How AppLocker Improves Security and Compliance

The security of your organization is not something that you can afford to leave to chance. The wave of cybercrime over the last few years has been unrelenting. This is why you need to take advantage of platforms such as AppLocker. By leveraging its application whitelisting feature, you’ll get a very powerful way of stopping a multitude of attacks. And if you configure it correctly, you can massively increase the amount of time it would require for a cyberattacker to get around the system. This is the kind of technology that can enhance the security of your organization. Hence why we need to discuss just how AppLocker will help you with security and compliance measures.

Securing your organization

Arguably the biggest security risk for most organizations comes from employees simply running applications. As long as users can run executables or have access to files that can potentially contain malicious code, your organization is at risk. Such incidents could compromise the entire network and not just a single device. So by helping you to determine which files and applications users can run, AppLocker immediately improves your security. These files can include DLLs, scripts, Windows Installer files, and packaged app installers. Giving system admins greater control in these particular areas will shore up your business’ defenses.

Control allowed software

To maintain high-level security for corporate data and your business as a whole, system admins need to be strict about which softwares and applications are allowed to run. Otherwise, you risk giving access to software that can create vulnerabilities in your network. AppLocker is fully capable of denying applications from running when you exclude them from the list of allowed apps. And in the production environment, when AppLocker rules are enforced any apps that are not in the allowed rules are blocked from running. Therefore, users can’t intentionally or accidentally run software that is explicitly excluded from the allowed list.

AppLocker rules

AppLocker has several different types of files that it can block. This makes it extremely efficient in its whitelisting capabilities because it’s highly unlikely that anything that you want to block will make it through. The types of files that AppLocker can block include the following:

  • Executable files such as .exe, and .com
  • Windows installer files such as .mst, .msi and .msp
  • Executable files such as .bat, .ps1, .cmd, .js and .vbs
  • DLL executables
  • Packaged app installers such as .appx

The organization of the above into rule collections is something that will help you to easily differentiate the rules for different types of apps.

Default rules

In addition to the above, AppLocker also gives you default rules for each rule collection. These rules are allowed in an AppLocker rule collection and they are necessary if Windows is to function correctly. To start, you’ll have to go and open the AppLocker console. Having done that, right-click the appropriate rule type for which you want to generate default rules automatically. You can automatically create executable rules, Windows Installer rules, script rules, and packaged application rules. Lastly, click on Create Default Rules.

Monitoring app usage

After you set your rules and deploy the AppLocker policies, monitoring app usage can help you assess whether policy implementation is per your expectations. To understand what application controls are currently enforced through AppLocker rules, you can:

  • Analyze the AppLocker logs in Event Viewer.
  • Enable the Audit-only AppLocker enforcement setting to ensure that the AppLocker rules are properly configured for your organization.
  • Review AppLocker events with Get-AppLocker File Information.
  • Review AppLocker events with Test-AppLocker Policy Windows PowerShell cmdlet to see whether any of the rules in your rule collections will be blocked on your reference device or the device on which you maintain policies.

Main advantages

Several benefits come with AppLocker that help to make it a more attractive option for any business looking to enhance security and compliance. The first thing is the cost. How much you ask? Well, if you already have the enterprise edition of Windows Server, then there is no extra cost to talk about. Moreover, AppLocker comes as an integrated part of Group Policy, which most Windows Admins are already familiar with. Because of that, this can simplify the AppLocker user experience and make it a seamless one. Also, any AppLocker policy can be imported into Intune as an XML file giving you a similar level of control of apps for MDM-enrolled devices as you would for on-premises, domain-joined devices. And to further save you productive time, Windows internal apps are automatically whitelisted.

Why consider AppLocker?

Even with all the security benefits available, as an organization, you still have to determine whether or not you actually need AppLocker. And for most, the answer will probably be a resounding yes. If your organization needs the ability to verify which apps are allowed to run on your corporate network, then you need AppLocker. Furthermore, if you want to check which users are allowed to use the licensed program, then you probably also need it. To these, you can also add organizations that need to provide audit logs containing the type of apps that clients have been running. And of course, wherever there is a need to prevent overzealous users from running random software, AppLocker can play a significant role.

Wrap up

Only the best technology will do for any organization that seeks to keep cybercriminals away. Attacks are being orchestrated from all around and the degree of sophistication is constantly changing. Therefore, organizations need to take proactive measures to stay ahead of hackers. And platforms such as AppLocker can enable you to do that. By setting up blocks for different types of files and software, you instantly reduce your surface area of attack. It’s time to leverage all available technology to fight back against cybercrime.

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