Why You Should Implement Allowlisting to Boost Your Cybersecurity

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Shield your company from cyberattacks.

Ransomware and phishing attacks have been increasing in the corporate world, and allowlisting reduces the likelihood of these attacks. In fact, allowlisting may help reduce the dangerous spam messages in your inbox, and it can also improve your overall network security. In this blog, I’ll cover what allowlisting entails, and why it’s so vital for your company. I’ll also show you its benefits and the best practices to follow when implementing this strategy at home or work.

What Is Allowlisting?

An allowlist is a list of individuals, brands, or services that should have easy access to the content they need. We can compare allowlists to VIP guest lists. When you’re on a VIP guest list, you won’t have any trouble getting into the event, because the doormen expect your arrival. You’re included on the list, so your entry is guaranteed. The same goes for allowlists. Anyone included in the allowlist can have easy access to the services they need, without you having to assess and update their permissions each time.

In computing, programs and applications are like VIPs. The firewall is your best friend to protect programs and applications in the cloud. Allowing specific ports for communication will enable them to do their work without your system stopping them.

Allowlisting is also an effective online security measure that filters and accepts only administered-approved components. It blocks all the rest. Allowlist access can also prevent unwanted software from accessing your system without permission. That, in turn, protects you from malware and phishing links.

The application ensures your employees are only entering secure areas of a building. It also allows you to monitor who’s coming and going, and that helps maintain an air-tight security system for this vital resource.

90% of cyber-attacks result from human error. Allowlisting helps you reduce your chances of human error, because it automatically only allows those services on the safe side.

How to Implement Allowlists

If you want to boost your cybersecurity with allowlists, you need to know exactly what you should allowlist. That can seem daunting, so I’ll showcase 3 areas where you could implement allowlisting.

1. Allowlist IP Addresses

Allowlisting an IP address means you’re only granting access to specific hardware, like desktops or laptops. You also allow allowlisted devices to establish remote connections for applications, files, and software. IP allowlisting is applicable if your business network uses cloud servers.

Pro Tips:

  • Check if the IP is invariable
  • Use .htaccess files for maximum control
  • Create plugins and shortcuts for allowlist on the login page

2. Add Email Addresses to Allowlists 

You need cybersecurity training to protect your computer from people who want to steal your information. Email analysis can also help you find out if someone is trying to steal your information through your email. Email is becoming a widespread vessel to spread malware and conduct cyberattacks. It’s also harder to manage trusted emails when your inbox is overflowing.

Updating your accepted email allowlist can protect against email attacks. You also can add specific email addresses into a trusted status, so you increase protection against cyberattacks. That also prevents hackers from accessing your account or doing other unwanted activities.

Pro Tips:

  • Add approved email addresses to your contacts list
  • Monitor your network and conduct cybersecurity training
  • Keep your allowlist updated

3. Create Application Allowlists

Application allowlisting helps you manage the security risks associated with software applications. You specify what apps are allowed on your computer system, and that protects systems from harmful content. Often, you may use an index or list that prevents any other programs from running if they don’t meet set criteria. This protects against vulnerabilities because apps have no other way of getting approval.

Pro Tips:

  • Use built-in app allowlisting on your device
  • Work in separate phases to avoid errors and issues
  • Hire IT specialists to manage and update app allowlists

Allowlisting Benefits

Allowlisting helps you keep your company safe–no matter what practice you implement. Let’s take a look at 4 key benefits to implementing allowlists in your company:

1. Helps You Prevent Ransomware

In 2021, cyber attacks caused $20 billion in losses. That’s a cause for concern, and ransomware is taking up a spot on the dangerous attacks list. This form threatens users’ access and blocks them from accessing specific folders unless they pay an exorbitant ransom fee.

Allowlisting lets you keep unwanted visitors out of your important folders. For example, you can allowlist users and IP addresses that need to know what’s happening with business data. That way, anyone who doesn’t need access to this data will stay out, and that reduces the number of people dealing with sensitive data.

2. Protects Against Malware

A study found that 71% of organizations had experienced malware attacks spreading from one individual to another within their company. This number is also increasing exponentially, and every attack is more advanced. Even if you’ve never faced a malware attack to date, you may still face one soon. Implement application allowlisting, so you can prevent viruses and malware from entering your system after human negligence.

3. Increases Employee Productivity

80% of employees would rather use their smartphones at work, instead of an actual desktop or PC. They also believe they’re more productive when they’re working remotely. Still, outside threats infiltrate your network easier the more outside devices you allow. 

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Help your employees work better.

You can be creative and boost employee productivity without depriving them of their technology. You can also add allowlisting to the company’s BYOD policies. This way, you’ll allow access outside the office to those who need it, and block any distracting apps. You’ll also minimize the risk of unauthorized devices getting access to your company’s data.

4. Compatible with Other Software

Always diversify your cybersecurity defenses to ensure that they’re running effectively. That includes using antimalware programs. You should also use penetration testing tools to check for network vulnerabilities. This also means adding allowlist suits alongside blocklists, giving them more options when scanning files on clients’ computers or smartphones. All that being said, allowlisting may have its drawbacks. Let’s take a look at blocklisting and see how it may reduce the allowlisting drawbacks. 

Blocklisting vs. Allowlisting

Allowlisting may seem like the perfect solution, but it has pitfalls. Namely, you’re blocking everything else from your system. That means no unauthorized entities can harm your systems, but it also means that users don’t have freedom over their devices. They’ll have to follow all instructions blindly, because the allowlist controls what each device can load on the platform. It’s also very effort-intensive to build an allowlist. That’s because every list will be unique to the organization that needs it, and attackers find ways around these barriers, too. 

Photograph of a mobile phone on a desk, with the lock screen displaying a lock, and a green checkmark stating the device is secured.
Secure your devices.

On the other side, though, we have blocklists. Vendors commonly use blocklists to protect from known malware and malicious sites.

Blocklists are lists of things that may be harmful to your computer and need blocking. This includes malicious software or ‘malware’ in general, and other items, like adult content websites. Antivirus programs also include these things. That’s because antivirus primarily protects against externally sourced threats.

Allowlisting and blocklisting are only effective for preventing previously identified attacks. They don’t stop zero-day threats. That means they’re also ineffective for website protection against cybercriminals, because cybercriminals compromise the user’s network defenses first. In these cases, you should implement real-time analysis with your allow/blocklist to avoid overlooking any new threats.

Final Thoughts

The allowlist approach is a security measure to fill your unique needs. This means organizations should first determine the context in which applications operate. Companies should also check any application’s authorization before any allowlist implementation. While allowlisting can be effective against known threats, it’s not an end-all solution. You should always look for more security measures to keep your business safe without impeding functionality.

FAQ

Is allowlisting safe?

Allowlisting enables you to make your computer safe, but it’s less effective if you don’t use other security technologies. You can create allowlists for several things, like IP addresses, applications, and email addresses. That means only entities in that list can operate freely. Still, that also poses some restrictions, so you may want to consider implementing a blocklist, too.

What is website allowlisting?

Website allowlist is a browser extension you can install to only allow access to certain websites. That also blocks external advertising and tracking websites, so it may also be a good privacy tool. Some also believe that website allowlisting protects against misinformation, because it allows you to prevent access to any untrustworthy sources. 

What’s the difference between allowlist and blocklist?

Allow and block lists are polar opposites. Allowlisting blocks access to anything that isn’t on the list, but blocklisting allows access to anything that isn’t on the list. They’re both effective to protect your system from malware and other threats. Yet, they aren’t full solutions because they only target already known threats, so they can’t protect against new attacks.

What is a MAC address allowlist?

MAC address allowlist is extra protection to your Wi-Fi network. It blocks any unwanted devices from connecting to your network. The MAC address differs from an IP address. That’s because the MAC address is hardcoded into the device itself. Your router compares a device’s MAC to its allowlist, and if it finds a match on the allowlist, it’ll allow the device to connect.

What are other security measures?

Blocklisting and allow listing aren’t enough to fully protect your company. To be more secure, you need to invest in a good cybersecurity team. You also need to train your employees to follow good cybersecurity hygiene, like using strong passwords and avoiding phishing links. You should also prioritize cybersecurity in your IT department, and implement it in any development process from the start. That way, your company can stay strong and avoid any attacks.  You should also have a contingency plan to recover quickly in case any attacks happen.

Resources

Ransomware Protection:

Discover how you can protect yourself from ransomware attacks here.

Phishing Protection:

Learn what you can do to prevent being hit with a phishing attack here.

Email Defense:

Explore how you can set up robust email protection here.

Cybersecurity Teams:

Read about how you can create a successful cybersecurity team to protect your company here.

Bring-Your-Own-Device Policies:

Discover the pitfalls of adopting BYOD in your workplace here.

DevSecOps Implementation:

Discover the best DevSecOps practices to ensure a safe development here.

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