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Understanding the Requirements for an ACP Application Online
In today’s digital age, many organizations are offering online application processes for various services, including the application for an ACP (Access Control Professional) certification. This convenient method allows individuals to complete their applications from the comfort of their own homes, saving time and effort. However, it’s important to understand the requirements before starting an ACP application online. In this article, we will delve into the details of what is needed to successfully complete this process.
Basic Personal Information
The first section of an ACP application online typically requires individuals to provide their basic personal information. This includes details such as full name, date of birth, gender, and contact information like phone number and email address. It is crucial to double-check this information for accuracy as any mistakes could potentially delay or even invalidate your application. Additionally, you may be asked to upload a recent passport-sized photograph as part of your personal identification.
Professional Background and Experience
The second section focuses on your professional background and experience in the field of access control. Here, you will be required to provide details about your current employment status, job title or position held, and relevant work experience related to access control systems or security management. Some applications may also ask for references from colleagues or supervisors who can vouch for your skills and expertise in this industry.
Furthermore, it is important to include any certifications or training programs you have completed that are relevant to access control systems. This could include courses on security protocols, risk assessment procedures, or specific technology platforms used in the industry. Providing comprehensive information about your professional background helps demonstrate your qualifications and suitability for obtaining an ACP certification.
The third section of an ACP application online focuses on educational qualifications. You will typically be asked to provide details about your highest level of education completed along with any degrees or certifications obtained. If you have pursued any specialized courses or training programs related to access control or security management, it is important to include these as well. Demonstrating a strong educational background in this field can greatly enhance your application and increase your chances of obtaining the ACP certification.
Payment and Submission
The final section of an ACP application online involves payment and submission. Most applications require a non-refundable fee for processing the application. The accepted modes of payment may vary depending on the organization offering the certification, but commonly include credit card payments or online banking transfers.
Before submitting your application, it is crucial to review all the information provided for accuracy and completeness. Ensure that all required fields are filled out correctly and that any supporting documents, such as certificates or letters of recommendation, are attached as specified. Once you have reviewed everything thoroughly, submit your application electronically through the designated online portal.
In conclusion, applying for an ACP certification online offers convenience and ease of access. By understanding the requirements outlined in this article, you can prepare yourself effectively for completing the application process. Remember to provide accurate personal information, highlight relevant professional experience and qualifications, and make sure to double-check all details before submission. Good luck with your ACP application.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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What are application controls? Definition, examples & best practices
In 2021, the cost of data breaches reached $4.24 million — the highest count in the 17 years IBM has reported on these figures. Though compromised credentials contributed to this cost, it’s not the only factor; IBM reported that the drastic increase in remote working due to COVID-19 boosted the cost of breaches compared to those where remote working wasn’t a factor.
Since remote working is likely here to stay, organizations need new ways to protect their data. This all begins with effective application control, which should include an integrated internal controls management tool to boost efficiency. Though application controls can be executed in various ways, their primary purpose is to safeguard data transmitted between users and applications.
Effective application control can save businesses millions of dollars; IBM found that organizations that used security artificial intelligence (AI) application controls spared $3.81 million in costs in 2021 compared to those that did not.
Here’s everything organizations need to know to mitigate data risks with application controls.
What Are Application Controls?
Application controls are the steps organizations can implement within their applications to keep them private and secure . Though applications are an inevitable and vital part of the daily operations of modern organizations, they also put organizations at an unprecedented risk of breach.
Every time information is transmitted from one user or application to another, the organization could be compromising its data. IT application controls help mitigate the risks of using these tools by putting various checks in place. These checks authenticate applications and data before it’s allowed into or out of the company’s internal IT environment, ensuring that only authorized users can take action with the company’s digital assets.
Application Controls vs. General Controls
Application and general controls are distinct but equally important security controls. Both controls are critical to ensure that organizations with information technology systems adhere to cybersecurity benchmarks . Understanding the key differences can help companies execute both in tandem, so their systems remain secure.
These controls apply to all computerized systems. But they aren’t just digital. Software, hardware and manual controls all fall under the umbrella of general controls. This includes the various safeguards within the system that apply to computer operations, administration, data security, software, hardware and more.
Firewalls and antivirus software are common types of general controls that will apply throughout the IT system.
These controls are more specific, focusing on a narrower portion of the organization’s information systems. While general controls include a wide variety of control types, application controls include just three: input, which authenticates information entered into the system; processing, which verifies information being transmitted; and output, which validates information being sent out of the system.
IT application controls are highly specific to the organization’s system, like checking that data is entered in the required format before allowing it into the system.
Types & Examples of Application Controls
There are three types of application controls. While each type of application control can be executed in a variety of ways, together, they cover all parts of an application.
This application control governs the data inputs in an application. Input controls prevent users from entering unvalidated information into the system. These controls might require data to be entered in a given format or authorization on all inputs before adding them to the information system.
Input Controls Example
Applications can include input controls around data editing, ensuring that only certain fields can be edited. Another control is separating the functions of each user, so unique users must initiate and authorize the action.
These controls safeguard data when transmitting it between applications. With output controls, organizations verify that the data gets sent to the right user by tracking what the data is, whether or not the data is complete and the data’s final destination. When implemented correctly, output controls ensure that data won’t be transmitted until all checks are successfully passed.
Output Controls Example
Authentication is an example of an output control, in which the system authenticates data before it leaves the system. Authorization is another tool that requires the application to confirm that the user has the approval to complete the action.
With processing controls, organizations verify that incoming data is correctly processed before it’s added to the information system. This verification involves establishing rules for processing data, then ensuring that these rules are followed every time the application transmits data. For instance, it may mean limiting the number of checks or verifying that the totals are reasonable.
Processing Controls Example
Validity checks are a type of processing control that requires the application to confirm that all processed data is valid. It means ensuring that the data is in the required format or sent to the correct user.
Not all users need the same level of access to the application. Application controls establish which actions a user has access to; some users may only be able to view data, whereas others might be able to modify existing data or even add inputs.
Access Controls Example
Systems with effective access controls should have checks verifying each user’s identity. It might be two-factor authentication upon login or requiring that a user enter a unique code in addition to their credentials. Zero trust frameworks also enhance access controls.
Applications should verify all data is complete and accurate. Integrity controls create rules for what constitutes complete information, such as the accepted input format for different types of data.
Integrity Controls Example
Suppose users are often filling out forms within an application. In that case, the integrity controls might check that any dates entered are in the correct format or that the inputs don’t contain more than the acceptable number of characters.
Auditing IT Application Controls
Data risks are constantly evolving, which is why organizations must ensure that their systems keep up. They can do this by conducting regular application control audits . These audits involve analyzing and cataloging every software application in use, then ensuring that all transactions and data hold up against the necessary controls.
Audits can occur in one of two ways. Administrators can go through every process within the application, documenting which controls are adequate, which need to be improved and which need to be added. But audits can also take a more aggressive approach, called black-box testing. With black-box testing, administrators approach the application as if they were a hacker, searching the application for weaknesses in a runtime environment.
Both approaches can be time-consuming and costly, but they pay back the organization by ensuring that data and transactions remain private and secure.
Automating Internal Controls
Manually managing application controls is possible. However, it’s also potentially costly and time-consuming, both of which can threaten data security. Automating internal controls can help organizations better engage the three lines of defense, delivering a higher level of assurance to all stakeholders, including the board of directors, while also helping to enhance the overall governance, risk and compliance (GRC) profile.
Internal Controls Management from Diligent automates much of the application control process, from centralizing control testing and workflows to tracking and reporting all gaps in protection in a single interface. Automated tools like Internal Controls Management allow organizations to stay ahead of risks and achieve more peace of mind while cutting costs by stopping data breaches before they start.
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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 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.
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 a good option, but because it focuses on the application layer, it doesn't necessarily cover all of the bases. Next-generation firewalls ( NGFWs ) 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.
- How does Application Control Work?
- What are the Features of Application Control?
- What Are the Benefits of Application Control?
- What are the Types of Application Control?
- What is the Relationship of the Next Generation Firewall with Application Control?
- What Are The Key Differences Between General And Application Controls?
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IT Application Controls and the benefits of automation
In 2022, the cost of a data breach averaged $4.35 million. And the number and scope of these breaches continue to grow. The leading contributors to this dramatic rise in data breaches are attributed to compromised credentials and the drastic increase in remote working.
With remote work becoming the norm, organizations are scrambling to protect their data. And the best way to protect data is through solid application controls and an automated controls solution.
What is an application?
An application is a computer system that processes data for a specific business purpose. Applications are essential for businesses because they improve efficiency by streamlining business processes. A few common examples of applications are:
- General ledger
- Inventory control
Applications face three primary risks in handling data: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Confidentiality relates to a data breach or a data release violating legal regulations, like GDPR and HIPPA. Integrity focuses on the accuracy of the application's data and its ability to be available on demand.
What are application controls?
Application controls are the security measures organizations can implement within their applications to keep them private and secure. Applications play a vital role in the operations of organizations. However, they also put organizations at risk of a breach.
Each time users or applications share data there is a risk that the data could be compromised. IT application controls (ITACs) help mitigate that risk by putting checks in place to secure data. ITACs authenticate applications and data before entering or leaving the internal IT environment, ensuring only authorized users and applications can transmit or process data with protected digital assets.
The purpose of ITAC is to assist in maintaining the privacy and security of data utilized by and sent between applications. The function of ITACs varies depending on the purpose of the application.
There are three main categories of ITACs, including input, processing, and output controls.
- Verify transmitted data
- Validate data sent out of the system
- Authenticate information input into the system
- Ensure output reports are protected from disclosure
- Guarantee the input data is complete, accurate, and valid
- Ensure the internal processing produces the expected results
Both automated controls and manual controls should be implemented to ensure proper protection of your applications.
How ITACs differ from ITGCs
ITACs and ITGCs are different but equally essential to the organization's security. ITGCs apply to all system components, processes, and data throughout the organization. On the other hand, application controls are specific to a program or system supporting a particular business process. In other words, application controls are specific to a given application, whereas ITGCs are not.
ITGCs consist of many types of controls, while ITACs consist of only three: input, processing, and output.
ITGCs apply to all systems components, processes, and data in an organization or system environment. The objectives of ITGCs are to ensure the appropriate development and implementation of applications and the integrity of program and data files and computer operations. The most common ITGCs are:
- Access control ensures each application has proper password management and identity authentication
- Managing administrator accounts with elevated privileges to create accounts for other IT applications
- Software lifecycle management establishes controls to ensure the planning, design, building, testing, implementation, and maintenance are correctly recorded and authorized. These controls ensure systems are implemented as intended and proper approval of changes is obtained.
- Patch management is the identification, acquisition, deployment, and verification of software updates for network devices. These include updates for operating systems, application code, and embedded systems, including servers.
Application controls are specific to the application and relate to the transactions and data from that application. The objectives of application controls are to ensure the completeness and accuracy of records and the validity of the entries made to each record. Common application control activities include:
- Determining whether sales orders are processed within the parameters of customer credit limits
- Making sure goods and services are procured with an approved purchase order
- Monitoring for segregation of duties
- Determining whether there is a three-way match between the purchase order, receiver, and vendor invoice
ITACs are more specific than ITGCs and focus on a more limited scope of the IT system function. ITACs consists of three methods of control:
- Input and access controls
- Processing controls
- Output controls
Input and access controls ensure that data is accurate, complete, and authorized. Input controls are used to check the integrity of data entered into the application and to ensure the data is entered within the required criteria. Examples include:
- Date Selection
Systems with strong access controls enforce the verification of each user's identity. Examples of access control are two-factor authentication, pin codes, and biometrics.
Processing Controls ensure that processing is performed without deletion or double counting data. Many processing controls are identical to input controls but used during the processing phase. Examples include:
- Sequence check
- Completeness check
- Duplicate check
Output Controls manage the data leaving the application to ensure that transactions are processed accurately and that data is not lost, misdirected, or corrupted. Examples include:
- Authentication of data leaving the system
- General ledger posting of all individual and summarized transactions posted to the general ledger
- Sub-ledger posting of all successful transactions posted to sub-ledger
ITGCs and application controls are interdependent, and if ITGCs are not implemented or operating effectively, the organization may be unable to trust its application controls. For example, if you have ineffective change management controls, unapproved program changes can be introduced to the production environment, compromising the integrity of the application controls.
Auditing IT application controls
Risks to your data are constantly evolving, and organizations must ensure that their controls keep pace to mitigate these risks. By conducting regular ITAC audits, organizations can protect their systems, data, and reputation. ITAC audits involve analyzing and recording every software application, ensuring that all transactions and data resist the control tests.
Internal auditors can test the application controls and determine if the controls are designed adequately and will operate effectively once the application is deployed. If any controls are designed inadequately or do not operate effectively, auditors can present this information and any recommendations to management to prevent unmanaged risks to the application.
Automating internal controls
By automating your controls, you allow for continuous monitoring. For example, ensuring supplier data remains correct is essential for the accurate payment of invoices. Because the time between onboarding and payment can be long, bad actors have a large window of opportunity to manipulate your data. Continuous monitoring ensures that your data stays correct and up to date. Other benefits of control automation are:
- Increased Efficiency
When a finance team is responsible for processing thousands of invoices, it can be a significant challenge to ensure that all the data in the invoices are correct. This process can consume many resources, including precious time and staff hours. Automated controls can shave hundreds of hours of manual checks, freeing your team to focus on other priorities.
- Reduced fraud risk
Increasingly, organizations are concerned about insider threats. One malicious employee with elevated privileges can manipulate data in your ERP and perpetrate fraud against your organization. Identifying an employee engaged in fraud can take years to detect because they are adept at covering their tracks, know what manual controls are in place, and understand how to circumvent them. Automated controls can reduce risk by limiting access to data and systems vulnerable to manipulation.
- Improved security posture
Automated controls improve an organization's overall security posture. For example, you can automate reminders to managers to test or execute a specific control and alert compliance officers when that work isn't completed. Reports from tests can be used in standard reports or risk dashboards to let you see and report security compliance quickly.
- Increased cost-efficiency
The upfront costs of implementing automated controls may be higher than manual controls. However, over time automated controls are more cost-effective. Once an organization embraces automated controls, it can meet compliance obligations more efficiently. Automated controls also require fewer staff hours, saving you money.
- Regulatory compliance
Reducing manual controls can significantly reduce SOX compliance costs. Manual processes requiring the involvement of employees or auditors are not sustainable. In the long run, automated controls are more stable because they enable a repeatable, reliable, and predictable framework while lowering the cost of compliance.
It is challenging to overstate the importance of application controls for protecting your data. However, knowing where to begin when testing and automating your application controls can be challenging. To maintain effective operations and safeguard your organization from threats, you need an automated controls solution that will allow you to see your organization's risks in real-time.
Everything you need to know about ITGCs
Technology and applications are part of almost every business process in the enterprise today. From the finance department to marketing, businesses depend on technology solutions to help them run. But technology doesn't come without some risks, and that's where your IT General Controls (ITGC) come into play.
Why automate internal controls
Internal Controls are the rules and processes put in place to mitigate a range of risks that can arise within an organization. Controls are typically designed with the guidance of the organization's board of directors or senior management. Internal Controls help to ensure the organization's goals and objectives are met. In many cases, internal controls will also need to align with regulations or standards, such as SOX or GDPR, established by external governing bodies.
The benefits of automated controls
Automated controls allow for Continuous Monitoring. For example, it is essential to ensure that the data entered in your ERP when onboarding a supplier remains correct when it is time to pay invoices. Given the time between onboarding and payment can be lengthy, there is ample opportunity for internal and external bad actors to manipulate your data. Continuous Monitoring ensures that your data stays correct and up to date.
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Examples of Application Controls
Apr 12, 2021
Key indicators of effective it controls, framework of internal control as per standards on auditing, an internal control system: (objectives):.
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What are Application Controls?
Application controls in accounting refer to the procedures and techniques embedded within an organization’s accounting software or systems to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of financial data and transactions. These controls help prevent or detect errors, fraud, or other irregularities within the accounting process.
In accounting, application controls can be categorized into three main types:
- Input controls: These controls ensure that only accurate, complete, and authorized data is entered into the accounting system . Examples include input validation checks, such as verifying that a transaction date is within a specific range or ensuring that numerical fields only accept numerical data.
- Processing controls: These controls ensure that data is processed correctly and consistently within the system. Examples include automated calculations, such as the automatic computation of totals, subtotals, and tax amounts, as well as controls that ensure the correct application of accounting rules, like depreciation methods and revenue recognition .
- Output controls: These controls ensure that the data generated by the accounting system is accurate, complete, and properly presented. Examples include reconciliation procedures, report review, and approval processes, and access controls for sensitive financial reports.
Effective application controls in accounting can reduce the risk of errors, fraud, or misstatements in financial reporting, and help maintain the overall integrity of an organization’s financial information.
Example of Application Controls
Let’s consider a fictional company, ABC Corp, that uses an accounting software system to manage its financial transactions. Here’s an example of application controls at work in each of the three main categories:
- Input controls: Before a purchase order is entered into the system, the accounting software verifies that the vendor’s name and contact information match the records in the vendor master file. If there’s a discrepancy, the system prompts the user to either correct the information or provide a valid reason for the difference. This control helps ensure that transactions are recorded with the correct vendor and reduces the risk of fraud or data entry errors.
- Processing controls: When an invoice is received, the system automatically calculates the total amount due by multiplying the quantity of items by the unit price and adding any applicable taxes. If the calculated total differs from the amount entered manually, the system alerts the user and requests a review of the data. This control helps to ensure that invoice amounts are accurately calculated and recorded in the accounting system .
- Output controls: At the end of each month, the accounting software generates a report of all transactions for review by the finance team. The report includes key details, such as transaction dates, amounts, and descriptions, as well as any exceptions or discrepancies detected by the system. The finance team reviews the report, investigates any issues, and makes necessary adjustments before approving the report for inclusion in the company’s financial statements. This control helps to ensure the accuracy and completeness of financial data and supports the overall integrity of financial reporting.
These examples illustrate how application controls can be used at different stages of the accounting process to help prevent errors, detect discrepancies, and maintain the reliability and accuracy of an organization’s financial data.
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Many organizations are implementing cost efficiency programmes to lower the cost of compliance. Besides the risk-based, top-down management assessment and…
Benchmarking IT application controls
A practical guide for sap.
Many organizations are implementing cost efficiency programmes to lower the cost of compliance. Besides the risk-based, top-down management assessment and audit approach, moving toward IT application controls in the (SOX) compliance framework also leads to additional cost efficiency. The challenge is, however, to implement a sustainable approach to test the operating effectiveness of these IT application controls on an annual basis. Benchmarking, or ‘baselining’ as it is also called, the IT application controls can enable that efficient approach to SOX. An ERP package such as SAP can facilitate this benchmarking strategy by clever use of the information and possibilities provided by the system, the specifics of which will be discussed in this article.
The introduction of SOX placed enormous pressure on companies. During the first year, the demands to meet the basic requirements of the Act meant that many companies struggled simply to comply. In subsequent years, the issue of cost became more relevant. Now companies are struggling with how to react to IT opportunities and how to cut costs without endangering their compliance.
Because many companies faced serious dilemmas in striking a balance between complying with the regulations and keeping costs down, the SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) and PCAOB (Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, to oversee the auditors of public companies) issued new guidelines on what companies and auditors need to do in order to comply with SOX section 404. The new PCAOB standard, Accounting Standard no.5 (AS5), provides a more principle-based guideline on how auditors should conduct their audit of internal control (also known as Internal Control over Financial Reporting, or ICOFR). The new guideline does not change the fundamental requirements that SOX established for management and their auditors to report on the effectiveness of internal control systems. In short, the new guideline enables companies and their auditors to focus on high-risk areas, to concentrate only on areas that could harbour material misstatements, and to use the most practical routes to test the key controls and underlying systems.
The issuance of AS5 was followed by many discussions on how companies should adopt a risk-based control rationalization approach as part of a larger effort towards SOX optimization. These discussions centred on designing and deploying only the most effective and efficient controls to address financial reporting risks. Control rationalization applies a top-down, risk-based approach, eliminates unnecessary controls, uses risk-based testing plans, and optimizes the design of company-level and transaction controls. Other opportunities to further reduce the ‘cost of compliance’ may include using IT controls in the first place, embedding continuous testing or control framework integration ( [Perk07] ).
This article explores another opportunity AS5 provides to cut costs without endangering compliance. This is the possibility to use a benchmarking test strategy for automated controls, thereby significantly reducing an organization’s and external auditor’s efforts relating to testing controls on an ongoing basis. Although the efficient benchmarking strategy is applicable to automated controls in all ERP and IT systems, this article elaborates on practical implementation within a SAP environment.
The internal controls environment
Internal or external compliance is about behaviour in accordance with established guidelines, specifications or legislation, such as financial statements for example (focused on by SOX), but may also include intellectual property, privacy, etc. A risk assessment will identify the efficient and effective key internal controls in the main business processes. As the business processes are supported by IT or ERP systems, IT related business controls can be identified. Unfortunately, during the pressure of the first SOX years, it was primarily manual and detective controls that were identified. In the current SOX improvement projects, organizations are trying to find an optimum mix of manual and IT controls to leverage more of the relatively efficient and effective IT controls.
When talking about SOX management assessments or audits, three types of internal controls can normally be distinguished within the business processes (see also Figure 1):
- Manual controls: these are the manual checks performed by people and can include monthly inventory counting, but also an activity such as checking the invoice against the goods receipt packing note and the purchase form before issuing a payment. As mentioned before, this type of control was mainly identified in the early SOX years and takes much time to test only ‘a sample’ to provide an indication of the operating effectiveness.
- IT application controls: the IT application controls are the opposite of the manual controls. These controls are implemented in the IT or ERP systems and are used every time transactions go through the system. In other words, these controls are enabled and effective for the whole population, as these controls are normally settings in the IT or ERP systems. These controls can be tested in an efficient way, thereby reducing the cost of compliance. Examples of IT application controls are the three-way match, automatic invoicing after goods issue, purchase order approvals, interfaces, authorizations, and segregation of duties.
- IT-dependent manual controls: these controls consist of a manual activity, on one hand, and of an automated activity determined by the system, e.g. the output of a report, on the other. The manual part still requires sample-testing if the organization used the report and the manual follow-up, and the automated part requires testing to determine if the report is reliable. The check by the accounts payable clerk to analyze possible errors and deviations on the invoice payment proposal list is an example of an IT-dependent manual control.
IT General Controls are embedded within IT processes that provide a reliable operating environment and support the effective operation of automated controls (application and IT-dependent manual controls) ( [ITGI06] ). IT general controls relevant for SOX include:
- Program development
- Program changes
- Access to programs and data
- Computer operations
When taking a benchmarking strategy into account, these IT general controls should be on a required level.
Figure 1. Types of Internal controls in business processes.
The automated control challenge
The previous section outlined the opportunities of automated controls. Identification of automated controls and taking them into scope for management assessment or external audit constitute important steps in an efficient SOX approach. The next step is to test the design and operating effectiveness and to ‘baseline’ the controls. In general, the following ways or combinations can be distinguished ( [Perk07] ):
- The user-acceptance test: automated controls should be part of a user-acceptance test (UAT). If the UAT is well documented and carried out at the appropriate quality level, these results can be taken into account for testing operating effectiveness.
- Verification of settings / tables / parameters: in the current IT and especially ERP packages (like SAP), the mechanics of automated controls are ‘customized’ using the settings or parameters. Although it is often difficult to test the completeness of the operating effectiveness using the method, it can be very efficient.
- Trial & error (falsification): test the operating effectiveness of the automated control in a test environment. In other words, does the automated control do what you would expect upfront? Of course, the test and production environment should be equal.
- Audit software (CAAT): audit software can be used to provide evidence that all transactions of a specific business scenario have been processed according the expected script.
- Application code analysis: a very time-consuming way to test the operating effectiveness of the automated control can be to analyze the application code.
There is no standard way to test the design and operating effectiveness of automated controls. Furthermore, methods are sometimes combined, as with the verification of settings and audit software when the IT general controls have some deficiencies, for example, or when absolute assurance is required for very important automated controls.
The assumption is that the automated controls do not change much after the first full test year (this is often a time-consuming change process). Although the test of operating effectiveness can be carried out much more quickly in subsequent years, a substantive effort has to be made by management and the external auditor. The challenge is to determine how the already more efficient reliance on automated controls can be used in an efficient test approach.
Benchmarking – the theory
The Special Topics appendix of AS5 deals with the benchmarking of automated controls. It states, ‘ Entirely automated application controls are generally not subject to breakdowns due to human failure. This feature allows the auditor to use a “benchmarking” strategy. ‘
And even though AS5 specifically addresses the possibility of using a benchmarking test strategy, it is not new, as section E122 of Auditing Standard No. 2 (AS2) specifically acknowledges benchmarking as a testing strategy permitted by the standard.
Traditionally, benchmarking referred to measuring a product or service according to specified standards in order to compare it with one’s own product or service. For example, the NASDAQ may be used as a benchmark against which the performance of technology stock can be compared. Another example is comparing or benchmarking IT costs with other business units or organizations.
Benchmarking as mentioned in AS5 is different in the sense that it implies a testing strategy for audited automated controls in subsequent-year tests. Benchmarking as such involves documenting and testing controls embedded in an organization’s applications and key reports, in order to determine whether they have maintained their integrity over time. In other words, if you are feeling well, you do not have to go the doctor every year or undergo a full-body scan. This approach is attractive since a full audit of controls in the first year without re-auditing them in subsequent years (unless a major change is made) represents a significant cost-saving opportunity.
AS5 set the ground rules for using a benchmarking test strategy. In short, if IT general controls related to change management are effective, and the automated control has been tested in the past, annual testing is not required. The benchmark only should be established periodically.
The following preconditions for using a benchmarking strategy must be taken into consideration:
- The general controls over program changes, access to programs, and computer operations should be tested effectively when establishing the baseline (AS5 item B29).
- The application should operate in a stable environment and there is only a limited number of changes (AS5 item B31).
- The control should be matched to a specific program within the application (AS5 item B31).
- There must be information regarding the programs in the production process to prove that controls within the program have not changed (AS5 item B31).
- The benchmark must be re-established after a period of time (AS5 item B33).
Item 1 is self-evident, since the IT general controls provide a basic assurance regarding the performance of the automated controls.
For item 2, the frequency of changes is a strong indicator whether or not an automated control might be well-suited for benchmarking. Again this will be obvious, as benchmarking only works for automated controls that have not changed since setting the baseline.
Items 3 and 4 are less obvious, since much software no longer works with compilation dates for example. Complex ERP systems now cover large-scale business processes within the dynamic environments of today’s companies, so items 3 and 4 are certainly a challenge. This will be addressed specifically with respect to SAP later in the article.
Finally, item 5 is again self-evident, although it provides additional possibilities when companies integrate baseline activities into the extended scope of user-acceptance testing.
Defining the benchmarking test strategy
When defining a benchmarking test strategy, the following actions could be taken into account:
Step 1. Define the scope of automated controls for benchmarking
First and foremost, it is important to define the scope of automated controls that are well-suited for benchmarking. The controls should be either IT application controls or IT-dependent manual controls, where the IT part is the part to be benchmarked (the manual part should be tested for operational effectiveness each year). Generally, these controls are configurable parameters, custom-built routines, or queries that ensure the complete, accurate, timely and proper processing and reporting of (financial) transactions. Because automated controls often depend on more than one factor to work effectively, it is important to consider not only the front-end functionality but also the associated dependencies. For instance, an automated approval control in SAP R/3 may be configured to automatically approve three-way matched invoices below a specific Euro threshold. However, this control depends on the accuracy of the established threshold value (SAP setup or customization) and the assurance that only authorized individuals can access the configuration information. Similarly, as reports generated by an application depend on the integrity of the source data and the reporting system’s logic, it is critical to consider both when assessing the integrity of a report used to perform an IT-dependent manual control. This combined group of front-end automated controls and dependencies may be the starting point of your baseline scope definition.
When defining the scope, also consider efficiency. Given the work effort involved in establishing and maintaining the baselines, it is important for organizations to assess whether or not yearly testing might be a more efficient approach than benchmarking. For example, if testing a particular IT control can be established by a simple screen-print of configuration settings from the target system, this could cost less effort than providing evidence that the configuration control has not changed. To achieve the advantages of a baseline approach, organizations must limit their baseline scope to selected automated controls that require significant effort in testing. To ensure the benchmarking test strategy is beneficial, the following factors must be considered in advance:
- The cost of the annual operating effectiveness testing of automated controls.
- Whether and when changes to the applications, infrastructure, related infrastructure and controls are planned (an example is an upgrade of SAP R/3).
- Whether there are any current deficiencies in IT general controls or application/automated controls.
Step 2. Validate that an initial baseline of scoped controls has been established
When defining the scope of the benchmarking tests, it is important to ensure that the existing key automated controls have already been identified and documented as part of the overall SOX approach. The baseline approach is less feasible for organizations that have known deficiencies in their IT general controls, especially in security and application change management. Before a benchmarking test strategy can redeem its promise, organizations must have demonstrated the effectiveness of their IT general controls.
Figure 2. Example of benchmark strategy for automated controls.
Step 3. Define rotation schedule
Once the baseline has been established, the benchmarking test strategy provides evidence for a number of years. As mentioned, the benchmark must be re-established after a period of time (AS5 item B33). Although AS5 sets no rules, three years constitutes a good practice for an appropriate frequency for re-establishing baselines. It is also important to re-establish baselines where significant changes occur within the applications. When significant changes occur, integrating baseline activities into an extended scope of user-acceptance testing should only be considered when the application operates in a stable environment and a limited number of changes are expected after these significant ones.
Rather than re-establishing all baselines every few years, it may make sense to adopt a rotation schedule whereby a portion of automated controls are tested each year, thereby spreading the effort over several years. By carefully planning and extending the scope of user acceptance testing, the benchmarking test strategy provides a sustainable and efficient approach. As stated previously, the UAT must be well documented and carried out by (IT) staff with knowledge of process controls as well as of the functionality of the system.
Integrating baselining into the UAT process thus helps further reduce overall compliance costs, and facilitates early deficiency identification and rectification. In this way, you can begin to reap the long-term rewards of a benchmarking test strategy while the applications continue to maintain their integrity over time.
Figure 3. Example of a benchmark rotation schedule.
The timing within a year of the rotation schedule is something to consider as well. Since there are three options, it is important to carefully plan them within the year. Testing to establish a baseline is best done early in the year (first quarter), so that if inaccuracies are detected there is time to rectify the control. The Baseline test itself, however, is best planned late in the year (end of third quarter) because little change can be expected in the rest of the year. And the User-Acceptance Test is mostly dependent on the delivery date of the automated system being developed and tested.
Benchmarking in a SAP environment
As described, benchmarking can be used to conclude that an automated control is effective without having to repeat the specific tests of the operation of the automated control. The nature and extent of the evidence that the auditor should obtain to verify that the control has not changed may vary depending on the circumstances, including the strength of the company’s program change controls.
A known challenge will be the AS5 requirement regarding the ‘compilation date’, which is not explicitly available in SAP. On this issue, the article will provide a practical solution for SAP with respect to the two types of automated controls that have been distinguished.
Although the following sections are more related to SAP, they nevertheless give guidelines for benchmarking automated controls in other ERP packages.
IT application controls
In SAP, many IT application controls have already been set up in the customization process (SAP transaction code SPRO ). These settings are usually stored in tables. For example, the tolerance limits for the three-way matches are stored in the SAP table called ‘ T169G ‘. These settings are the current settings, in other words, there is no compilation date or audit trail on the previous settings (including dates). However, for the ‘compilation date’ required by AS5, there are two practical solutions in SAP:
Enabling logging on the specific customizing table
Standard SAP does not log all changes to the SAP tables. To allow SAP logging of specific SAP tables, the following steps should be performed.
First, the ‘ REC/CLIENT ‘ client setting or parameter should be set. Be careful when switching the REC/CLIENT in the client settings to Yes, because standard SAP will then log many tables including transactional tables. This will cause SAP to produce excessive logging, possibly slowing down the system and using considerable disk space.
The second step to select the SAP tables for logging is very important. The DD09L transaction code will enable you to include or exclude SAP tables in the logging. Besides selecting the SAP tables with the settings for the IT application controls to benchmark in scope (in the example T169G ), logging other critical systems tables (such as T000 , T001 , TCURR , etc.) is also recommended. The transactional SAP tables should be excluded from logging, in order to prevent excessive logging.
Finally, the logging results for a certain period can be viewed using the RSTBHIST program. The program will give you a list of the current and previous setting, including the date of change. If the setting of an IT application control has not been changed since the last baseline, this control is suitable for benchmarking.
Using the SAP transport log
All transports to the production client are logged in SAP system tables, including the last transport (i.e. change) dates. The details of the changes to object classes in the transports are logged in the E071 SAP table. Object classes are also SAP tables, and enable to identify the last change dates to the settings of the IT application controls stored in those tables.
In the example (see Figure 2) you will find that table T169G has been transported a number of times to the production system. The Request/Task field can be linked to the E070 table to find the corresponding transport date.
Figure 4. Benchmarking IT application controls using transport logs.
The last transport of the T169G table in the example shown in Figure 4 was 11 July 2006. If the baseline testing for this IT application controls was established after this date in 2006, the IT application control has not been changed since then. In other words, the setting is the same and the IT application control is suitable to be benchmarked for SOX purposes.
IT-dependent manual controls
IT-dependent manual controls in SAP are mainly the standard or custom-built SAP reports. The manual testing part of this IT-dependent manual control is dependent on the integrity of the SAP report. The purpose of benchmarking these reports is to identify whether or not the report has been changed since the last established baseline.
An easy way to identify the change dates of the SAP report is to use the TRDIR SAP table. The changes dates for all SAP reports and programs (including the custom-made, normally identified by a Z or a Y) can be found in this table (see Figure 5). This table shows the program name (i.e. SAP Report) and the last change date of that report. For example Z_RSPFPAR was created on 16 September 2006 and changed on 18 October 2006. This means that the report has not been changed in 2007 or 2008. If the baseline was established in 2007, this IT-dependent manual control is suitable for benchmarking.
Another example shows that although the Z0SAP_12 report was created in 2002, the report was changed in 2007. This report is therefore not suitable for benchmarking. A new baseline should be established first, before applying benchmarking in the future.
As mentioned previously, a well-executed and documented user-acceptance test could provide the required evidence for establishing baselines, which will really embed the compliance in the IT processes and further decrease the effort required.
Figure 5. Benchmarking IT-dependent manual controls using change logs.
The above-mentioned methods for benchmarking the automated controls in a SAP environment are only possible in a well-controlled IT environment with effective IT general controls. However, in an environment with IT general control deficiencies, the methods explained above can still give the auditor insight into the changes to key IT application and IT-dependent manual controls. This information can be used in a risk assessment to choose a suitable IT management assessment or IT audit.
In the article entitled ‘Testing application controls’ by Van der Perk ( [Perk07] ) it was stated that the identification of IT controls in the business control frameworks is an important aspect of sustainable compliance. In a stable IT environment (limited IT general control deficiencies) using the benchmark strategy for automated controls, this can even lead to further reductions in the cost of SOX compliance.
This article gave a practical guidance for management and auditors on how to set up a benchmarking strategy for testing automated controls in their compliance testing. Organizations that want to embed the transparent benchmarking rotation schedule using UAT for re-establishing the baseline will need to have an already mature IT compliance organization.
One of the main challenges for benchmarking within a SAP environment is to identify the compilation dates. These compilation dates are not available in SAP, but the benchmark can still be conducted using the different change logs in SAP, as mentioned in this article. Another challenge is to identify the SAP tables that contain the IT application control settings.
In our opinion, the transparency needed to implement the benchmarking strategy can be seen as a step toward continuous monitoring of the effectiveness of automated controls using the upcoming GRC tooling.
[Brou06] P.P.M.G.G. Brouwers RE RA, M.A.P. op het Veld RE, and A. Lissone, Tool based monitoring en auditing van ERP-systemen, van hebbeding naar noodzaak , Compact 2006/2.
[ITGI06] IT Governance Institute (ITGI), IT control objectives for Sarbanes Oxley , 2006, ( www.itgi.org ).
[PCAOB AS2] www.pcaobus.org/Standards/Standards_and_Related_Rules/Auditing_Standard_No.2.aspx .
[PCOAB AS5] www.pcaobus.org/Standards/Standards_and_Related_Rules/Auditing_Standard_No.5.aspx .
[Perk07] L.J. van der Perk RA en P.N.M. Kromhout, Testen van applicatiecontroles , Compact 2007/3.
Application Control 101: Definition, Features, Benefits, and Best Practices
Application Control Works in Tandem with Privileged Access Management. Here’s Everything You Need to Know About It.
Application control is part and parcel of the larger cybersecurity landscape of access control, as outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). But what does the term mean? And, more importantly, why should companies be interested in the concept?
In this article, I will discuss the definition of application control, as well as how it works and what its features and benefits are. So, if you want to know more about these topics, and especially how they tie into the larger topic of privileged access management and how can Heimdal help you with this, then keep on reading.
What Is Application Control?
Application control is an information security practice that consists of restricting the execution of unauthorized applications by adopting whitelisting and blacklisting strategies . The technology behind it helps recognize and allow only non-malicious files to enter an enterprise network and its endpoints. Its purpose is to secure the data that is utilized by or transmitted between applications in a system.
What Is an Application?
An application is a program that is downloaded onto your computer, tablet, or phone. There are many different types of applications whether it is for business, personal use, or entertainment. Applications are important for many different businesses because they help with the company’s efficiency. They make people’s jobs easier and more efficient, which in turn saves time.
Application Whitelisting vs. Application Blacklisting
Application whitelisting will allow some programs to run but block all others without explicit permission from the user. This can be seen as an alternative to blacklisting and allows users more control over their computer than just blocking everything and allowing certain programs to run without question.
Application blacklisting will block specific applications while allowing all others . This is done to prevent the application from performing certain actions. Blacklisting can be done by adding the applications to a list where they are blocked from running.
How Application Control Works
Application control technology functions after a relatively simple concept, namely by comparing different types of network traffic flow to predefined condition models. Consequently, these queries need to respect certain requirements for the machines in the network to communicate with one another. Said requirements are what enable application control to ascertain which traffic flow comes from where in the system. Taking this into account, you can prioritize what programs you whitelist and blacklist , as well as which ones need closer monitoring than others.
Thus, when it comes to application control, applications can be classified after three distinct principles in relation to the network traffic:
- security risk level;
- resource usage;
- type and purpose.
Security Risk Level
The most appropriate way to classify enterprise applications is depending on the security risk level that they pose for the organization. For example, file transfer protocols, communication protocols, and other types of protocols that carry data are classified as high risk in a company due to the sensitive nature of the information they transmit.
High-risk applications that transmit information are in constant danger of data exfiltration, which means that the process of securing them is essential and should be given precedence. Therefore, performing a vulnerability risk assessment and establishing application control requirements accordingly is the best place to start.
Another criterion to consider in terms of application control in a corporate environment is resource usage. Some programs that are used in the daily workflow consume more network bandwidth than others. A pertinent example in this category is represented by videoconferencing applications with integrated chat features , such as Skype, Slack, or Microsoft Teams.
Videoconferencing applications require system resources to stream both video and audio during calls, as well as to support the text chat feature at the same time. This can be quite taxing on your corporate network, which is why you should identify traffic coming from them accordingly and organize it with the help of application control procedures.
Type and Purpose
The most straightforward way to classify applications is by their type and the purpose that they serve. Within an enterprise, there are a few essential categories that come to mind. Telecommunication systems, financial software, and human resources programs are just the top three examples of applications whose traffic flow should be managed and prioritized securely.
Application Control Features
When it comes to application control, there are seven main features to consider, three of which pertain to user accounts, while the remaining four deal with data handling. These are identification, authentication, authorization, completeness checks, validity checks, input controls, and forensic controls . You can find a brief explanation for each feature below:
- Identification, which ensures the accuracy and distinctiveness of user account credentials.
- Authentication, which consists of verification system controls for all applications.
- Authorization, which certifies that approved users only have access to the company network of applications.
- Completeness checks, which confirm that traffic flow records are processed from start to finish.
- Validity checks, which warrant that only valid data inputs are processed by the application control technology.
- Input controls, which guarantee the integrity of the data feeds that are fed into the system.
- Forensic controls, which check that the data is mathematically and scientifically correct.
Application Control History Background
1960 was the year when the process of application development started, followed by an increased focus of companies on this process at the beginning of 1970. The greater productivity level and maintenance simplicity brought along by application development has made enterprises understand the vital role of application control in the safety of a corporate network especially since apps became more numerous, therefore an obvious need of controlling them started to prevail.
It’s also worth mentioning that Application Control is listed among the most important strategies to fight against cybercrime in the report called “Essential Eight” of The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).
Application Control Benefits
Application control is designed to identify the traffic flows of various applications that operate on a network. This aids companies to define and applying network routing and granular security policies depending on conditions established by the aforementioned traffic flows. It is thus particularly useful for protecting establishments with an active BYOD policy .
#1 Application-Specific Policies
The main appeal of application control is that it allows you to enforce security policies for your organization that are application-specific . These are what enable you to permit, block, or restrict certain types of application traffic. What is more, the strong identification that goes hand in hand with this technology creates a higher degree of confidence in the implementation of automated application controls. Go beyond simple white and blacklists and manage your network’s input and output based on app certificate, name, publisher, MD5 hash, or file path.
#2 Verification and Access Control
Going beyond application-specific policies, application control is a cybersecurity practice that facilitates the enforcement of identity-based policies . What this entails is you have the option to define access requirements for certain users or user groups that work with various resources within your company. By doing so, you will also enable the application of the zero trust model.
The zero-trust model is a security strategy that provides protection to all network resources without having to know or trust the user or the device. The zero-trust model assumes that at any given time, any device can be compromised so it focuses on preventing data leakage . It does this by limiting access to sensitive data to only those users who have been authenticated.
#3 Increased Network Visibility
Application control gives your organization an increased degree of visibility into the traffic that goes in and out of your network. Your security team will therefore be able to monitor incoming and outgoing queries, either within the online perimeter as a whole or between specific endpoints. This will also allow the appointed staff members to identify anomalies and promptly point out infiltration attempts. Such a procedure is particularly useful in the case of employees who have temporarily or permanently elevated access rights.
#4 Optimized Resource Usage
The capacity to differentiate between policies for certain applications also assists you to optimize resource usage in the corporate network. Prioritizing traffic flows from latency-sensitive applications over those from less crucial applications such as social media will ensure that critical infrastructure programs enjoy the highest system performance possible.
#5 PAM Solution Integration
Another notable benefit of application control is that it works in tandem with privileged access management (PAM) , a type of cybersecurity technology that guarantees the proper use of admin rights within a network. PAM follows the principle of least privilege (PoLP), which entails that user accounts should have the minimum access level required for the completion of daily tasks.
When combined with PAM, application control further fortifies elevated sessions with an additional layer of protection . Your organization can benefit from this with the help of the Heimdal suite of cybersecurity solutions. Our very own Application Control is fully integrated with the Heimdal Privileged Access Management solution for complete access governance and data safety.
#6 Advanced Reporting Function
Application control technology has a full audit trail function that allows for advanced reports to be created in the eventuality of an incident requiring investigation. Forensic input from the suite helps you reconstruct any user’s activity via accurate logs. Therefore, if any suspicious or unlawful activity goes down within your enterprise network, you can examine it accordingly together with the relevant authorities.
#7 Full Standards Compliance
Finally, by using an application control solution in tandem with privileged access management, you will ensure that your organization fulfills the requirements set by NIST AC-1.6 , as well as other international industry standards. Corporate cybersecurity compliance is essential to the modern workplace, as it certifies that a company is actively detecting and preventing rule violations in this respect.
Application Control Best Practices
Blacklisting should be done in a wisely manner.
Blocking what programs are allowed to run should be done based on the time of the day. An authorization operating schedule will be a support for employees in efficiently completing their tasks along with the prevention of misuse of business-critical files.
Besides, based on the principle that only certain users require access to certain software to perform their tasks, application control policies can be also developed for a certain department or user group, mitigating thus security risks.
Whitelisting is as important as blacklisting
Besides the creation of the blocked applications list, there is also important to decide which applications will be automatically approved. This dynamic approach combining blacklisting and whitelisting is what makes the strategy more powerful against known and unknown threats, whitelisting playing an essential role in making sure that apps are permitted to run in accordance with policies and admin-specified rules.
The deployment should be carried out efficiently
As the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends, the implementation of an application control strategy should focus on planning and analysis, requiring a step-by-step plan. A phased approach will help mitigate potential threats. Besides, in the matter of deployment, the environment should be taken into account too, considering that whitelisting works better for centrally-managed hosts characterized by a larger workload, for instance.
Software maintenance must become a routine
You’ve established which software is allowed or not to run, but now comes the software maintenance phase into play. Software vulnerabilities are constantly discovered by security researchers who issue regular patches for them. You must ensure that all your business software is patched on a regular basis to not leave a door open for malicious outsiders. This will only be efficiently taken care of with a proper automated Patch and Asset Management tool that makes your patching flow consistent and reliable.
Heimdal® Application Control
- Default approval for system applications;
- Handle access by File Path, MD5, Publisher, Certificate or Software Name;
- Ability to easily manage spawns of any files executed;
- And much more than we can fit in here...
How to Implement Application Control with Heimdal®
Until this point of this article, you’ve gained proper knowledge surrounding this cybersecurity strategy called “application control”. Now, moving on to a more practical part, I want to highlight what Heimdal has to offer and how easily you can gain control over your applications with the Heimdal Application Control software .
Our product works on two aspects: the what and the how , being designed to control what processes will be executed on the client machine and how this is going to happen. You can utilize Application Control to speed up the approval or denial process for files with default rulings, as well as establish or alter flows for specific users or AD groups.
This product stands for a module under the Heimdal Agent, being managed by the Heimdal`s ProcessLock service. This service has the role to make sure every started process is captured and verify if it can or cannot be allowed to run. In the context of Application Control, we are talking about two types of processes: blocked processed and allowed processes. The first category involves the creation of a block rule in the Dashboard in order to stop a process from running. This rule can be created on the basis of software name, paths, publisher, MD5, signature, or wildcard path. In the second case, an “allow rule” should be created in the Dashboard to allow a process to run. The same ruling as mentioned above considering name path etc. can be followed.
What’s interesting to mention here is that App Control blocks a process, as it is intercepted by our product and stopped in a matter of 5-seconds. On the other hand, the allowance of a process execution happens as App control intercepts it and checks the process status through the blocking repository.
On the Heimdal Agent, the App control module will display data about the configured rule’s priority along with the name of the application, its rule type, and also the elevation status.
Application Control Settings
Among our general Application Control Settings, some important ones could be mentioned:
- The Full Logging Mode by means of which the Heimdal Agent is able to intercept any process executing on those endpoints that apply that group policy;
- The Zero – Trust Execution process protects against zero-hour threats by checking the unsigned executable files and stopping them to run if they are found untrusted;
- The reporting mode – all processes are scanned and logged with Zero-Trust Execution Protection.
Application Control Rules
You can set App Control Rules by taking into account various conditions like
- Rule value and rule type that allow you to set rules by their type: Software name, Path, Publisher, Signature or Wildcard path;
- Priority: the priority value and the priority level being interlinked;
- Action–defined processes can be allowed or blocked.
This is a basic presentation of our product to give you a general picture of its characteristics and its operability. However, if you want to learn more you can find here all the technical aspects of the Heimdal Application control module .
Application control is a cybersecurity practice that has multiple benefits for a corporate network. Not only does it optimize the company’s traffic and workflows, but it also maintains a safe digital environment overall by restricting or blocking questionable access attempts. When used together with PAM, it becomes the ideal solution for access control and identity management at an enterprise level.
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This article was initially drafted by Alina-Georgiana Petcu and updated by Mihaela Marian .
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