What is sandbox security? In an IT sense, sandbox security refers to the use of an isolated environment for testing potentially malicious or unsafe code. The sandbox is an environment that resembles the organization’s real environment. The sandbox is made to look like it is a legitimate rather than a virtual environment; however, the sandbox is totally isolated from other systems and contains no real data.

A sandbox is used for malware analysis, testing potentially unsafe code, or as a guest environment with a tightly controlled set of resources, with no ability to inspect the host system or gain access to the networks, therefore not exposing any threats to real systems or data. For example, if a file needs to be opened and it is unclear whether it contains malicious code, it is opened in a sandbox. Security teams can assess the behavior of the file to determine if it is benign or malicious, and if it is the latter, no harm will be caused.

Sandboxes are commonly used for testing new code to determine whether it is safe and compatible with other systems, without actually putting those systems at risk. The sandbox is used to perform troubleshooting to identify any problematic parts of the code. One of the main benefits of sandbox security is blocking cyberattacks, and sandboxing has become indispensable for email security.

Email Sandboxing

Email sandboxing is the use of a sandbox environment for inbound email, which can be used to protect against phishing and malware threats. When an email is received that contains an attachment or a hyperlink, these can be evaluated in the sandbox before the message is released for delivery to the end user’s inbox. Phishing is one of the most common ways that malicious actors gain initial access to internal networks.  Emails are often sent that contain hyperlinks to URLs that host phishing kits that steal credentials or sites hosting malware. These emails can be sent to a sandbox where the links can be followed, and the content of the URLs assessed. If a file download is triggered, the file can be analyzed to determine its behavior.

The same applies to email attachments. An email attachment such as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet may contain a malicious macro or other malicious code, which could provide a threat actor with remote access to the device and network. By opening the attachment in the sandbox, the behavior of the file can be analyzed safely. If found to be malicious, all other instances of that malware can be removed and if the file is received again, it will be automatically deleted. Security teams can also safely study malware to determine the nature of the threat and learn important information about the adversary and their intentions.

Why Is Email Sandboxing So Important?

Traditional email security solutions are effective at detecting and blocking known malware threats. They use one or more antivirus engines for scanning email attachments for known signatures of viruses and malware. If these signatures are detected, the threat will be blocked. The problem with signature-based detection is the signature must be known. While virus definition lists are updated on a daily or even hourly basis, new malware threats are constantly being released. If a new malware variant is received for which there is no signature, it will not be detected as malicious and will be delivered to an inbox where it can be executed.

Sandbox security plugs this security gap. If an attachment passes AV checks, it is sent to the sandbox for deep analysis of its behavior, allowing zero-day malware threats to be detected and blocked. Cybercriminals do not just use one version of a malware sample, they use many different versions, each differing sufficiently to evade AV checks. Without sandbox security, organizations are at risk of infection with these malware variants.

TitanHQ’s SpamTitan Email Security solution features dual antivirus engines for detecting known malware threats, and a Bitdefender-powered email sandbox for detecting zero day malware and phishing threats and provides security teams with valuable insights into new threats to help them mitigate risks. Give the TitanHQ team a call to find out more about how SpamTitan with sandbox security can improve your security posture. SpamTitan is also available on a free trial to allow you to put the product to the test and see for yourself the difference it makes.

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