What is a Software Blacklist?

M. McGee

A software blacklist is a list of software that is deemed inappropriate by a specific program. Programs from different companies have different blacklists, and many don’t have one at all. If a blacklisted program is present on the system, the bothered program may malfunction or report information to a central server. Like most digital rights management (DRM) measures, the software blacklist has come under fire from a number of different groups.

Programs that are used by hackers, such as disk duplicators, software debuggers or patch creators, are commonly found on software blacklists.
Programs that are used by hackers, such as disk duplicators, software debuggers or patch creators, are commonly found on software blacklists.

Software blacklisting is a relatively simple process. Programs will scan the computer’s registry of installed programs looking for a number of different pieces of software. If any of the programs on the software blacklist are found, the program executes a specific set of instructions. It is common for a scan to occur on installation, but nothing stops a program from periodically scanning later.

There are a number of common programs that are found on a basic software blacklist. Programs that are used by hackers, such as disk duplicators, software debuggers or patch creators, are common. Also among these lists are several disk-authoring programs that have the ability to mount disk images on virtual drives. It is this last group that causes the most unintentional positives on a software blacklist, as this type of burning software is very common.

When a blacklisted program is found, the program could do any number of things. In many cases, the program will not install at all without giving the user a reason why. Some programs install properly, but have reduced features, operate in a trial mode, or crash when executing certain functions. With the increase in constant Internet connections, many programs will communicate their findings to a central server, which will give them specific restriction instructions based on the program located.

As with many DRM methods, the software blacklist has seen a lot of controversy. In the early days of this technology, false positives were a major problem. Users that were completely legitimate would end up locked out of software often with no explanation as to why. Other users would find that programs that came pre-installed on their computers would leave behind registry markers even after they were uninstalled. These registry markers would prevent the installation of other programs due to an over-restrictive blacklist.

On the other hand, a software blacklist does little to stop hackers. There are several methods of circumventing a blacklist; installing software on a different operating system boot, patching blacklisted programs to alter their version numbers, or simply running a separate program that prevents the blacklist from scanning the computer. As a result, it is common for software blacklisting to hurt legitimate users rather than stop illegitimate ones.

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Discussion Comments


I recently got banned from a gamesite. I looked in my java console panel and noticed a black list box that had a check in it. I have been going to this site for years, even as a senior TD for several as well.

I was speaking to the admin in private one day to ask a simple question. In the middle of our talk he banned me. Since then my other laptop began to act weird so I finally just plugged in my old one. I honestly did not say or do anything to warrant a permanent ban and would really like to get back in under my name, not as a guest.

I can make a new name, but would like to know if this box being checked is keeping me from playing cards? Any help is appreciated. I am a little afraid of DOS, but willing to go there, and have gone in and looked around. I have tried emailing, but for some reason he just will not let me back in under my long time user name. Any suggestions?

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