What is Browser Isolation

IPSpecialist
6 min readMar 8, 2023

Introduction

Browser isolation is a security technique that helps protect against web-based threats by creating a barrier between a user’s browsing activity and their local device or network. This technique involves running the user’s web browsing session in a separate, isolated environment, typically within a virtual machine or container.

By isolating the browsing session in this way, any malicious code or other attacks encountered on a website are contained within the isolated environment. They cannot spread to the user’s local device or network. This can help prevent web-based attacks, such as phishing, malware, and other exploits.

Browser isolation is often used in enterprise environments, where employees need to access potentially risky websites as part of their work but where the security of the organization’s network and data must be maintained. It is also becoming more commonly used by users who want to protect their devices and data from web-based threats. This article covers detailed knowledge of Browser Isolation.

Types Of Browser Isolation

There are different types of browser isolation techniques, including:

  • Hardware-based Isolation: This technique involves using a dedicated hardware device, such as a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or a thin client, to isolate the browsing session from the user’s local device. The user connects to the remote device via a secure connection, and all browsing activity takes place on the remote device, providing complete isolation.
  • Virtualization-based Isolation: This technique uses a Virtual Machine (VM) or container to create an isolated environment for the browsing session. The user’s local device runs the VM or container, which hosts the browser and browsing session, isolating it from the host system and local networks. This technique can be implemented through various solutions such as Citrix, VMWare, and Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop.
  • Cloud-based Isolation: The browsing session is handled by this system in the cloud rather than on the user’s local device or network. The user accesses the browser and browsing session via a secure connection to the cloud service provider’s server, which hosts the session in an isolated environment. This technique is commonly used in Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for businesses.
  • Browser-Based Isolation: This technique involves using a browser extension or plug-in to isolate the browsing session from the user’s local device. The extension or plug-in creates an isolated environment for the browsing session within the browser, preventing any web-based threats from spreading to the local device.

How Does Browser Isolation Work?

Browser isolation works by creating a separate and secure environment for web browsing that is isolated from the user’s local device and network. This is achieved through various techniques, including virtualization, containerization, hardware-based isolation, or cloud-based isolation.

When a user initiates a browsing session, instead of running the browser directly on their local device, it runs within an isolated environment created using one of the above techniques. This isolated environment provides a protected space for web content to be executed, keeping the browsing session separate from the user’s local system and network.

By keeping the browsing session separate, any web-based threats the user encounters during the session are contained within the isolated environment, preventing them from infecting the local system or network. In addition, the isolated environment can be regularly reset or deleted after each browsing session to eliminate potential security risks.

Browser isolation may include additional security measures to enhance protection against web-based threats. For example, the isolated environment may only allow specific browsing activities or restrict access to certain websites, providing an additional layer of security. Some solutions also provide real-time monitoring and analysis of the browsing session, detecting malicious activity and blocking or alerting the user when a threat is detected.

Overall, browser isolation provides a secure environment for web browsing that helps protect against web-based threats while allowing users to access the web content and applications they need to perform their work.

Benefits of Browser Isolation

Browser isolation provides several benefits for users and organizations, including:

  • Improved Security: By isolating the browsing session, browser isolation helps to prevent web-based threats, such as malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks, from infecting the user’s device or network. This improves overall security and reduces the risk of data breaches.
  • Reduced Risk Of Data Loss: Since the browsing session is isolated, any data entered or generated during the session is kept separate from the user’s device or network. This reduces the risk of data loss or theft in a web-based attack.
  • Better Control Over Web Activity: Browser isolation allows organizations to monitor and control employees’ web activity more effectively, ensuring users access only approved sites and reducing the risk of unauthorized data transfers.
  • Increased Productivity: By providing a secure environment for browsing potentially risky websites, browser isolation allows employees to complete tasks more efficiently without worrying about security risks. This can improve productivity and reduce the time and resources spent on security-related incidents.
  • Lower Cost Of Its Supports: Since browser isolation provides a secure browsing environment, it can reduce the need for IT support and maintenance for user devices. This can lower organizational costs and reduce the burden on IT teams.

Overall, browser isolation is a valuable security technique that provides numerous benefits for both individual users and organizations, helping to protect against web-based threats and maintain the security and privacy of data.

What Threats Does Browser Isolation Defend Against?

Browser isolation defends against a variety of web-based threats, including:

  • Malware: Browser isolation helps prevent the download and execution of malware on a user’s local device by keeping the browsing session separate from the local system. Any malicious code encountered during the browsing session is contained within the isolated environment and cannot infect the local device.
  • Phishing: Browser isolation can prevent phishing attacks by blocking access to fraudulent websites and preventing the submission of sensitive information to these sites. Some browser isolation solutions may also use behavioral analysis to detect suspicious activity and alert users to potential phishing attempts.
  • Drive-by downloads: Drive-by downloads occur when malware is downloaded and installed on a user’s local device without their knowledge or consent. Browser isolation prevents drive-by downloads by keeping the browsing session separate from the local device and network.
  • Zero-day Exploits: Zero-day exploits refer to vulnerabilities in Software that are unknown and have not yet been patched. Browser isolation can help defend against these exploits by containing any malicious code within the isolated environment, preventing it from affecting the local system.

Overall, browser isolation provides a robust defense against a wide range of web-based threats, enhancing web browsing security and reducing the risk of malware infections, data breaches, and other security incidents.

Why you should need Browser Isolation

Contrary to popular belief, web-based malware can severely affect organizations of any scale. Because:

  • Web Browsing is Risky

Today’s most popular business applications, web browsers, are naturally difficult to secure due to their complexity. They download and run unauthorized code straight from the Internet onto a user’s computer, which is the riskiest thing a computer program can do. The fact that browser-based attacks are the main threat vector attackers use to target users is unsurprising.

  • Website Blocking Affects Work

A secure web gateway can be enhanced with Remote Browser Isolation to provide safe access to websites it has not yet been able to classify. In an effort to safeguard the network from web-based viruses, organizations typically restrict access to uncategorized websites. The IT team responding to end-user requests to unblock websites suffers from decreased productivity due to the aggressive website blocking practice. Users and IT teams can use the web as they normally would while still being completely protected from web-based threats with remote browser isolation, which enables them to be more productive.

  • Users are an Enormous Risk

The majority of users are careless and are easily duped into opening a malicious link by social engineering techniques. Organizations spend a lot of money on perimeter defenses. Still, one careless employee can get around them all by clicking one malicious link and letting an attacker in the front door.

Browser Isolation vs. Remote Browser Isolation

Remote browser isolation is a type of browser isolation that includes relocating all surfing action from the user’s PC to a remote server. This distant server may be housed in the cloud or situated locally on a company’s network.

However, in the cybersecurity sector, it’s common for people to imply Remote Browser Isolation when they refer to Browser Isolation.

As opposed to conducting the isolation directly on the user’s computer, doing so remotely provides greater security and requires fewer client-side resources.

Conclusion

Browser isolation is a valuable security tool providing additional protection against web-based threats. However, it should not be considered a silver bullet solution. It should be used with other security measures, such as regular software updates, firewalls, and strong passwords, to provide a comprehensive defense against cyber attacks.

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