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Run only trusted programs on your PC with SecureAPlus

12 August 2013, Mike Williams

Most antivirus tools try to keep you safe by identifying malware before it can do any harm. In principle this sounds like a good idea, but in practice it requires a lot of work to scan your files and monitor process behaviour. And even then, it’ll often fail when confronted with brand new, previously undiscovered threats.

SecureAPlus takes a different approach. While it does include a basic antivirus engine, the core technology here is application whitelisting, which means only trusted programs are allowed to run automatically. If something unknown is launched then you’ll be alerted right away, and the program won’t be executed until you provide your express permission.

Installation seems quick and easy, as least initially. A small setup tool downloads the rest of the program, installing it and adding an icon to your system tray in just a moment or two.

There is a complication, though. SecureAPlus must build a starting whitelist of your currently installed applications before you can use it, and this takes quite some time (approaching an hour on our test PC).

No, it’s not some obscure settings dialog – this is the main SecureAPlus interface

Worse still, the uninformative interface provides no indication whatsoever that this is happening, and only if you go hunting for the information (left-click the SecureAPlus icon, click Application Whitelisting > Status) will you have a chance of figuring it out.

Still, if you just go away and leave it for a while, SecureAPlus will finish its work eventually (although again, there’s no feedback to tell you this). And the results were visible right away. Windows components, currently installed and signed programs ran just as they always had, but anything new resulted in an alert: “The file is not in the whitelist. Do you want to trust this file?” Click “Yes”, the program runs and you won’t be asked about it again; click “No” and its execution will be blocked.

This was both simple and effective in our tests, but you can lock it down even further, by allowing only some user accounts to extend the whitelist. If you don’t give this permission to your children, say, then they will only be able to run the programs you permit: everything else will be blocked.

Just in case this isn’t enough, SecureAPlus also includes an antivirus component, boasting that it’s “the first solution that combines both antivirus and application whitelisting capabilities all-in-one”. It uses the not-very-good Clam AntiVirus as its engine, though, so you shouldn’t be too impressed by this; you’ll still need a more capable antivirus tool (although there’s no harm in running ClamAV as well).

SecureAPlus clearly needs some work. The interface, in particular, needs to be completely replaced with one which actually gives some feedback and guidance to the end user.

The underlying whitelisting technology looks very good, though, and the price is right (a free one year licence, extended for six months every time you get a friend to install the program). If you need to really lock down a PC then SecureAPlus could be very useful.

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