What is Sandboxing?

Sandboxing refers to a method in which you use an isolated environment, or a “sandbox,” for testing. Within the sandbox, you can initiate the execution of a suspicious program or a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that may be attached to an email. After you access the URL, execute the program or click on the attachment, and you can observe what happens. 

With a sandbox, the rest of your network is shielded from the negative effects of anything operating within the sandboxed environment. It is important to make sure the sandbox is secure and that it provides an accurate representation of the performance of the central processing unit (CPU) of your servers.

Sandboxing is very effective when mounting a defense against zero-day threats, which are threats that have not been seen before or match any known malware on file. Even though regular email filters can scan emails to detect malicious senders, file types, and URLs, zero-day threats pop up all the time, and they can be missed by traditional filtration. Sandboxing provides a greater level of protection, particularly when a malicious email slips by the filters put in place by your provider.

When sandboxing is used for testing, it creates a safe place to install and execute a program, particularly a suspicious one, without exposing the rest of your system. If the application contains malicious code, it can run within the sandbox without impacting any other components of your network.

What Are Sandbox Environments?

A sandbox environment is a safe testing ground that isolates code that needs to be tested or experiments that have the potential to affect other aspects of your network.

Sandboxing can take several different forms. Even though some companies use sandboxing only for testing, it is also a valuable tool for several other important objectives. One such objective is project integration. Integrating more than one build or aspects of a project can be a challenge. However, with sandboxing, you can check for compatibility to make sure the solution is being properly developed.

Sandboxing also allows your clients and customers to use new products and features. For example, you can execute sales demonstrations within a sandboxed environment. These can include videos and other multimedia, and with a properly equipped sandbox, the customer can take away an experience identical to what they would have when connected to your actual system. Sandboxing allows your company to interactively engage with both new clients and customers already in your portfolio. They can try out your software at their own pace, no matter where they are.

You can also perform quality assurance (QA) testing within a sandbox environment. Using sandbox software to optimize your solution enables you to isolate problematic elements of the code and then troubleshoot them. The sandbox protects the rest of your system while giving you the chance to execute code in an ecosystem much like what the end-user would experience.

Cloud-based Sandboxing vs. Appliance-based Sandboxing

Cloud-based software has risen in popularity because it can open the door for remote working opportunities, lower costs, and backup and recovery options. Similar to other IT operations, performing sandboxing in the cloud comes with some benefits.

Cloud-based sandboxing shares the same, general sandbox meaning. It consists of using a sandboxing environment to test downloads, URLs, and code—but in the cloud instead of using on-site hardware. When a sandboxing environment is in the cloud, it is kept apart from your computer or any of the devices on your network. 

When you run suspicious files on your computer or in-house network, you run a higher risk of contamination. Companies that want to use sandboxing may invest in expensive equipment that emulates their primary setup to keep the code or files separate from their primary IT resources. However, with cloud-based sandboxing, the cloud keeps your on-premises equipment protected from any potential fallout from malware.

On the other hand, sandboxing on physical appliances involves examining files, URLs, and code on your on-premises hardware without exposing the rest of your system to potential danger. This could pose a challenge for remote workers because once they leave the office, they are physically separated from the sandbox environment, so any testing they would be doing would have to stop. 

Another challenge raised by appliance-based sandboxing is making sure malware does not slip by the system. Some malware can conceal itself inside secure sockets layer (SSL) traffic, a networking protocol used to secure connections between web clients and servers. Unless all SSL traffic is inspected, there is a chance threats could slip through and reach your network. However, both cloud-based and appliance-based sandboxing can protect your network from zero-day threats.

CyberCapture vs. Sandboxing

When figuring out "what is sandboxing,” know that there are some unavoidable similarities between it and CyberCapture. There are also some key differences.

Cyber criminals use efficient, inventive attack methods to infiltrate a network and impact as many users as they can—as quickly as they can. CyberCapture can detect files that seem malicious and are unknown, then hold them so they can be further analyzed. This happens within a cloud environment to make sure code or files that could harm your network or device are not able to reach it. Malware that uses encryption to conceal its real intentions can be detected by CyberCapture, which then clears the fake code, revealing the real commands and instructions underneath. Then, the code can be labeled as either unsafe or safe and put under quarantine so it cannot be run by the device or affect your network in any way.

Cloud sandboxing is different from CyberCapture in that it does not have to be executed using automation. A cloud sandboxing environment can be run by anyone on the IT team that wants to test out an application or file while keeping it isolated from a specific device. In this way, a file the team does not trust can be examined to figure out how it works or the dangers it poses to a specific device or the rest of the system. 

While inside the cloud sandbox, applications can be run and files can be tested. When the sandbox is closed, they are discarded, eliminating the risk of threat.

Benefits of Sandboxing

Sandboxing comes with several benefits that can enhance the safety of your network, as well as offer new options for accomplishing your company's objectives—IT and otherwise.

  1. Create and deploy environments: If you use sandboxes, it is easy to create and deploy environments at scale. A sandbox gives you the flexibility to test different versions and new lines of code.
  2. Gain access to advanced networking and support: With the right kind of sandbox architecture, you can use advanced networking features and test them out to see how they may fit in with, or improve, your current system.
  3. Enhance collaboration: With a sandbox environment, you can deploy an application and grant access to people from a variety of departments. They can then use the sandbox and "play” with the application. They can leave feedback for the IT team, management, or stakeholders in other departments. If teams are allowed to use an application and take notes on their experiences for an extended time, their findings can be used to better inform the next iteration.
  4. Save your company money: Instead of sourcing, purchasing, staffing, and maintaining your own in-house development labs, you can use cloud-based sandboxing instead. The money you would have spent on procuring, running, and maintaining the equipment can be invested in other projects to support company objectives.
  5. Prepare for future attacks: When a threat is contained within the sandbox environment, it is quarantined and available for study by the in-house IT team or external cybersecurity experts. A careful study of the threat may reveal patterns that can be used to identify and stop future attacks. You can also use the knowledge gained from dissecting the threat to identify vulnerabilities in the network.

Why is Sandboxing Important?

Because the nature and effectiveness of zero-day threats continue to evolve, a company needs a strategy for the protection of their data and programs. This is particularly true when it comes to threats that can slip by malware- and virus-detecting email filters. Sandboxing is one of the best tools for ensuring that your organization stays ahead of bad actors wishing to access or compromise your system.

Whether sandboxing is executed in the cloud or on an appliance, it provides crucial protection. Some threats, for example, may not crash your system or cause overtly noticeable effects, but they can slowly degrade the performance of your overall network, slowing down processes and wasting valuable employee time. Through sandboxing, these kinds of threats can be avoided, keeping your system running how it should.

How Fortinet Can Help—Fortinet Sandbox Software

The Fortinet sandbox security solution provides users with a malware sandbox. This is a system designed to confine the actions of a specific application to an isolated environment. For example, a Word document infected with malware, once opened, can infect your computer—and even spread to the rest of the network. However, with a malware sandbox, the malware is kept inside the environment, quarantined away from the rest of the computer. 

The Fortinet sandbox solution then analyzes the behavior of the suspicious object and how it interacts with other applications to discover its malicious intent. In case the malwar /content/fortinet-com/en_us/products/sandbox/fortisandbox.html e is activated and attempts to inflict damage, any damage done is confined within the Fortinet sandbox.

This is done using a detection engine that uses both static and dynamic analysis. The Fortinet sandbox can also emulate a collection of operating systems, such as macOS, Linux, Windows, and SCADA/ICS, as well as applications that run on them. The Fortinet sandbox security seamlessly integrates with other security controls, such as next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) and web application firewalls (WAFs).

Further, as threats are detected, the Fortinet Sandbox software, FortiSandbox, reports and shares intelligence gathered regarding each one, making the whole system safer for all users connected to your organization.