Application Whitelist Vs. Blacklist

September 5, 2023


There are all kinds of applications that you can, and might already have, installed on whatever device you’re reading this on!

If it’s a laptop or desktop computer, you might have programs like Microsoft Office, Spotify, Slack, and even games like Minecraft or the Sims. Meanwhile your phone may have apps downloaded like Apple Music or iMessage.

Unfortunately, not all applications are useful—or even safe. Legacy applications that are discontinued probably have all sorts of outdated defense systems that modern cybercriminals can slip past with modern technology. Some threat actors may try to covertly install malicious applications on your device to launch malware or ransomware.

Application Whitelists

Thankfully, your IT team knows how to guarantee only secure apps end up installed on your system. They can use something called an application whitelist to determine which specific apps and programs are safe to use. Your boss may also use this to ensure you can only use approved applications that won’t distract you or put the work network at risk.

Application whitelisting takes a proactive approach to security. Security software only allows known good applications to run. It can be implemented on the operating system level, the application level, or the network level. It makes it more difficult for malware to infect a system, as it must first evade the whitelist.

Application Blacklists

Maybe you can guess what blacklists are already…

Instead of only allowing certain programs through, application blacklists specifically ban certain ones. This list of red flags is then used by security software to prevent any applications from being installed or executed. This is kind of like the Spam Folder in your email; but instead of throwing junk and scam messages into a separate folder, they detect suspicious programs and block them from downloading.

Application blacklists are a valuable tool for preventing malware infections. However, they are not perfect. There is always the possibility that a new malicious application will not be detected by the blacklist. Additionally, some legitimate applications may be mistakenly added to the blacklist. You should review flagged applications to determine if they are genuine and something you really want on your machines.

Application blacklists are created by security researchers and organizations that collect and analyze malware samples. The samples are analyzed to identify the characteristics of malicious applications. These characteristics are then used to create a signature that can be used to identify other malicious applications.


Application white- and blacklisting can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, it is a very effective way to prevent malware infections and other malicious files stored in faulty apps and programs. Of course, these kinds of softwares are not perfect and you should check in to make sure it’s blocking, or allowing, applications the way you want.

Just because you have these kinds of security measures in place doesn’t mean you should drop your guard online. The only thing better than software that blocks malicious files, is never trying to download them in the first place!

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