Application Control: Eliminate Application Risk While Conducting Business
Each new application your organization or employees install puts your company’s data at greater risk. That data holds tremendous value today – not only to your organization, but also to cyber criminals and malicious hackers. Applications can introduce exploitable security vulnerabilities to your environment, giving malicious parties additional attack vectors and potential ingress points. In addition to the risk of adding new security vulnerabilities, applications can also produce high volumes of data – some of which will require additional protection. As a result, many organizations today rely on application control solutions to manage application activity and control application risk by blocking unauthorized applications.
The Evolving Approach to Application Control: From Application Whitelisting and Blacklisting to Integrated Application Control Solutions
Application control techniques have changed significantly over the years. Traditionally, organizations handled application control through standalone security solutions such as application whitelisting, blacklisting, and greylisting software. This approach is simple - when an application attempts to run, it is checked against a list of approved or blocked applications and allowed to execute only if the list permits. However, many standalone application control solutions have developed a bad reputation for blocking legitimate application usage and hindering business processes as a result. Furthermore, point application control solutions too often fail to integrate with other security solutions, robbing security teams of valuable analytics and the ability to correlate threat intelligence across tools, technology layers, or attack vectors.
In recent years, many security teams have shifted from viewing application control as a standalone technology or to treating it as an integrated security process. More advanced solutions to application control leverage activity monitoring and context awareness to dynamically manage application risks, not simply with a list-based "block or allow" approach, but instead with flexible, automated controls that account for contextual factors such as the types of applications, users, and data involved in an attempted action. Other features of advanced application control tools include:
- Application Monitoring & Visibility: Monitoring of all application activity is a critical component of application control technology, as it provides object-level visibility into all of the applications running in your business environment as well as how those applications are putting data at risk.
- Context-Based Application Controls: Contextual awareness can allow or block application activity based on a variety of factors, including application vendor, process, MD5, data class, and user type.
- To-and-from Data Flow Control: Data flow control goes beyond traditional "block or allow" application control methods to allow applications to run while restricting their access only to the data they require to run securely. In doing so, to-and-from data flow control bolsters application control capabilities by preventing the unauthorized transfer of sensitive data by authorized applications or users.
Extending Application Control to Web and Cloud Applications
Your organization and employees depend on web and cloud applications for communication, collaboration, storage, and more. While these applications can make your business more efficient and productive, they also open your networks to data loss, malware infections, and increased application risk. As a result, many advanced application control solutions offer extended capabilities to secure web application usage and protect sensitive data in the cloud.
Web and cloud application control solutions serve two main purposes: ensuring that only authorized data can be accessed by or uploaded to web/cloud applications and preventing infected files from being downloaded by web/cloud applications. In order to meet these requirements, web and cloud application control solutions:
- Provide continuous monitoring and visibility for all data interactions with web and cloud storage applications
- Enable granular file movement control based on browser and OS events involving web applications such as SharePoint, Dropbox, Gmail, and more
- Automatically classify and protect data extracted from web applications
- Deliver forensic application event logs for more effective alerting, reporting, and policy creation
- Automatically encrypt sensitive data prior to egress