Should you block all the bad actors you already know and leave all the rest of the traffic freely, or should you just allow the trusted entities and block anything else? This is the dilemma between Blacklisting and Whitelisting. Let’s explore them a bit deeper and see the differences.
What is Blacklisting?
Blacklisting is a method of access limitation that cuts the access to a network or a system to those entities that were added to a blacklist, based on their unique identifier, which in most cases is their unique IP addresses.
The essence of Blacklisting is that ALL entities that are added to the BLACKLIST don’t have access to the protected object.
You can use the Blacklisting technique for many applications like:
- A network administrator can use a blacklist to stop incoming traffic from entities that are known to spread malicious software. That way, they secure the network.
- You can blacklist some websites and make them not accessible from your work network. That way, you can provide better protection. You can use it to block social media sites to try to boost productivity.
- Limiting can be applied to phone calls. You can forbid incoming calls from certain numbers that you don’t want to hear or spam callers.
You can manually add entities to the blacklist, or software can do it automatically, based on different criteria.
In general, it is an effective solution that is easy to manage, but it has its caveats.
The disadvantage of Blacklisting is that your system or network will still be vulnerable to attacks from criminals that are not yet on your blacklist. Everybody that is not on the list will have access.
What is Whitelisting?
Whitelisting is a method of access permit that gives access to a network or a system to those entities that were already added to a list – whitelist, based on their unique identifier, which in most cases is their unique IP addresses.
The essence of Whitelisting is that ONLY entities that are added to the WHITELIST, will have access to the protected object.
It is a very defensive approach to object protection.
You can use the Whitelisting technique for many applications like:
- You can limit the traffic to only trusted sources. If you have a server, you can limit the access to just a few trusted IP addresses.
- Limit access to the administrator’s panel on a website to trusted-only IP addresses.
- Allow only specific applications and sites.
The Whitelisting method can stop all incoming traffic from unknown sources and keep the object (network or system) safe. You should consider that it can limit the normal work by stopping everything that is not yet on the trusted list.
Differences between Blacklisting and Whitelisting
- Blacklisting is threat-centric, and Whitelisting is trust-centric.
- Blacklist limits the access for those on its list while Whitelisting permits access to those on its list.
- Default is allowed in Blacklisting, while in Whitelisting, default is blocked.
- Both Blacklisting and Whitelisting could be hard to manage if we are talking about a large network with multiple variables.
Blacklisting is a good method if you know who exactly is your bad actor. You can add it to the list and be safe until a new one comes. Whitelisting is more extreme, but its default behavior of denying access can often be safer.