The concept of the sandbox began as a way for programmers to test potentially unstable code in a safe environment where it would not affect the rest of the system. This worked so well that the concept was adopted for cybersecurity to contain potential malware and viruses in an isolated environment that would not affect any hardware or sensitive data.
The sandbox has become another reliable layer of protection against cyberattacks. Let’s take a closer look at what the sandbox is and how it works.
What a Sandbox Is and How It Works
When potentially malicious or dangerous programs or code enter your system, such as when an attachment in a phishing email is opened or comes from a malicious or fake website, a sandbox can keep that code separated from critical systems and sensitive data. Think of it as a quarantine for code or programs that could harm.
While in the sandbox, you can observe the code or program to see how it behaves and interacts with your system and data in a safe environment. This helps you identify difficult-to-detect threats, such as zero-day and zero-hour threats and advanced persistent threats that might otherwise slip past your defenses.
There are two sandboxing techniques you can use in your organization—one at the operating system level and one at the application level.
Operating system level
At the operating system level, you can use three types of sandboxing. These are:
- Virtual machines – Software that creates a virtual system within the host system, allowing you to completely isolate the suspicious code or program so you can run it without affecting your operating system or sensitive data.
- Container – A virtual environment like a virtual machine that shares the host operating system’s kernel but isolates the suspicious program or code.
- Emulation – An isolated environment created to emulate the host system to completely isolate the suspicious program or code, making it possible to run and analyze threats safely.
At the application level, there are two types of sandboxes:
- Software wrappers – This surrounds an application with a protective layer that controls its access to the system and limits privileges.
- Web browser sandboxes – Techniques used by web browsers to keep web content isolated from the user’s system to protect against malicious scripts or websites.
Sandboxing Best Practices
Unfortunately, there are limitations to sandboxing. In addition to the need for additional resources, potentially slower execution times, and complexity, the people who develop malware are constantly coming up with new techniques to identify when they are being run in a sandbox and change their behavior or avoid detection and analysis. Here are some best practices to follow to create an effective sandbox:
- Create a sandbox that has the ability to mimic your endpoint setup so that it uses the same application stack and version as your host system.
- Set up security guardrails within the sandbox to keep the malware from breaking free and to detect sensitive data when the sandbox is in use.
- Test your sandbox for false positives by routinely adding harmless files to it to see if false positives are an issue.
- Make sandboxing a part of a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity alongside other tools, technologies, and practices, such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and employee education and training.
- Monitor the sandbox on a continuous basis to ensure that no malicious code or programs make their way through to the host system and to collect actionable intelligence that can help improve your overall cybersecurity.
Connect with Platinum Technologies today to find out more about sandboxing and how to add this layer of protection to your cybersecurity operations.