Behavioral Whitelisting: Definition, Examples & Uses in Industrial Networks

Instructor: Prashant Mishra

Prashant is currently pursuing his bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering.

In this lesson, we will learn about what behavioral whitelisting is and when it is used. We will also see some examples of how behavioral whitelisting is used in industrial networks.

What is Whitelisting?

Consider a situation where you own a shop and a worker of a different nationality steals all your money and flies back to his or her home country. As a result, you go to the police and report it. One thing they can do is blacklist the thief. That means that this particular person can never enter the country again. Now consider a case where a town has to be evacuated due to an impending natural disaster. In that case, no one is allowed to enter the town except for few officials. This is called whitelisting (the opposite of blacklisting). In computer terms, whitelisting can be understood as giving access or privileges to only some users, system components or networks and blocking the rest.

What is Behavioral Whitelisting?

Behavioral whitelisting is the process of controlling and managing networks by providing access to only some but not all components, actions and users. It is also known as behavior whitelisting. Behavioral whitelisting is often implemented by security software to perform functions such as securing web sites and computers from unauthorized access. It is also used in the breach detection process.

Uses of Behavioral Whitelisting

There are many applications of behavioral whitelisting. Some of the major categories are listed below:

Increased Cybersecurity

Whitelisting is one of the easiest ways to avoid viruses in a network. Blacklisting can also be used to block the entry of viruses, but you need to take into consideration that every day, millions of viruses and bugs are created and transferred. This makes managing blacklisting a huge effort, and for the most part, impossible. Thus, we have the whitelisting alternative. In this case, all needed addresses, applications, software components and networks can be whitelisted and allowed access. This will automatically block everything else, including all newly-created viruses, bots and other foreign objects without the need to first catch them and then administer the blacklist.

Enhanced Data Security

Very often, systems are connected to a network and left open. For example, you connect your phone to a network somewhere in a cafe. When leaving, you forget to log out. This can cause two serious issues: 1) You can access the network's data if you are good at hacking or 2) you may get hacked. This can be avoided through whitelisting. Why will whitelisting make security management much easier in this case? If a condition is put in a whitelist which states that your phone can only be logged in if connected to the cafe's network, you would be immediately blocked as soon as you left the network and connected to another. If we try to tackle the problem using blacklisting, it would be nearly impossible as we would have to list all the addresses of any network you might connect to.

Ease of Integration

One good thing about software packages used for whitelisting is that they can be easily integrated and used with other security software without issue or additional cost. This gives them an advantage over other security solutions that require the purchase of additional hardware or components to secure the network.

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