Security is an important factor when building an Internet network for your business. IP whitelisting can help you control who has access to and information on your network. Understanding what IP whitelisting is can help you determine if it is the right decision for your business. In this article, we define IP whitelisting and list its advantages and disadvantages to help you decide how to best secure your company’s network.
What is Whitelisting in Cyber Security?
Cybersecurity whitelisting is a helpful way to ensure that your business’s Internet equipment can only access pre-approved services and applications. You can also use whitelisting to make it so that only pre-approved users can access your business’s devices. For example, you can use a whitelist to maintain your incoming email so that you only receive emails from trusted sources. Several types of whitelisting exist in areas such as:
- local area network (LAN)
related: Working in Cyber Security: Definition, Career and Skills
What is IP Whitelisting?
IP whitelisting is a way to give trusted individuals access to your business’s network. With IP whitelisting, the network administrator can allow specific IP addresses to access your files, applications, and software remotely. For example, if your company uses cloud services, you might want to only allow users with an IP address in your office to access the cloud.
Another form of IP whitelisting involves website access. If you run a website as part of your business, you may find some IP addresses that need help accessing your page. This could be the effect of an automated security process. In these cases, whitelisting may mean taking steps to help ensure that the IP address of every user who wishes to access your website is accessible.
related: FAQ: What are the responsibilities of a network administrator?
IP Whitelist Pros
IP whitelisting provides many benefits to the business. It may also have some disadvantages. Taking all sides into account can help you determine whether IP whitelisting is the right choice for your business. When making this decision, consider the following benefits:
Allowing only pre-approved individuals to access your network can reduce your chances of encountering a virus, malware or any other cyber attack. This can help you share any sensitive information about your business only with people you trust. If a problem occurs, having limited access can help you or your IT team figure out how the attack may have occurred, how to resolve it, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Restricting network access can help create distractions for your employees. You can choose to deny their personal devices access to your network, which can help limit the amount of time your employees spend on their phones. You can deny access to specific websites from your network if you find that they are common distractions for your employees. Using a whitelist to limit these distractions can help improve productivity in your workplace.
related: 15 tips for eliminating distractions at work
Creates secure remote access
If you, a coworker or employee need to access your network from a remote location, they can do so. Your network administrator can grant access to the remote person’s IP address. That way, you can help protect your network even if you decide to access an external device. If you need to, you can also ask your network administrator to remove access to the remote IP address when it is no longer needed.
IP Whitelist Cons
Some disadvantages of IP whitelisting that you can consider include:
favors smaller networks
Since your network administrator usually controls which IP addresses can access your network, your whitelist may be as large as your administrator can maintain. A large network may have multiple IP addresses to track, each with its own potential issues when trying to access the network. This can often favor smaller networks that give the administrator more control over security measures.
Doesn’t recognize sources of IP addresses
Some technologies, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), can mimic specific IP addresses. This is called a spoofed IP address. The whitelist itself cannot determine whether a device using an approved IP address actually belongs to an employee or other trusted person. This may allow unauthorized access to your network. Additional security measures, such as password protection, two-factor authentication, and client certificates for authorized devices, can help reduce the chance of unauthorized access to your network.
related: A Guide to Two-Factor Authentication
Doesn’t account for dynamic IP addresses
Dynamic IP addresses are IP addresses that change. These dynamic IP addresses are common to most people with Internet access. Typically, their IP address changes either every 24 hours or in any multiple of 24 hours. This allows your remote workers to contact your network administrator daily with their updated IP addresses before accessing the network and starting their workday.
Blocks access to your page
If you have a website for your business that you want to secure, whitelisting IP addresses can reduce web traffic to your site. For a commercial website, this may prevent potential customers or clients from accessing your page. If it’s an internal page, whitelisting may prevent your employees from having access to important information about your business.
whitelist vs blacklist
Blacklisting is the opposite of whitelisting. By blacklisting, you can block IP addresses from accessing your network. Like whitelisting, you can blacklist multiple categories of access, such as email, firewalls, and applications. This can be useful when searching for potential threat IP addresses. For example, if your network administrator notices an unauthorized address trying to access your business’s personal files, they can block that address from accessing the network.
Like whitelisting, you can use blacklisting to prevent unwanted individuals from accessing your network. Similar to whitelisting, it can have many disadvantages. For example, because dynamic IP addresses change frequently, blocking IP addresses may not be a permanent solution. Unauthorized persons can still imitate or spoof an unblocked IP address to gain access to your network. You may also find that there are multiple IP addresses to block from accessing the network. Consider using a combination of whitelisting, blacklisting, and other security measures when securing your network.