Sandboxes Are Fun For Kids, But Not So Fun For Your Network

While products that implement sandboxing techniques can detect zero day malware, targeted attacks and advanced persistent threats, they come with one string attached – an end user gets infected.  The products let the malware infect at least one user and then they notify you that you’ve been breached and offer to help clean up the mess.

Sandboxing technology takes the web pages and files that a user tries to download and runs them in an emulated environment on the server. To avoid end users waiting minutes for every page to be inspected before they get to see it, the sandbox products let the web pages through while they are getting inspected. If a page is malicious, the user gets infected. Once the sandbox finally determines that the page was malicious, the system will notify the user’s IT security department, however during that time, the infected machine may be infecting other machines on the business’s network.  The first machine and the others may also try to download additional malware which the sandbox may or may not detect.

To block future malware attacks, after the first user is infected, the sandbox technology tries to come up with a way to identify that malware the next time it sees it. However, malware authors have become very good at writing code that evades recognition. Malware can be dynamically recompiled; it can be spread across different parts of a web page; and it can be obfuscated in any number of ways. The second time the malware attacks a system, it may not look anything like the first time. And, again, the sandbox will let it infect at least the first user.

Some businesses that use sandbox technologies take comfort in the idea that another business will get infected first, and then they will get the protection from being part of a bigger network of businesses. The problem with that thinking is that an increasing amount of malware is targeted. That means it is written to attack users in a specific business, not someone else. Any reliance on a bigger community to have someone else infected first makes no difference if the bad guys code an attack just for you.

While sandboxing technology does catch a significant amount of malware attacks, its success is at the expense of at least one user getting infected. That’s why businesses should consider anti-malware defenses that analyze and block malware in real-time, while the web page is online so that no one gets infected. That kind of protection can detect zero day malware, targeted attacks and advanced persistent threats with no strings attached.


Steve Brunetto is Director of Product Management at Trustwave


« Gamification & Latin American Education


Let's Talk About the Pros and Cons of Twitter Maintenance »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?