Gone are the days when Application Control was considered a luxury. Or even a kind of security value-add. In fact, it's safe to say, that for any business with an Internet connection the ability to secure and manage applications is not only a necessity but an inherent component of IT infrastructure.
That said, Application Control has come a long ways since its inception. And it's had to.
Its rapid evolution is driven, in part, by the fact that security solutions for other components in the network have already reached their stride. Many firewalls, for example, are exemplary at blocking threats against the network. Anti-malware and intrusion technologies have been revved to combat a tidal wave of sophisticated and advanced threats. And solutions such as data loss prevention (DLP) have been refined to prevent classified and sensitive information from wandering out of the company.
In short, Web applications often represents the proverbial "low-hanging fruit" for hackers looking for an easy entrance into a network housing digital assets. And with a constant and exponential rise of new applications, the need for a robust Application Control solution is becoming a bigger priority for just about everyone.
And here's why: as the name implies, Application Control gives organizations control over services such as HTTP. But it also gives them finite control over all aspects of their Web applications, in lots of different ways.
Naturally, Application Control enables users to enforce security policy and identify and block harmful applications. But the technology goes way past preventing access.
For one, Application Control gives IT administrators comprehensive single-pane visibility into Web traffic and the security posture of their organization. Subsequently, it gives them the ability to rein popular applications that may be legitimate but present a threat to the organization if misused.
Take certain social media sites, for example. Application Control would give IT administrators the ability to monitor usage, and therefore gauge productivity. As such, it would also enable them restrict usage to certain groups of users - allowing the C-level executives unbridled access while limiting the engineers or janitorial staff. Application Control also gives IT administrators the ability to throttle access during peak work hours, but open it up during lunch, on breaks or before and after work, if necessary.
Application Control also provides a means of monitoring bandwidth consumption, which in turn, allows an alternative way of assessing risk to the organization. For example, bandwidth drains often are sourced to usage of video apps, such as YouTube, streaming apps, such as BitTorrent, or VoIP apps such as Google Talk. And all can be leveraged by cybercriminals as potential threat vectors for malware.
That in turn gives administrators a way to create and enforce sound and realistic security policies, based on an organization's needs as well as the actual online behavior of its users.
Here are a few fundamental features that users should look for in an Application Control solution:
Applications such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter are vehicles for increasingly sophisticated forms of malware that pose new risks for organizations. As such, the ability to monitor and control applications, along with comprehensive visibility, is vital to any security strategy.
The influx of stealthy and evasive malware requires solutions that can analyze patterns & predict future behavior. Behavioral analysis technology gives users the ability to detect applications attempting to obfuscate their activity and enables administrators to restrict or block them accordingly.
You can't control what you can't see. A robust database gives users oversight and control over thousands of Web applications, programs and services, while also providing regular updates for the latest signatures.
Application Control is a critical component of a multi-layered security strategy, so it needs to work harmoniously with other solutions in the overall architecture that includes intrusion prevention, antimalware, and Web filtering.