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IP Whitelisting vs IP Blacklisting

Securing access to devices or networks isn’t solely the responsibility of a security partner or business; it’s everyone’s responsibility.

whitelisting vs blacklisting

It’s a question that has plagued humanity since time immemorial. Though data breaches and hacking incidents are on the rise in 2021, some of the craftiest — and difficult to detect — occur when people we know communicate with us under false pretenses.

Despite our best efforts to defend against threats, these types of frauds, phishes, and malware take advantage of human nature to spread in businesses.

According to the renowned Security Institute, almost 1.1 billion new malicious software programs were discovered in 2020. And, in fact, more than half of all malware that penetrates systems which were welcomed in a sense that there were no appropriate blockages were designed to stop them.

Data security is a two-pronged approach that encompasses both blacklisting and whitelisting. Whitelists are used to control who should be able to send messages and other forms of access on our systems, while blacklists allow us to determine who should not have access.

Whitelists and blacklists are two ways to limit access by blocking IP addresses; each has its advantages and disadvantages, and no two people agree on which is superior.

The best approach depends mostly on your company’s requirements and goals, although frequently the ideal technique is a mix of both. Let’s look at blacklisting vs whitelisting in-depth.

What is Whitelisting and How Does it Work?

Whitelisting is the process of enabling a list of approved entities to execute in a network, such as applications and websites, whereas blacklisting is the practice of excluding undesirable parties. Whitelisting is considered more secure because it takes a broader trust perspective. This method of application control can be based on rules like file name, product, or vendor.

Whitelisting solves the same problems as blacklisting, but it takes a different approach. Instead of building a list of threats, you build a list of authorized people and ban everything else. It’s based on trust; unless something is proven to be acceptable, anything new is automatically denied.

As a result, access control is much more stringent. It’s comparable to restricting entry to your office building only to those who can pass a background check and show proof of their credentials.

A whitelist is a method of allowing specific IP addresses access to a network. The whitelisting approach is utilized by firewalls that only allow certain IP addresses to connect to a network. Another common scenario that most people have encountered is the Apple app store.

Identifying applications by their file name, size, and directory path is the most basic approach to blacklist them. The drawback with this method, though, is that hackers might create an app with the same file name and file size as a whitelisted application to hide it from view.

To prevent this, you may implement a more rigorous approach, as the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advises. It entails using cryptographic hash approaches and the creator’s digital signatures on each component to mitigate it.

Consider all of the activities that people will do and the tools they’ll require to perform them when developing a network-level whitelist. This network-level whitelist can cover anything at the network level, including network infrastructure, locations, applications, users, contractors, services, and ports as well as more detailed information such as software libraries.

A whitelist may be subdivided to include email addresses, files, and applications on the user level. You must think about both users’ activities and privileges when you use the whitelist approach.

Organizations may create their own whitelists or collaborate with third parties that develop reputation-based whitelists and give ratings for software and other items based on a range of criteria.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Whitelisting is a more stringent form of access control than blacklisting since the default condition is to reject things and allow in only those that have been confirmed to be safe. When you use the whitelisting approach, this implies that your system’s security risk is dramatically reduced.

Whitelisting is more complicated and time-consuming to set up than blacklisting. It’s tough to outsource the process of creating a whitelist to a third party since they must know about the applications you use. Because it necessitates information that is unique to each firm, it necessitates greater user participation.

Every time a new program or patch is installed, businesses must update their whitelist. Whitelisting may be more difficult for consumers due to bureaucracy, especially if they have bigger, more complicated systems.

Whitelisting applications also restricts how a system may be utilized. They’re not allowed to install anything they wish, which restricts their creativity and the jobs they can do. Depending on the program, whitelisting has the potential to divert the traffic that you want.

What is Blacklisting and How Does it Work?

The first step is to figure out who should be denied access. Blacklists contain individuals that must be excluded from a network or system owing to their unsavory or dangerous behavior.

A blacklist is a list of persons or organizations tagged as terrorists. A company’s blacklist may exist. Blacklists are often established in the field of network security using potentially hazardous applications such as viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms, and other malware.

DNS blacklists are also a wonderful tool for keeping unwanted users, IP addresses, applications, email addresses, domains, processes, and organizations out of your network. This approach allows you to blacklist almost any aspect of your network.

Digital signatures, heuristics, behaviors, and other techniques can help you spot dangerous or suspicious things. Businesses may create their blacklists and rely on lists provided by third parties such as network security service providers to blacklist software.

Blacklisting has been a popular approach to access control for antivirus software, spam blockers, intrusion detection systems, and other security software since long ago.

Benefits and Drawbacks

One of the major advantages of blacklisting is its ease. It follows a simple idea: just identify known and suspected threats, deny them access, and let everything else pass.

It’s a low-maintenance technique for consumers in most situations. With many applications, your security software or service provider will create the list with only minimal input from you. A blacklist, on the other hand, is never definitive. IT experts have discovered more than 350,000 new malicious software and potentially unwanted applications. While monitoring these threats may be challenging, sharing threat information can assist improve blacklists.

Blacklists are helpful against recognized dangers, they aren’t useful against new, unknown risks such as zero-day attacks. If your organization is the first to be targeted with a unique kind of assault, blacklisting will be ineffective.

Hackers can also create malware that evades detection by blacklisting technologies. They may be able to change the malware so that it is not recognized as a banned item by the blacklist tool.

What Is Graylisting?

The third approach, whitelisting, is related to blacklists and whitelists but isn’t frequently mentioned. Its name suggests that it’s halfway between blacklisting and whitelisting. It’s typically used in conjunction with one of these two primary methods.

A graylist is a list of things you haven’t yet looked at to see whether they’re safe or hazardous. Graylisted items are temporarily blocked from accessing your computer.

You investigate the item further or obtain more information to see whether it should be allowed access after something is added to a graylist. Something must remain so that others may join.

The way you deal with a graylisted item is determined by the entity’s nature. Alike a security tool may notify the user or a network administrator that an item has been blacklisted.

What’s the right time to apply the combination of Whitelisting and Blacklisting?

In very specific cases, combining blacklisting and whitelisting is the best option. You may employ a variety of methods at different levels of your infrastructure, as well as ones that are both inside and outside of the same level.

Use security software, to take a blacklist approach to malware and instruction detection. Use a whitelist approach instead to limit network access as a whole. You may also blacklist IP addresses while allowing the intended application action through a whitelist.

You may restrict access to your site based on where they’re from or what they’ve done before. You may also whitelist a service depending on a geographical region, allowing only those who reside in areas where you know real people exist. However,

Whitelisting and blacklisting are not mutually exclusive. Whitelisting and blacklisting are both utilized by a variety of organizations. Whitelisting is the process of restricting access to a computer or an account using a password. Only those who know the password may enter it, while everyone else is prohibited from doing so.

What’s the right time to Use Blacklisting?

If you want to make it simple for clients to log in and use your systems, blacklisting is the way to go. If you value those items more than obtaining the tightest access control, blacklisting is the way to go.

The most popular technique for security teams is to block unauthorized access because when individuals develop gadgets, they frequently want as many people as feasible to use them.

Blacklisting is frequently the most efficient strategy to offer something to the public while also increasing the number of people who can use it.


  • You seek a less restricting atmosphere.
  • You’re looking for ways to cut down on administrative work.
  • You’d want the general public to be able to utilize a system. 
  • Which is the right time to use whitelisting?

Whitelisting is the greatest choice if security is your top priority and you don’t mind putting in a little extra work or restricting access. Whitelisting is ideal when strong access control and security are required.

Whitelisting is more complicated than blacklisting. Whitelisting is a smart solution for apps that aren’t yet available to the public. You may whitelist workers’ IP addresses and prevent any other IP addresses from accessing an application like this, for example.

A more extreme approach to keeping apps out of your network is blacklisting them. Whitelisting, on the other hand, maybe useful in preventing an application or service from performing any additional operations. By blacklisting specific types of activity, you can implement whitelisting.

You could create a policy that allows a microservice to consume a specific number of resources or run on a particular host but shuts it down if it seeks to use too many resources or change hosts.

If you want your software to function as you desire, blacklisting isn’t an option because the number of bad behaviors is just too big. You can’t anticipate everything the software will do, but if all you require it to accomplish are unusual actions,


  • Only a restricted number of users require the use of technology.
  • You want a more controlled environment.
  • You’re not opposed to putting in a little more effort on the administrative side. 

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