How to Isolate the Weakest Link

If you think about it, there’s a fundamental disconnect between the concept of zero trust and the approach traditional security technology takes.

As employees browse the internet or open email, legacy solutions scan the content for potential threats before allowing access. That’s not zero trust. That’s “innocent until proven guilty.”

If you take zero trust seriously, you will treat all content as if it’s malicious, whether you detect a threat or not.

That’s the mindset behind isolation technology, said Mike Rider, Senior Solutions Engineer at Menlo Security, which provides browser- and email-based isolation solutions.

“With isolation, our default approach is that all content is malicious, and we treat it as such (i.e., never trust it),” Rider said. “Never let the end user have access to it, but instead, always deliver to them a safe, sanitized version.”

How It Works

Think about going through airport security. Imaging technology and metal detectors scan every person and their bags. If a system detects something suspicious, security officials pull that person and their bags aside for greater inspection. That’s how traditional security tools work.

Now, imagine if every person and every bag were automatically subject to the highest level of scrutiny. That’s how isolation technology works.

Browser isolation routes web traffic through a cloud- based remote browser where all content can be activated in a safe environment. If nothing malicious is present, the content is passed on to the end user.

Agencies can take a nuanced approach to restrict browsing. Some websites might be blocked fully, and others might be accessible, but in view-only mode. Menlo Security’s solution enables agencies to create granular polices that define who can access what type of file in what mode.

Security at Speed

Of course, if airport security worked the same way, no one would make their flight. But that’s not a problem with isolation technology, said Rider.

For example, when the Defense Department (DoD) adopted browser isolation, users saw a 50% reduction in load times of web content, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency.

That’s because under its old approach, security scans happened at the department’s internet access points, which led to bandwidth congestion. Moving security to the cloud eliminated those chokepoints.

Although DoD is a unique environment, most agencies should expect the performance of browser isolation to be on par with their standard internet connection, Rider said.

Isolating the Human Factor

A 2021 global study by IBM found that 95% of successful attacks or breaches involved human error. It’s just human nature, Rider said: No matter how much training people receive, they are bound to click on links or visit sites that they shouldn’t.

With isolation technology, “users can freely navigate the web and make mistakes, which they will do, without bringing risky content into an organization,” Rider said.

This article appeared in our guide, “A New Cyber Game Plan Takes Shape.” To learn more about how respond to — and head off — the latest threatsdownload the guide:



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