User Application Hardening

User Application Hardening is a cybersecurity strategy designed to prevent malware programs from running on your computer network.

User Application Hardening

The Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ASCS) Essential 8 strategies recommend companies undertake User Application Hardening to minimise the risk of malicious codes (malware) accessing a businesses computer network. This means updating and configuring popular online applications such as flash and Java, as well as Microsoft Office, old web browsers and PDF viewers.

Hackers leverage old and outdated online applications vulnerabilities to deploy exploit kits, allowing them to access confidential information and install malware. Often, businesses will not know that they have an exploit kit on their system as this happens seamlessly via popular web applications. User Application Hardening processes and systems are included across all our GOLD and higher Cybersecurity Management System (CSMS) packages.

What is User Application Hardening?

User Application Hardening is similar to Application Control, however, rather than deciding which programs are allowed to run, it is deciding what certain programs are allowed to do. Applications such as Adobe Flash, Java and web-advertising can sidestep traditional antivirus software to enable malware or exploit kits to be downloaded onto your computer business network.
The process of undertaking User Application Hardening starts by determining what web applications are important to the company and then, what features are required. Whilst disabling all applications is possible, it may not be practical for business operations. The ACSC further recommends User Application Hardening of all Microsoft Office programs, to disable features that are not relevant to the business. This includes preventing features such as object linking and embedding packages.
The strategy of User Application Hardening requires in-depth knowledge and understanding of applications and program features to determine which elements can be restricted to minimise cyber-attacks, whilst ensuring businesses can maintain productivity. For businesses with multiple computers, it is also important to ensure configuration settings are applied network-wide to prevent vulnerabilities.
Much like Application Control, User Application Hardening is an ongoing task that needs to be monitored as new application and program features are continuously released.

Benefits of

User Application Hardening

User Application Hardening is an ACSC Essential 8 mitigation strategy to prevent malware delivery and execution. Proactive and strategic User Application Hardening can increase business productivity, computer speed as well as protect the company from cyber-attacks. Here are five key reasons to implement User Application Hardening.

Five reasons to implement
User Application Hardening

As Flash, Java and web-applications offer loopholes around antivirus scanners, they are common vessels used by hackers to install exploit kits onto a business network. These kits often run in the background, scanning the computer network for vulnerabilities so the hackers can increase their attack. Once a vulnerability is found, the exploit kit will often release a specific malicious code to target the identified flaw. From here, the malware will attempt to infect files and data. If the exploit is successful, businesses will often receive a ransom demand to release their data.
Configuring applications and programs to disable features which are irrelevant not only increases security but further can increase overall computer performance. By reducing the number of features that are running, your computer will have increased CPU and memory to perform its required tasks. Further, exploit kits can negatively impact your computer speed due to programs running without your knowledge.
Disabling features on your Microsoft Office programs and online applications can also increase the performance of the respective software. Whilst only some features of Microsoft Office may have vulnerabilities, you can review a range of other Windows features, such as startup programs and Windows tips to further increase program and computer speed.
Exploit kits, which primarily access networks via Flash and Java applications, can run a range of processes on your computer, including the recording of keystrokes. This means the exploit kit can capture passwords, credit card details and personal information. Protecting this information is vital for both business and personal reasons.
Many computers come with a wide range of program and application features which are simply not used or needed by many businesses. Disabling applications and features that are irrelevant to business operations mean the company’s overall system is simplified, making it easier to find the right program and tools.

Implementing a User Application Hardening strategy

Strategic and proactive User Application Hardening will improve a business’s cybersecurity against cyber-attacks. Yet the process to establish a system can be onerous as this includes understanding not only how to disable features from core programs, but also understanding what features are safe and what are not. Further, continuous management of the system is required as hackers are constantly finding new vulnerabilities in programs.
Our User Application Hardening management system undertakes all the hard work for you. We review your system requirements and then implement a network-wide configuration to save you time and energy. Network-wide configuration ensures that all computers across the business are covered.
Further, our proactive system continuously scans for new potential threats to ensure you are protected from zero-day cyber-attacks.
As recommended by the ACSC Essential 8 strategies, we also undertake configuration of your Microsoft Office programs to ensure you are compliant with the government’s recommendations.
Our GOLD and higher CSMS include User Application Hardening to increase your businesses cybersecurity levels.