and blacklisting. The debate over which is better has gone on since these techniques were introduced and it continues today. The two function in fundamentally the same way but with one very important difference. Whitelisting is a list of applications that are allowed to use system resources, while blacklisting is a list of applications that may not. Which is the better option for you?
Examples of Blacklisting
One example of a blacklist is your computer’s antivirus system. If something appears on the program’s list of viruses or malware, it’s caught by the antivirus scanner and either deleted or placed in quarantine. If a program isn’t on this list, it’s assumed that it’s a reputable program that will not damage your computer or network in any way. Blacklisting lets everything make use of your system resources unless it’s on the list.
Examples of Whitelisting
Whitelisting, on the other hand, is like your computer’s login system. Only those users who have the proper username and password are allowed into the system. A whitelist is like an invite list to an exclusive party. Only the applications or users who are on the list are allowed to make use of system resources or even access the system at all. This is much more restrictive than a blacklist, but implementing application whitelisting solutions can be an ideal option if you know what needs access to your system.
Limits to Blacklisting
Blacklisting has a few limits. First, the blacklist is usually added to on a regular basis. This is why antivirus programs have to update regularly. There are new viruses being created regularly so they have to be added to the blacklists. Every new threat that comes out must be added to your blacklist as soon as possible. Even if something isn’t a threat, if it’s something you want to restrict, it must go on the list.
Second, the blacklist is only going to stop the threats on it. When a new virus is created that no one has yet seen, it’s going to have total access to any system because it won’t be on anyone’s blacklist. That changes almost immediately, of course, but it’s still a concern. Your system is completely vulnerable to new threats.
Limits to Whitelisting
With whitelisting, there are not as many limits because only programs on the list are allowed access to system resources. You only have to make changes to the whitelist when you need to add a new application to it and that doesn’t occur very often.
You also don’t have anything to worry about from new viruses, new applications, or anything else that’s not on your list. If it’s not on the whitelist, it cannot make use of your system resources or anything else that you have restricted. While this does mean that there will be a few times when an employee needs to have something added to the whitelist, you know that your IT department will have to approve every single application that runs on your network.