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What is whitelisting?

Nov 19, 2019 · 4 min read

What is whitelisting?

Everyone loves to be on the VIP list, and the online world has its equivalent – the whitelist. It won’t get you into fancy bars and restaurants, but it will help you block malicious actors who may try to get into your network. Find out more about whitelisting and how it could improve your cyber defense by reading below.

What is whitelisting?

Whitelisting is like creating a VIP list. Anyone not on the list is not allowed entry to your network or device. It protects systems from malware and ransomware, so it’s widely adopted by businesses and individuals alike.

Whitelisting vs. Blacklisting

Blacklisting and whitelisting are two sides of the same coin. They both indeed protect you from malicious apps, email addresses, IP addresses, and websites. However, they are based on different rules. Blacklists allow everyone except those on the list and whitelists deny everyone except those on the list.

Is one better than the other? You shouldn’t discount blacklisting as most antiviruses are based on this principle. However, whitelists do provide more comprehensive security because their rules are much stricter. There are too many new viruses, vulnerabilities, and threats being discovered every day for blacklists to cut it. And let’s not forget about zero-day vulnerabilities, which don’t see the light of day, yet are loved by hackers. Blacklists do not protect you from them, but whitelists might!

Different types of whitelisting

Emails

By whitelisting email addresses, you’re telling your spam filters that these senders – and only these senders – are legitimate and whatever they send should be accepted. Such rules can be set by the user, system administrator, or can be outsourced to an external whitelist service provider.

Why whitelist emails? First, it can increase your productivity. No one likes scrolling through a spam folder looking for an important contract they might’ve missed. Second, it could help you prevent phishing attacks. It’s easy to get tricked. Just keep in mind that email whitelisting will make it impossible for new contacts to reach you unless they’re added to the list.

What is whitelisting

Applications

Application whitelisting is a must in high-security environments. By putting applications or executable files on a whitelist, you instruct your device only to run these apps and to consider any other as malicious.

You can also whitelist the behavior of the application, what it “should” do, and block any activity that isn’t allowed. This is great if your device gets infected and someone tries to take over your software because whitelisting won’t let this happen. It will simply shut down the app. In this case, you couldn’t use blacklisting as it would be almost impossible to list all the things your apps “shouldn’t do.”

Application control is sometimes mistakenly used to describe application whitelisting. Application control is a part of application whitelisting, but its rules are more lenient. It will only stop your device from downloading apps that are not on the list, but it won’t stop you from running the app if it was already installed. It also doesn’t check the files’ authenticity. Application whitelisting, on the other hand, monitors your OS and blocks the execution of malicious code and files.

IP addresses

IP whitelisting is great for companies that need security and privacy. Site administrators can set rules for their company’s servers or web servers so that only particular IPs can access them. For example, you might have a corporate application or a server you want to keep private and only allow your employees to access it; then, you would put their IPs on a list. However, their IPs would have to be static for the whitelist to work.

You can get a dedicated IP by subscribing to a VPN service such as NordVPN. Find out more about static IPs, their pros and cons, and how to get one.

Is whitelisting for me?

Whitelisting is highly recommended for large corporations and SMEs, especially those who need high security standards or have employees who connect to their network with their own devices. However, it shouldn’t replace your other cybersecurity measures, and you shouldn’t ditch your antivirus. They can all work in unison – blacklisting on your whole network and whitelisting on the application level.

How to start whitelisting

Private individuals and smaller organizations can compile their own email and website whitelists. The process will depend on your email provider and the browser you use, but you can easily find step-by-step guides online.

Large corporations are advised to turn to more comprehensive whitelist technologies. Such software can create lists by scanning your network and finding applications you currently use. It also allows you to add websites, apps, or IPs to your list whenever you decide to. Some will also help you to check for the latest updates and will help you track incident responses.

NordVPN’s dedicated IP can help you use whitelisting to keep your business secure.


Emily Green
Emily Green successVerified author

Emily Green is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.


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