How to use virtual quarantines

05/03/2017

Malware is becoming more sophisticated every day, and we recommend several solutions for dealing with it. One of the most interesting of these is achievable via cutting-edge virtualization technology. Often referred to as sandboxing, this solution is a great way to quarantine and test suspicious applications before exposing them to your entire network.

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is one of the rare concepts in virtualization that the average person can usually grasp in just a couple short sentences. Essentially, sandboxing is the practice of tricking an application or program into thinking it is running on a regular computer, and observing how it performs. This is especially useful for testing whether unknown applications are hiding malware.

Obviously, it gets far more complicated once you delve into the details of how you implement a sandboxing technique, but the short answer is that it almost always involves virtualized computers. The program you want to test thinks it’s been opened on a workstation server and can act as designed, but it’s actually contained within a controlled virtual space that forbids it from copying or deleting files outside of the boundaries of the sandbox.

How to quarantine effectively

Virtualization is no simple task, but the benefits of sandboxing definitely make the effort worth it. Virtualized workstations can be created and removed easily, here’s how:

  1. You aren’t required to manage permanent resources to utilize a sandbox – just turn it on when you need it, and when you’re done, you can return your resources to be utilized by your server.
  2. When malware is exposed inside a sandbox, removing it is as simple as destroying the virtual machine. Compare that to running a physical workstation dedicated solely to sandboxing. Formatting and reinstalling the machine would take several hours.
  3. Variables such as which operating system the sandbox runs, which permissions quarantined applications are granted, and minimum testing times can be employed and altered in extremely short periods of time.

This strategy has been implemented for years, and some cybersecurity experts have spent their entire careers perfecting the sandbox.

Next Steps: Containers

Recently, the virtualization industry has been almost totally consumed by the topic of “containers.” Instead of creating entire virtual workstations to run suspicious applications in, containers are virtual spaced with exactly enough hardware and software resources to run whatever the container was designed to do.

These containers will allow you to design the shape of your sandbox to your exact specifications. Although these are more efficient, they take computer professionals to install and implement them correctly.


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