Jump to content
Updated Privacy Statement

Workspace Environment Management - Security

  • Contributed By: Russell Peters Special Thanks To: Steve Beals, Steven Gallagher, Yan Wang


This Tech Brief explores the pivotal security features embedded within Citrix Workspace Environment Management (WEM). In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, robust application security within WEM is not just a luxury. It is a necessity. By harnessing the power of WEM, organizations can bolster their security posture, seamlessly navigate the complexities of application management, and protect their environment against many threats. This Tech Brief provides an overview of WEM’s security features, designed to empower IT administrators with the tools they need to enforce security measures effectively. It covers mechanisms such as Execution Rules, Windows Installer Rules, Script Rules, Packaged Rules, the intricacies of Process Management, and Privilege Elevation within WEM.


Through this article, we will try to highlight the benefits and operational implications of WEM’s security capabilities. We offer a blend of technical details suited for seasoned IT professionals while remaining accessible to those new to the domain. We aim to demystify WEM's security features, highlighting how they integrate into broader IT security strategies to safeguard your organizational environment.

In the following sections, we explore each feature in detail, outlining their roles, use cases, and the subsequent benefits they offer.

Application Security

Application security offers various mechanisms to bolster security within virtual and physical environments. Executable, Windows Installer, Script, and Packaged Rules. A crucial element to using each section is first adding the default rules. These predefined rules are a foundational starting point before any deny rules should be applied.

Execution Rules

The implementation of Execution Rules significantly strengthens application security. These rules serve as a line of defense against unauthorized or malicious software executions within the digital workspace. The types of rules that fall under this category can be broadly classified into several types based on their operational criteria:

  • Path: These rules specify the exact paths from which applications can execute. Administrators can ensure that only applications from trusted locations can run by enforcing rules based on directory paths.
  • Publisher: This rule leverages publisher information to allow or disallow applications. It is predicated on the publisher's information (Publisher, Product name, file name, and version) to ensure the application's legitimacy.
  • Hash: This more granular approach permits or blocks applications based on their unique hash values. Even if the application moves locations or is renamed, the hash remains the same, providing a consistent method for control.



Execution Rules are pivotal for fortifying application security in several ways:

  • Prevent Malware Execution: By specifying which applications can run and which cannot, Execution Rules prevent the execution of unauthorized or malicious programs that could potentially introduce malware into the system.
  • Enforce Software Compliance: These rules ensure that only licensed and approved applications are run in the user environment, aiding in compliance with software licensing and organizational policies.
  • Limit Application Surface Attacks: Controlling application execution reduces the surface for potential attacks. This is particularly beneficial in minimizing the risk of zero-day attacks, where newly discovered software vulnerabilities could be exploited if not promptly patched.
  • User Access Control: Execution Rules can be configured to apply to specific users or user groups, thus tailoring the application access according to job roles and requirements. This means enhanced security without impeding workflow efficiency.

By integrating Execution Rules into the wider security framework, WEM empowers administrators to construct a more resilient and secure workspace environment, minimizing risks while ensuring that productivity tools remain readily available to authorized users. These rules are crucial to the dynamic security posture necessary to confront the evolving threat landscape organizations face today.

 Windows Installer Rules

Windows Installer Rules within WEM are specifically designed to manage the installation of software packages. These rules govern how Windows Installer (.msi files) operates within the managed environment, allowing administrators to control which software can be installed, updated, or removed. Windows Installer Rules work by defining the permissions around Windows Installer Packages based on criteria such as:

·   Path: These rules specify the location from which the installation can be initiated. Administrators can ensure that only installations from trusted locations can run by enforcing rules based on directory paths.

·   Publisher: This rule leverages the software publisher’s information to allow or disallow installs. It is predicated on the publisher's file information (Publisher, Product name, file name, and version) to ensure the legitimacy of the installations.

·   Hash: This more granular approach permits or blocks installs based on their unique hash values. Even if the installer moves location or is renamed, the hash remains the same, providing a consistent method for control.



These rules can be applied globally or targeted to specific user groups, providing flexibility and control over the software deployment landscape.

Windows Installer Rules are pivotal in maintaining the security and compliance of software installations within an organization:

  • Maintain Software Compliance: They help ensure that only authorized installations occur, preventing the deployment of unlicensed software and reducing legal risks.
  • Enhance System Stability: By controlling software installations, these rules help maintain system stability and prevent conflicts between programs.
  • ·Improve Security: They prevent potentially harmful software from being installed, which could introduce vulnerabilities or compromise system integrity.
  • Reduce Administrative Overhead: Automated enforcement of installation policies eases the burden on IT staff, freeing them from manual oversight of software deployments.
  • Customization and Flexibility: Rules can be customized to meet the specific needs of different departments or user groups within the organization.

In summary, Windows Installer Rules are integral to the WEM security infrastructure. They deliver comprehensive management and control over the software installation process, enhancing the organization's overall security posture.

 Script Rules

Script Rules in WEM serve a crucial role in enhancing security by governing the execution of scripts within the IT environment. They act as gatekeepers, determining which scripts are permitted to run, thereby preventing the execution of unauthorized or malicious scripts that could pose a security threat. The ability to manage script execution is essential because scripts are often used to automate tasks but can also be exploited to carry out harmful actions without user interaction.

The Script Rules are defined based on the same criteria as all the application security rules: Path, Publisher, and Hash. These rules can apply to all users or be assigned to specific users or groups, allowing certain privileged users to override them.

·   Path: These rules allow or prevent scripts from running based on their file path location. If a script is not located in a designated safe directory, it won't execute.

·   Publisher: This type focuses on the script's publisher information. Only scripts matching the publisher info (Publisher, Product name, file name, and version) are permitted to run, ensuring their authenticity and integrity.

·   Hash: Hash rules are defined by the unique hash value of a script file. Since each file has a distinctive hash, this method ensures that only specific, verified scripts are executed.


 Script Rules enhance security by:

  • Preventing Unauthorized Scripts: Script rules prevent malware and unauthorized changes to system configurations by blocking the execution of unauthorized or potentially harmful scripts.
  • Ensuring Compliance: Script rules help enforce policy compliance, ensuring only approved scripts run in the environment. This is essential for meeting various regulatory and compliance requirements.
  • Limiting Exploits: Many cyber-attacks use scripts to exploit vulnerabilities. Script Rules can mitigate such threats by controlling which scripts have execution rights.
  • Reducing Surface Attack: Script Rules reduce the attack surface by ensuring that only necessary and safe scripts are allowed to run, thereby minimizing the vectors through which attacks can occur.

In summary, Script Rules are a crucial part of the application security framework in WEM, as they provide administrators with a robust set of tools to manage script execution, thus significantly enhancing the security of applications and the overall IT environment.

Through these rules, WEM empowers administrators to have granular control over script execution, contributing to the security and operational efficiency of the organization's IT infrastructure. Organizations can significantly mitigate the risk of script-related security threats by carefully crafting and enforcing Script Rules.

By setting up script rules, WEM provides a robust framework to secure the IT environment against script-based threats, enforce policy compliance, and enable secure automation of administrative tasks.

 Packaged Rules

Packaged Rules within WEM are designed to manage and secure the execution of packaged applications, such as those delivered in Microsoft's App-V format or similar encapsulation technologies.

These rules dictate which packaged applications execute based on criteria like a publisher, package name, and file version. By defining such parameters, WEM ensures that only trusted packaged applications can run, aligning with the organization's security protocols and compliance standards.

Once the packaged applications have been identified within the organization, identify those that should be allowed or denied based on business requirements. Create the rules to allow or deny based on the identifiers above. The rules can then be applied universally or tailored to specific groups or users, providing application access and usage flexibility.

In summary, Packaged Rules are critical to WEM application security management. By strategically implementing these rules, organizations can ensure that their packaged applications are delivered efficiently and securely, maintaining operational effectiveness and a strong security posture.

 Process Management

The process management feature in WEM is designed to monitor and control the applications and processes that users can launch from Explorer. This management ensures system stability and security by preventing unnecessary or malicious processes from consuming resources or executing harmful actions.

Process Blacklist

Process management includes a process blacklist feature, a crucial security tool that blocks unauthorized or harmful executables from running in the system. This part of WEM’s security suite allows administrators to identify and catalog disallowed processes—typically those known to be malicious or unnecessary - into a blacklist. WEM enforces this policy throughout the user environment, automatically preventing the initiation of any blacklisted process, thereby offering real-time protection. Overall, the process blacklist is instrumental in ensuring system stability and security across varied applications and user interactions.



 Privilege Elevation

Privilege Elevation is designed to selectively increase user permissions for specific tasks or applications without granting broad administrative rights. This feature enhances security by providing users with the necessary privileges to perform their job functions while minimizing the risk of unauthorized system changes or potential security breaches that could arise from wider administrative rights.


 Execution Rules

Execution Rules define the conditions under which applications and scripts can run with elevated privileges. These rules can be crafted to allow certain trusted applications to execute with higher permissions, necessary for updates or specific functionalities that require administrative rights, without elevating the user’s overall access level.

Privilege Elevation allows administrators to grant users permanent or scheduled elevated rights to execute specific tasks or applications. This controlled elevation is crucial for maintaining tight security protocols while enabling users to perform functions requiring higher privileges than their standard user accounts. Elevation can be precisely configured with Execution Rules that dictate the conditions under which applications can run with elevated privileges.




Execution Rules can include settings that detail the criteria for elevation, such as path location, publisher, or the specific hash of the executable. Administrators can also define elevation time windows, specifying when the elevated rights are active, to control further and restrict the use of elevated privileges to only necessary periods.

Additionally, these rules can extend to child processes spawned by an elevated application, providing granular control over the extent of privileges granted. By implementing Execution Rules, WEM allows necessary applications to function with elevated rights safely and only under conditions that align with organizational security policies. This ensures users can perform essential duties while the system's overall security posture remains uncompromised.

Windows Installer Rules

Windows Installer Rules govern the installation and updating of software by managing the privileges required for these processes. The importance of these rules lies in their ability to ensure that only authorized installations or updates take place, thus safeguarding against unauthorized changes to the system, potential security vulnerabilities, and compliance issues. By controlling installer privileges, these rules also help maintain system stability and prevent the installation of unlicensed or non-compliant software.

These rules are crucial for maintaining a secure environment. They ensure that only installations from trusted sources or with the appropriate privileges can proceed. They also prevent users from installing unauthorized or potentially harmful software, which is essential for complying with security policies and regulatory standards.

Administrators can define elevation time windows, limiting the time frame during which installations with elevated privileges are permitted. This prevents users from having persistent administrative rights, reducing the risk of security breaches.

Additionally, rules can extend to child processes spawned by the installer, ensuring that the installation procedure, including subsidiary actions, adheres to the organization’s security protocols. This level of granular control over both parent installers and their child processes ensures that all aspects of software installation are under scrutiny and control, reinforcing the system's security and enhancing compliance posture.



Self-elevation allows users to temporarily elevate their permissions to perform specific tasks requiring administrative rights. This capability provides significant security advantages, as it eliminates the need to grant users permanent administrative privileges, which could expose the system to security risks. By offering controlled elevation, organizations can maintain a principle of least privilege, reducing the attack surface and potential for accidental or malicious system changes.

Self-elevation is configured via the administration console, where administrators establish policies that determine how users can elevate their permissions to execute tasks or applications that require admin rights. These policies allow for the specification of individual applications that users can run with elevated privileges and can include time-based restrictions, confining how long these permissions are active to reduce risk.

It can also be restricted to specific applications and applied to certain users or groups.




In summary, Citrix Workspace Environment Management offers robust security features for protecting and managing the modern digital workspace. Execution Rules ensure that only authorized applications and scripts run, while Windows Installer Rules and Packaged App Rules enforce compliance and prevent unauthorized software installations. Privilege Elevation and Self-Elevation features provide users with the necessary administrative capabilities when required without compromising overall security.

The security functionalities within WEM are not just about defending against external threats but also enabling businesses to operate more efficiently and securely. By implementing a principle of least privilege and automating privilege management, WEM ensures that users have the necessary access without exposing the organization's systems to unnecessary risks.

The role of security within WEM is foundational. It supports a strategic approach to workspace management by integrating comprehensive security measures that are both proactive and reactive. These measures are vital in building a trusted environment where both productivity and protection are optimized, demonstrating that WEM is a powerful ally in the ongoing effort to balance functionality with security in an ever-evolving threat landscape.



For a more in-depth understanding of the security features within WEM and their implementation, the following resources are invaluable:

  1. Citrix Tech Zone offers many resources, including deep-dive articles, expert-led discussions, and community forums for real-world insights and troubleshooting.
  2. Citrix blogs where you can find updates on the latest features, security tips, and thought leadership articles on workspace security.
  3. Citrix Tech Insight where you can watch how WEM improves the security posture and reduces the threat surface for your users within your Citrix DaaS and CVAD deployments.
  4. Citrix Online Training and webinars offered by Citrix can be instrumental for both new and experienced administrators looking to enhance their skills in WEM security management.

User Feedback

Is there a WEM tool that can be run on a clean machine to gather all allowed exe files, and then use that to build the allow list?  That way anything that gets loaded can be blocked?  Something that we can re-run as part of a non-persistent sealing script to capture new hashes from updated files?

Share this comment

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...