By Michael Schneider
Sr. Manager, Product Management, Skyhigh Security

Most businesses cannot survive without being connected to the internet or the cloud. Websites and cloud services enable employees to communicate, collaborate, research, organize, archive, create, and be productive.

Yet, the digital connection is also a threat. External attacks on cloud accounts increased by an astounding 630% in 2019. Ransomware and phishing remain major headaches for IT security teams, and as users and resources have migrated outside of the traditional network security perimeter, it’s become increasingly difficult to protect users from clicking on a link or opening a malicious file.

This challenge has increased the tension between two IT mandates—allowing unfettered access to necessary services, while preventing attacks and blocking access to malicious sites. Automation helps significantly with modern security pipelines blocking about 99.5% of malicious and suspicious activity by filtering known bad files and sites, as well as using sophisticated anti-malware scanning and behavioral analytics.

Security is a lot of work

However, the remaining half of 1% still represents a significant number of sites and potential threats that require time for a team of security analysts to triage. Therefore, IT managers are faced with the challenge of devising balanced security policies. Many companies default to blocking unknown traffic, but over-blocking of web sites and content can hinder user productivity while creating a surge in help-desk tickets as users attempt to go to legitimate sites that have not yet been classified. On the flipside, web policies that allow access too freely greatly increases the likelihood of serious, business-threatening security incidents.

With a focus on digital transformation, accelerated by the change in work habits and locations during the pandemic, companies need flexible, transparent security controls that enable safe user access to critical web and cloud resources without overwhelming security teams with constant help desk calls, policy changes, and manual triaging. Remote Browser Isolation – if implemented properly – can help achieve this.

While security solutions leveraging URL categorization, domain reputation, antivirus, and sandboxes can stop 99.5% of threats, remote browser isolation (RBI) can handle the remaining unknown events, rather than the common strategy of choosing to rigidly block or allow everything. RBI allows web content to be delivered and viewed in a safe environment, while analysis is conducted in the background. Using RBI, any request to an unknown site or URL that remains suspicious after traversing the web protection defense-in-depth pipeline will be rendered remotely, preventing any impact to a user’s system in the event the content is malicious.

Relying on RBI

Remote browser isolation blocks malicious code from running on an employee’s system just because they clicked a link. The technology will also prevent pages from using unprotected cookies to try and gain access to protected web services and sites. Such protections are particularly important in the age of ransomware, when an inadvertent click on a malicious link can lead to significant damage to a company’s digital assets.

Given the benefits of remote browser isolation, some companies have deployed the technology to render every site. While this can very effectively mitigate security risk, isolating all web and cloud traffic demands considerable computing resources and is prohibitively expensive from a license cost point of view.

By integrating remote browser isolation (RBI) technology directly into our Skyhigh Security SWG solution, Skyhigh Security integrates RBI with the existing triage pipeline. This means that the rest of the threat protection stack – including global threat intelligence, anti-malware, reputation analysis, and emulation sandboxing – can filter out the majority of threats while only one out of every 200 requests needs to be handled using the RBI. This dramatically reduces overhead. Skyhigh Security Service Edge (SSE) makes this approach dead simple: rather than positioning remote browser isolation as a costly and complicated add-on service, it is included with every SSE license.

Full Protection for High-Risk Individuals

However, there are specific people inside a company—such as the CEO or the finance department—with whom you cannot take chances. For those privileged users, full isolation from potential internet threats is also available. This approach ensures full virtual segmentation of the user’s system from the internet and shields it against any potential danger, enabling him to use the web and cloud freely and productively.

Skyhigh Security’s approach greatly reduces the risk of users being compromised by phishing campaigns or inadvertently getting infected by ransomware – such attacks can incur substantial costs and impact an organization’s ability to operate. At the same time, organizations benefit from a workforce that is freely able to access the web and cloud resources they need to be productive, while IT staff are freed from the burden of rigid web policies and constantly addressing help-desk tickets.