The sandbox: what is it and how can it help you?

In the fight against malware attacks there are many solutions available; among them is sandboxing. Find out more about sandbox and how it can help you.

In previous articles we have mentioned a lot of ways to protect ourselves against malware; from penetration testing, to recommendations for employees; but it is always wise to update the information we have to protect ourselves from threats. Activities involving access to the web have always been a big risk for companies, so sandboxing techniques could be of great benefit to prevent malware. Learn more about sandbox!


What is sandboxing?

It is a technique within computer security, which executes a program in a limited space; that is to say, it allows to give a virtual space to the processes and at the same time, it allows to monitor, supervise and automate them. Its main function is for cybersecurity research, rather than for software development, because malware scans such software to look for vulnerabilities and exploit them. So the function of the sandbox is to detect these malwares before they attack.

How does it work?

It works in different ways, depending on what is being tested. If you are testing a code for an application update, it is usually configured differently than when you are looking for malware, for example. However, the sandbox has some basic functions, such as:

  • It is directed to a virtual environment: this refers to the fact that the testing environments, are done only in a virtual environment; that is, on a computer and that does not have access to the hardware.
  • It emulates a real device: it can be a mobile or desktop emulator. In both cases, the tested application must have access to the same resources as the tested code, including CPU, memory, among others.
  • Emulation of the operating system to be used: to run an application it is necessary to have access to the operating system, with the virtual machine the tests are separated from the underlying hardware; but still having access to the installed operating system.

What is the purpose of a sandbox?

As we mentioned before, sandboxes can be used in different fields; however, in the area of research they tend to be applied more frequently. Therefore, we can highlight two main areas of application:

Firstly, we have within development; when designing, the sandbox generally includes a development server and a test server. The development server is separate from the production area, but may require simple network access. Developers use this server to load code and test it when the code base changes.

The test server is designed to be an exact replica of the production server. On this server, the QA team verifies your code before it goes into execution. Since the test environment is the same as the production environment, any code that does well in the test environment should also work in the production environment. Once the code is tested, it is deployed to production.

On the other hand there is the application within research; in this case it is used in a similar way; however, in the area of research within cybersecurity, it is much more important to ensure that no network resource can be tapped. In this case the test environment has its own network, different from the production network; in this case the sandbox has the task of analyzing and executing the malicious code.

With the execution of a sandbox, the cybersecurity analyst can have a better idea of how the malware works; therefore, he will know how to solve it in a better way. In the case of more aggressive malware, the sandbox is really useful, since it can be analyzed quickly and prevent it from becoming an even bigger threat.

What are the main benefits of a sandbox?

There are multiple benefits that this resource can bring to your company. One of the main ones, as previously mentioned, is that it is capable of analyzing any application before moving it to a production phase, from programs that may present unforeseen bugs in the software, to malware. It can also serve as a “quarantine” method for suspicious emails or malicious attachments, as it allows a developer to have a safe space to open such emails or run the files to safely check their intentions.

It is also useful when organizations do not have specialized cybersecurity staff; any employee can use a sandbox to separate suspicious programs from common ones.

Sandboxing and the cloud

There is a difference between the normal sandbox and the cloud-directed sandbox. The cloud-directed sandbox proposes that the user can work efficiently from any location, in a cost-effective manner; thus avoiding the equipment and software maintenance required by the local sandbox. This can mean a decrease in the local use of this application and thus favor teleworking; due to its data recovery processes, backups and hardware costs.

Both applications have benefits, however, the cloud sandbox can improve protection against zero-day threats, among other benefits.  First, cloud sandboxing eliminates the need for a localized server and allows you to test URLs, downloads or code on demand; in a virtual sandbox independent of any other device or any network. Unlike a local sandbox that runs on physical devices and cannot protect mobile employees, the ability to test in a virtual environment can protect users both inside and outside the corporate network.

The cloud testing environment also has an advantage over the on-device testing environment; all in terms of auditability because it provides the ability to monitor SSL traffic, a common hiding place for malware. If your sandbox is not capable of this action, malicious web threats can enter. Using a sandbox in the cloud eliminates the need for expensive testing equipment; such equipment that requires maintenance, upgrades, and therefore more expense.

We hope this information has been helpful to you and your company; making decisions regarding the best analysis and damage detection tool is crucial. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about IT security, I invite you to review the following articles.

Interesting related articles: Regret Locker the malware of 2020.

Other articles that may interest you: Cybercrime and its forms: The threat of the modern world.