What is sandbox?
In information security, sandbox is a solution used to test, run, and block potentially malicious programs and code before they affect an application, system, or network. That’s the reason why sandbox is widely used to prevent malware attacks, such as ransomware, trojans, and spyware.
In other words, sandbox is an additional layer of protection that aims to prevent dangerous and malicious code and software from invading your system.
In the case of a business, sandbox helps keep information protected, preventing, for example, data breaches and financial losses.
In general, the deployment of sandbox happens as a complement to other security solutions, such as, for example, an antivirus solution or a secure email gateway (SEG).
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How does sandbox work?
Sandbox works as a virtual environment independent of your computer and your network. It’s, basically, an isolated testing environment.
For those who develop software, for example, sandbox is used to test new codes, avoiding programming errors. In the case of information security, sandbox is used to test and run malicious programs.
In practice, with a sandbox, files, attachments, URLs and programs are executed in order to check whether they are malicious or not.
Simply put, sandbox is a safe area for testing files, attachments, URLs and programs before they’re delivered to the end user. This verification usually takes from a few seconds to up to a few minutes.
The main advantage is that what happens in the sandbox stays in the sandbox. Because of that and of its high analysis capacity, sandbox ends up being a useful weapon against zero-day exploits, which are malicious threats not yet identified by security software.
Why use sandbox
Investing in a sandbox to improve the security of your systems and your company guarantees a number of advantages. Check out the most important ones.
- Block malicious links.
- Fight malicious attachments.
- Avoid zero-day threats.
- Keep information and data secure.
- Prevent data breaches.
Sandbox deployment and email security
A sandbox may be deployed as an independent, separate solution, or as an add-on for other security systems, such as an email gateway.
By the way, sandbox is especially important for email security, since email is the main vector of threats on the internet.
According to a Verizon report, for example, email is the platform most used by hackers to deliver malware. In these cases, cybercriminals use malicious links and attachments.
Although sandbox is an efficient tool, it should never, under no circumstances, replace your anti-virus, anti-spam, and other mechanisms. They’re different technologies that work together so you have the best defense possible.
Real example of a sandbox working
To illustrate how a sandbox works, let’s cite an example. Gatefy’s sandbox was able to accurately detect the malicious intent of a new version of the GandCrab ransomware, and block it.
Our report points out that, once the malware has entered the sandbox testing environment, it tries to connect to IRC servers. It, then, scans the system for endpoint protection or anti-virus software. The ransomware then attempts to check the machine’s system registry.
These are all indications of a malicious software.
After that, the GandCrab starts encrypting files and modifying them to an unknown extension, called crab.
Our sandbox recognizes that, and the ransomware is blocked, without having reached the end user. This is a good example to show how a sandbox works and its importance in data and information security.