November 9, 2023

The power of proactive security: understanding Sandboxing and Zero-Trust CDR

In today's complex cyber landscape, organizations must leverage multiple technologies to build robust defenses. A core element of many security strategies is sandboxing technology, which is used in organizations worldwide to isolate suspicious files and programs, allowing teams to evaluate potential threats. However, sandboxes are limited in detecting more advanced and unknown threats.

This is where Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) solutions come into play. CDR takes a proactive approach, rebuilding every file to match manufacturer specifications to neutralize hidden dangers. While sandboxes rely on reactive threat detection, CDR works proactively to eliminate risks. Understanding how these technologies complement each other is critical when constructing a multi-faceted security framework.

Illustration about a bomb in a box representing threats

What is sandboxing?

Sandboxing is a security technique used to isolate potentially malicious programs or processes in a secure environment before they can cause harm. A sandbox is a virtualized environment that limits its access to the underlying system and other programs, allowing programs to be monitored and assessed for potential security threats.

What are the limitations of sandboxing?

But how effective is sandboxing? Whilst sandbox technology can go beyond relying on hashes and file signatures and, therefore, helps to identify novel malware, usability is the first thing that takes a hit for users. Business productivity is sacrificed for security.

In practical terms, sandboxes are really just instrumented virtual machines. For them to be effective, they rely on two factors; the first is that the detection of malicious processes needs to be correct. Secondly, the attacker needs to be impatient and always launch a suspicious software process whilst the file is in the Sandbox. That’s quite a big assumption and is the main reason why sandbox detection can be avoided. Understandably, business users are generally impatient to receive their mail or business files. The attacker knows this. 

In addition, sandboxes can only protect against threats they've previously encountered. This means they can fall short when confronted with zero-day threats. Moreover, when a file is subjected to these sandbox solutions, there's an inherent delay. This lag not only disrupts business operations but can also negatively impact the end-user's experience. It's also worth noting that today's cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated. They've devised intricate methods that allow malicious files to slip past these sandboxes, only to detonate once they've been processed and deemed safe.

Disadvantages of sandboxing

  • While sandboxes can identify unique malware, they often compromise user usability, impacting business productivity.
  • Sandboxes function as instrumented virtual machines, and their efficacy hinges on the accurate detection of malicious processes.
  • Their effectiveness assumes attackers act hastily, always triggering suspicious software while in the sandbox; this assumption is a primary vulnerability.
  • Sandboxes are detection-based solutions and, as such, can only protect against what they have seen before – falling short when protecting against zero-day threats.
  • Sandbox solutions take time to process a file – causing disruption to business workflows and end-user experience.
  • Cybercriminals can deploy complex measures that may help malicious files to evade sandboxes – detonating after the file has been processed.

Layers of a document

What is Content Disarm and Reconstruction?

Instead of looking for malicious content, today’s advanced Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) technologies treat all files as untrusted, validating, rebuilding and cleaning each one against their manufacturer’s ‘known-good’ specification.

Rather than attempting to detect and block files that are known or suspected to be malicious, CDR rebuilds files and documents into a safe, clean and visually identical ‘known good’ standard that is free from the risks of malware. Organizations which deploy CDR protection do not have to be reliant on next-generation antivirus or threat intelligence databases, which, on average, have a protection gap of 18 days for new zero-day threats.

Using CDR means security teams need no longer choose between complete file security or speed and usability. While some CDR vendors flatten files, the most effective CDR solutions provide rapid zero-trust file protection that maintains original document usability. As a result, there is no dependence on antivirus databases to provide knowledge of a new threat, and security teams no longer deal with disruptions from quarantining files or false positives.

CDR Use Cases

With zero-trust cybersecurity front of mind for organizations the world over, today’s Content Disarm and Reconstruction technologies have been developed to address a wide variety of use cases. These include:

Illustration about connected information

Cross Domain Solutions (CDS)

CDR can elevate both new and existing cross domain solutions by using technology that doesn't rely on mere detection and data wrapping. Instead, by adopting a robust zero-trust methodology, the most effective solutions treat every file as potentially harmful. Ideally, each file will undergo a rigorous process of validation, reconstruction, and cleansing to meet a universally accepted standard.

Illustration about a chip


CDR technology can be incorporated wherever files are being transferred or stored. Today’s most powerful solutions are designed to empower both governmental bodies and business corporations, ensuring paramount operations are shielded with groundbreaking zero-trust file security.

Illustration about file upload and download online

File Upload Portals

Receiving files from external sources is a crucial operation for a plethora of institutions, including government agencies. Present methods possess certain vulnerabilities that can be manipulated by uploading harmful content.

Using an advanced CDR engine, with its zero-trust cleansing capabilities, allowed organizations to improve protection at multiple points across it security framework. This empowers security personnel with the tools to promptly and autonomously eliminate both recognized and novel file-based threats, delivering files that are not only safe and identical in appearance but also fully operational.

Illustration about migrate files from local servers to the cloud

Cloud Migration

Every institution is dependent on the seamless transfer of files across varying levels of trust within their network, including transfers with external networks. During pivotal operations like cloud migrations, it's essential to ascertain that no malicious or questionable files get transferred. By employing an effective CDR solution, institutions can leverage RESTful APIs optimized for container orchestration platforms. This enables the processing of voluminous data containers rapidly and efficiently, ensuring the migration of only trustworthy, sanitized, and fully operational files.

Illustration about separated files

Isolated Networks

By utilizing a market-leading CDR technology, users can achieve unparalleled file security while preserving the sanctity of isolated networks. Traditional detection-based mechanisms often need an active connection to receive updates, which can threaten the very isolation of these secure networks. Conversely, the zero-trust model of CDR operates independently of such updates, shielding against both recognized and emerging file-based threats. This ensures the utmost isolation for these networks.

documents with a tick

Industry-Critical Compliance

CDR technologies can also facilitate adherence to esteemed industry guidelines, ensuring data is imported safely and that risk management is comprehensive.

Organizations should also look for state-of-the-art features, including word search and redaction capabilities, metadata removal, and image analysis functionalities. These attributes are instrumental for organizations aiming to be compliant with prevailing privacy laws and regulations.

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