What is Application Control?

Application control is a feature designed to identify traffic coming from different applications on a network and helps companies define and apply extremely granular network security policies to prevent a data breach.

In 2022, Verizon reported human error is still responsible for 82% of data breaches in organizations. Many organizations have introduced a zero-trust security approach to combat constantly evolving threats and limit the effects of human error. Such an approach focuses on verifying identity and requesting authorization for every access request, using methods like passwords, biometrics, or two-factor authentication. 

Application control is a complementary practice regulating the software and applications allowed to run on a system. Together, these strategies help organizations limit the potential attack surface, reduce the risk of data breaches, and protect against insider threats. 

How Application Controls Work

Cloud network security needs have become more complex with the moves toward digital transformation and remote work in corporate environments. Companies now store more data online and access more cloud-based applications than ever. 

Additionally, they need to accommodate increasing remote and third-party connections, to protect company-provided devices and ensure personal devices meet security requirements. Application control provides IT teams with greater visibility into network traffic as it flows to and from applications, helping them to prevent, identify and mitigate unusual behavior as it occurs.

Applications or programs can be sorted into categories based on features like file type, level of risk, or resources used. Depending on their needs, administrators can then define security and network policies to allow, limit, or block application access accordingly.

Application control can be implemented through a variety of methods, including:

  • Whitelisting – creating a list of approved applications that can run on the system while blocking all other unknown or unapproved applications. 
  • Blacklisting – creating a list of known malicious or unauthorized applications and automatically blocking their access. Businesses may also use application control to restrict certain application types, like gaming, streaming, or social media apps, that use significant bandwidth or interfere with employee productivity.
  • Behavior-based detection – monitoring the behavior of applications and blocking any applications that exhibit suspicious or malicious behavior.
  • Sandboxing – running applications in a secure, isolated environment to prevent them from affecting the system.

Essentially, organizations create a list of approved applications. Using a zero-trust approach, all unknown or unapproved applications outside that list will be further scrutinized, limited, or automatically blocked. 

By controlling the applications, installers, and scripts an employee can run and monitoring which devices and accounts are accessing a network, IT teams can better help prevent malware, viruses, and other types of malicious software from infecting the network or computer systems.

Features and Benefits of Application Control

Application control is an essential tool in any modern cybersecurity strategy. It provides organizations with granular control over the software that runs on their networks and offers several benefits, including: 

  • Access Control – Businesses can also create policies based on user groups and roles. This ensures staff can access the data they need to perform their duties while limiting access to more sensitive information. 
  • Network Optimization – Administrators can prioritize software essential to business functions to keep network traffic moving efficiently. 
  • Improved compliance – By ensuring that only authorized applications are allowed to run on the network or devices, application control can help organizations comply with industry regulations and security standards. 
  • Increased Productivity and Cost Savings – Reducing the amount of time and resources spent dealing with security incidents and managing unauthorized applications can help organizations save time and reduce the costs associated with security incidents and compliance violations.
  • Improved visibility – With application control, IT teams can clearly understand the applications, users, devices, data, and potential threats transmitted over the network.

Upgrade your Network Security with App Controls

Types of Application Controls

Application control platforms also allow controls within specific software packages like payroll and order processing. These controls help to maintain data accuracy, completeness, and validity. They include:

  • Input controls – ensure data entered into an application is accurate, complete, and valid. For example, mandatory fields can ensure that users enter all required information, while drop-down menus can help users select from a pre-defined list of options. Validation rules can also be used to check that data is entered in the correct format, such as ensuring that an email address has the “@” symbol.
  • Processing controls – ensure data is processed correctly within an application. They can help prevent errors or inconsistencies, like duplicate entries or incorrect calculations. For example, a processing control might ensure that the transaction amount is not negative or that a customer’s order is not being processed twice.
  • Output controls – protect the accuracy and security of application output. They can help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as customer information or financial data. For example, access controls can be used to restrict who can view a report, while encryption can be used to protect data from being intercepted by unauthorized users.

Additional forensic measures can be taken to preserve the integrity of data and evidence during a security incident. These can include data backups, access logs, and audit trails to help investigators reconstruct what happened before or during the event.

Overall, these controls help ensure that applications function correctly and that data is accurate and secure. Additionally, they can reduce the risk of errors, fraud, and data breaches and help organizations respond to threats appropriately.

How to Implement Application Controls

Before implementing application controls, IT teams should carefully consider their list of approved applications and their impact on departments and employees within their organization.

To combat constantly evolving threats, consistent software package updates are critical, and security patches will help avoid the exploitation of security vulnerabilities. IT staff must review and test application control policies regularly to ensure accuracy and relevance. 

Partnering with a cybersecurity expert can guide the creation of rules and take the guesswork out of application control.

Application Control is a Critical Component of Your Cybersecurity Strategy

Persistent and successful bad actors have gained access to many organizations by exploiting vulnerabilities in their security systems and user behavior, resulting in high-profile data breaches and loss of sensitive information. 

Successful implementation of application control can prevent accidental or intentional downloads of unauthorized software and malicious code, protecting your organization and your valuable data.

Schedule a free demo to see how Perimeter81 can implement application control in your organization.

Get Application Controls

Looking for Application Controls?

Simplify your network security today with Perimeter 81.