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7/28/2010
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CoreTrace Bouncer Improves Application Whitelisting

The Bouncer client enforces a whitelist of approved applications at the kernel level and provides list administration through a central management application.

To help companies, especially small-to-midsize businesses where IT time is a scarce, precious resource, improve the security of their endpoint computers, security vendor CoreTrace has added new administrative and usability features to version 6.0 of its flagship application whitelisting product Bouncer.

Unlike blacklisting, used by traditional anti-virus/spam/malware filtering attempting to build a list of "known or suspected bads" to match against, whitelisting builds a list of "known good/allowed." The Bouncer client running on each endpoint enforces a whitelist of approved applications at the kernel level; the central management application aggregates and administers these policy lists.

"If used correctly, it's an order of magnitude more secure than other solutions, like firewalls, or scanning using signatures and heuristics, in terms of blocking rogue programs," says Toney Jennings, president and CEO of CoreTrace.

Although Bouncer is primarily intended for enterprises with at least several thousand users, "We have some customers in verticals with just a few hundred to a few thousand endpoints," says Jennings. "We are seeing traction from law firms, who are more aware of this approach and have lots of mobile endpoints, and also from medium-sized technology companies. It depends on the pain they feel from blacklisting."

Bouncer isn't just for machines used by professionals and other knowledge workers, according to Jennings; it's also useful for more static environments like call centers and ATM machines which have maintenance windows where changes have to be allowed, or where security utilities like anti-virus have to be turned off during maintenance without violating their security paradigms.

Bouncer was originally introduced two years ago; 6.0 is, according to CoreTrace, a "marquee upgrade," that is, a major revisions. "We're focus sing on making whitelisting easy to use, for users to selectively allow or request programs they need to use so the request and approval process doesn't interfere with productivity. We've made it easier for IT to manage, and for users to use or request permissions when needed." For example, Bouncer can be set to allow program patchers and updates to run, to let specific users or groups of users to give themselves short-term permission to use a program while IT evaluates it, while requiring other users or groups to wait until a program is whitelisted for their use.

"Bouncer is helping make application whitelisting more usable for companies of all sizes, including SMBs, both from the user side and the IT admin side, by making the process automatic and more flexible," says Mike Rothman, President of Secuosis, an independent research firm specializing in information security. "Bouncer 6.0's whitelisting provides a middle ground between totally locking down a machine and total freedom, giving administrators a few more ways to tailor the user experience. They can now tailor polices to the user constituencies."

New features in version 6.0 of Bouncer include:

--Bouncer's management component now runs as a virtual machine under VMware, versus living on a physical appliance.

--CoreTrace Software Intelligence (CSI) "Application Intelligence," which provides IT administrators with organization-wide information about installed/requested applications, such as how many copies are installed, how many copies are being used, and tags the application list with "known good" and "known bad" (programs known to be malware).

--BlockQ and AllowQ options for user privileges, to reduce the amount of IT time involved.

For users set by IT with BlockQ, if a user tries to run an application not currently allowed by Bouncer, BlockQ users get a pop-up asking them to enter their business reason for wanting to use that application; these requests are forwarded to IT for approval/disapproval. Users assigned to AllowQ are presumably more computer-savvy or otherwise reliable; while getting a similar pop-up, are allowed to temporarily run applications that aren't already on their whitelist.

Other new features in Bouncer 6.0 include:

--Greater security, including memory protection, script controls, malware removal and self-defending endpoints.

--Using Open-Source and industry-standard architectural components, and shipping as a virtual appliance, to improve deployment and scalability.

--Adding a client API, for easier integration into third-party management systems.

CoreTrace currently has a Bouncer client for use on Windows; according to Jennings, clients for other environments -- Linux and Mac -- are scheduled for later in 2010. The Bouncer client can function autonomously; that is, even when it cannot communicate with the management component. "It will still protect the endpoint, using the last known policy, and cache logs until it reconnects."

According to CoreTrace, Bouncer 6.0 will ship in August 2010, with pricing starting at $35 per desktop. The company is also looking for channel partners who will offer "Bouncer On Demand" as a cloud service.

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