If security is too complex for blacklists, what's next?

Whitelisting is the new norm, even though it is difficult to manage

In an increasingly complex computing environment with increasingly sophisticated threats, using signatures and addresses to blacklist known threats is no longer adequate, said Toney Jennings, president and CEO of CoreTrace.

“Blacklisting doesn’t stand a chance because, by definition, it is reactive” and can’t be applied until someone compromises a system. And when the target is high-value intellectual property, which advanced persistent threats often set in their sights, one compromise is too many.

Related coverage:

Advanced persistent threats are a new way of life

Not surprisingly, Jennings, whose company sells whitelisting security services, advocates whitelists as the solution. Whitelisting is effective because it prohibits everything that isn’t known to be safe or trusted. But it has been difficult to manage, especially in large enterprises where thousands of users swamp the help desk with change requests, which can be a bigger problem than most malware.

Jennings said whitelisting has matured and become easier to manage — not as easy as blacklisting and signature-based systems but easy enough to warrant a second look.

“It’s not a perfect system,” he said. And if you operate in a user-friendly environment in which users expect complete control over their computer, it might not be right for you. But at more secure government enterprises, it could be a valuable supplement to help catch the 30 percent of threats that blacklists let through.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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