What is Sandboxing in Cybersecurity?

Sandboxing in cybersecurity terms refers to an isolated virtual machine that is used for testing code and analyzing files. Since the sandbox is isolated from other systems and networks, unverified code, untested programs, email attachments, and files downloaded from the Internet can be executed or detonated safely. Code is executed and files are opened and their behavior is analyzed to determine if they are safe or if they may cause damage to data or systems. In the sandbox, the activities that can be performed are restricted so they can’t cause any real damage. If code is executed in the sandbox and it is determined to be malicious, it will be deleted or quarantined for further analysis. Sandboxing is also used for checking URLs. For instance, some web browsers will first open a URL in a sandbox where permissions are set to the lowest privilege levels. If any attempt is made to perform an action that is not permitted, access to the URL will either be blocked or the user will receive a warning.

Why is Sandboxing Important?

In software development, new code may have unintended consequences, such as causing other systems to malfunction, which in a production environment could cause unacceptable and costly downtime. A sandbox allows code to be fully tested to ensure it is safe. A security sandbox protects against malicious code that has been deliberately written to cause damage and/or provide access to systems and data. For example, ransomware is malicious code that encrypts files to prevent them from being accessed. A threat actor then demands payment for the keys to decrypt files. If that code was allowed to execute on the network, data could be permanently lost, or a ransom would need to be paid to recover files.

Cyberattacks on businesses have been increasing and are now being conducted more frequently than ever before. The average ransom demand in data theft and ransomware attacks is now more than $1.5 million, and data from Rapid7 suggests more than 1,500 organizations fell victim to ransomware attacks in the first half of 2023, with more than 20 new ransom groups emerging. Cybercriminals also still use backdoors, keyloggers, banking trojans, and information stealers to gain access to networks and steal sensitive data. To make matters worse, new malware and ransomware variants are constantly being released and these evade security solutions that rely on signature-based detection. It is vital that all files and applications are thoroughly tested before being allowed anywhere near the network and sandboxing allows even previously unseen malicious files to be identified and neutralized.

Email Sandboxing

Email security solutions often use sandboxing for attachments and URLs. With email attachments, they will first be scanned using standard anti-virus engines to determine if they contain known malware or malicious code. These AV checks will only detect known malware. New malware variants that have not been encountered before cannot be detected, as standard AV solutions search for signatures of known malware. Email sandboxing is used to detect new malware, often referred to as zero-day threats. Files that are determined to be clean after AV scanning are sent to the sandbox for behavioral analysis. Email security solutions may also use a sandbox for testing embedded URLs in messages and will follow the links and check the destination and assess whether it contains any threats.

Email Sandboxing from TitanHQ

SpamTitan is a multi-award-winning email security solution from TitanHQ that offers advanced threat protection at an affordable price. SpamTitan blocks phishing, malware, spam, viruses, and other malicious email threats and includes a Bitdefender-powered email sandbox. Emails that pass the initial barrage of checks, including antivirus scans, are sent to the sandbox where they are safely detonated, and their behavior is analyzed. The SpamTitan sandbox combines the latest threat analysis with powerful emulation tools to ensure that files are inspected using real-time intelligence along with comprehensive detection techniques, ensuring businesses are protected against zero-day threats. For more information on SpamTitan Email Security, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

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