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What is Application Control?

The dynamics of security have shifted as a result of web-based applications. Previously, certain apps were linked to specific protocols and ports, making policy enforcement very simple at the host level. Nearly all traffic now uses HTTP (ports 80/443). Employees, contractors, partners, and service providers can access web applications over the firewall from anywhere, posing access control issues. Instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, Webmail, social networking, and IP voice/video collaboration all circumvent security measures by altering communication ports and protocols, or tunneling within other regularly used services (for example, HTTP or HTTPS). To secure their assets from threats and manage bandwidth, organizations require control over the apps and traffic on their networks.

Application control is a security approach that prevents unauthorized applications from damaging data by blocking or restricting their execution. The control functions vary depending on the application's business purpose, but the fundamental goal is to assist maintain the privacy and security of data that is utilized by and sent between apps.

Completeness and validity checks, identity, authentication, authorization, input controls, and forensic controls are all examples of application control.

  • Application controls guarantee that records are processed correctly from start to finish.
  • Only legitimate data is input or processed thanks to application controls.
  • All users have identified uniquely and indisputably thanks to application controls.
  • Authentication for the application system is provided by application controls.
  • Only authorized business users have access to the application system, thanks to application restrictions.
  • Data integrity inputs into the application system from upstream sources are ensured by application controls.
  • Application controls guarantee that data based on inputs and outputs is scientifically and mathematically valid.

How does Application Control Work?

Application control technology works based on a basic concept: different types of network traffic flow are compared to predetermined condition models. As a result, these requests must adhere to particular specifications for the computers in the network to interact with one another. These standards allow application control to determine which traffic flow originates from which location in the system. Taking this into consideration, you may prioritize which apps to whitelist and blacklist, as well as which ones require more frequent monitoring.

At Layer 7, the application identification (App ID) classification engine and the application signature pattern-matching engine evaluate the payload's real content to identify apps. Until the application is recognized, App ID performs a deep packet inspection (DPI) of network traffic and every packet in the flow that travels through the application identification engine. To speed up future identification, application results such as IP addresses, hostnames, and port ranges are kept in the application system cache (ASC).

After identifying a traffic flow as belonging to a certain application, it can be categorized in a variety of ways:

  • Type: Teleconferencing systems, for example, can be categorized according to their function. This can assist in determining the traffic's priority.
  • Level of cybersecurity risk: Different apps have varying levels of cybersecurity risk. Due to the possibility of data exfiltration, protocols that convey data, such as email or FTP, may be categorized as high risk. Identifying traffic security threats allows a company to implement security measures based on risk assessments.
  • Resource consumption: Some apps consume significantly more resources than others. Videoconferencing programs, for example, which require a lot of high-speed network bandwidth to broadcast both audio and video, can use a lot of it. Identifying traffic from apps that consume a lot of resources might aid in network performance optimization.
  • Productivity implications: Social networking apps, for example, can have a beneficial or bad influence on employee productivity. For this reason, an organization may want to filter specific types of traffic on its networks.

What are the Features of Application Control?

There are seven key characteristics to consider when it comes to application control, three of them deal with user accounts and the remaining four with data processing. Identification, authentication, authorization, completeness and validity checks, input controls, and forensic controls are all examples of these controls. A brief description of each feature may be found below:

  • Identification: The correctness and uniqueness of user account credentials are ensured via identification.
  • Authentication: All applications require authentication, which is comprised of verification system controls.
  • Authorization: The authorization ensures that only authorized users have access to the company's application network.
  • Completeness Checks: Checks for completeness that ensure traffic flow records are handled from beginning to end.
  • Validity Checks: Application control technology performs validity checks to ensure that only legitimate data inputs are handled.
  • Input Controls: The integrity of the data feeds provided into the system is ensured by input controls.
  • Forensic Controls: Forensic controls, ensure that the data is correct mathematically and scientifically.

What Are the Benefits of Application Control?

Application control is a technique for identifying the traffic flows of different applications on a network. This makes it easier for businesses to develop and implement network routing and granular security rules based on the constraints set by the aforementioned traffic flows. It's especially important for safeguarding businesses that have a strong BYOD policy. Some of the notable benefits of application control can be listed as follows:

  • Verification and Access Control: Beyond application-specific restrictions, application control is a cybersecurity strategy that makes identity-based policies easier to apply. This means you may specify access criteria for certain individuals or user groups who operate with different resources within your firm. You will also be able to use the zero trust model as a result of this.
  • Application-Specific Policies: The key benefit of application control is that it allows you to impose application-specific security policies for your company. You may use these to allow, deny, or limit specific types of application traffic.
  • Malware Protection: Because IT application controls prohibit unapproved apps from running inside your company's IT environment, malware entering your network through an application would be challenging. Malware injection through an application is a technique used by cyber attackers to breach high-security networks.
  • Increased Network Visibility: Application control provides your company with a better understanding of the traffic that enters and exits your network. As a result, your security team will be able to track incoming and outgoing inquiries, either across the whole online perimeter or between particular endpoints.
  • Preventing Application Exploits: Exploits are another technique for a cyberattacker to get access to your network. Application exploits function as "backdoor" entry and are often found in third-party programs and out-of-date operating systems.
  • Optimized Resource Usage: You may also optimize resource utilization in the corporate network by being able to differentiate between policies for certain apps. Prioritizing traffic from latency-sensitive applications above less vital apps like social media will guarantee that key infrastructure programs receive the best possible system performance.
  • Application Monitoring: With so many endpoint devices on a corporate network, it may be difficult to keep track of which programs are operating. IT application controls assist in the management of apps in your IT environment.
  • PAM Solution Integration: Another advantage of application control is that it may be used in combination with privileged access management (PAM), a form of cybersecurity technology that ensures the correct use of administrative permissions inside a network. PAM adheres to the principle of least privilege (PoLP), which states that user accounts should have just the degree of access necessary to do everyday chores.

What Are the Benefits of Application Control?

Figure 1. What Are the Benefits of Application Control?

What are the Types of Application Control?

Types of application control are explained below:

  • Input Controls: Input controls are a form of application control that restricts the amount of data that can be entered into an application. This control restricts the addition of illegal inputs to the system. There are several types of input controls, and some need authorization for data entry before it can be stored in the system.
  • Output Controls: Output controls are another kind of application control that deals with the distribution of data across applications and ensuring that the proper and appropriate data is provided to the relevant recipient. Output controls keep track of what data is being transferred and whether it is correct and complete; they also keep track of who the data is being sent to and where it is going.
  • Integrity Controls: Integrity controls assist in ensuring that data is formatted consistently and can be readily validated as legitimate and proper.
  • Access Controls: Access controls limit the activities that users may do on a particular piece of data. This application control restricts the actions that users may do with data based on their access role. Certain users are only permitted to access data, while others are permitted to edit it. Others may even have the power to modify the data by adding new inputs and lines.

What is the Relationship of the Next Generation Firewall with Application Control?

Traditional firewalls were designed for a period before people utilized many applications on various ports at the same time, making it impossible for this technology to stay up. WAF is also a good option, but because it focuses on the application layer, it doesn't necessarily cover all of the bases. Next-generation firewalls monitor traffic from all application levels, determining what is safe to broadcast and receive using AI and machine learning. This component is fully automated, requiring no daily oversight from IT personnel, and is capable of determining what is being delivered or received. Simply said, you have the option of allowing people to utilize Facebook. You may also ban the Facebook app or choose which individuals are permitted to use it.

Traveling by plane is a nice analogy. Data was simply verified to determine whether it had a ticket and if its credentials were in order, it may board the plane in the first few iterations of the firewall.

Then application traffic increased to the point that first-generation firewalls couldn't keep up. This is because thieves were able to place malware into application traffic, where it was invisible to the firewall ticket taker.

As a result, next-generation firewalls were created with additional features such as Application Control and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) to identify known and zero-day threats. By constantly monitoring network traffic, this new gadget might peek into programs and detect and stop malware. Consider it akin to incorporating x-ray equipment into your aircraft boarding process. Even though you had a ticket, if you had something harmful in your luggage, you were denied entry.

What Are The Key Differences Between General And Application Controls?

There are a number of critical distinctions between general and application controls. These controls are crucial for businesses that rely on information technology systems. Both of these restrictions are critical. However, it is vital to comprehend their distinctions. The following are some of the ways in which general and application controls differ.

  • Definition: All computerized systems or applications are subject to general controls. They are a collection of software, hardware, and manual methods that contribute to the overall control environment's form. By contrast, application controls are unique to each computerized program. For instance, payroll systems have different application restrictions than sales systems.

  • Scope: General controls have an impact on how an organization's whole information technology system operates. As a result, its use is more versatile. By contrast, application controls are exclusive to a single program. As a result, application controls have a more defined and limited reach. That is not to say, however, that these regulations are ineffective. By contrast, application controls are more granular. As discussed before, application controls are classified into three distinct categories. These comprise controls for input, processing, and output. Each of these categories may have further subcategories, all of which are subject to application constraints.

  • Types: General controls, as previously stated, comprise software, hardware, and manual techniques. As a result, these controls may include software, computer operations, data security, administrative, and physical hardware controls, among others.

  • Example: As previously stated, general controls may include all controls over information technology systems. Controls over data center and network operations, for example, are an example of broad controls. These rules are applicable to any kind of information that communicates over networks. Antivirus or firewall protection is a common kind of generic control that is applicable to all information technology systems. Application controls, on the other hand, are application-specific. Thus, input controls are an excellent illustration of application controls. These controls enable the validation of any data that enters the systems. In this manner, businesses can verify that only accurate data enters their systems. Application control ensures that each employee is paid once the payroll program is used.