What Is a Sandbox in Tech and Cybersecurity?

You may have fond memories of playing in a sandbox as a child — the endless creativity of building sandcastles and roads without worrying about making a mistake. On the soft, malleable ground, there was room to try and fail, build and destroy. Establishing room for creative muscles to develop and explore is essential to building such skills as problem solving, cooperation, and ideation. In adulthood, sandboxes can take on a totally different context, but can yield the same benefits.

As an adult, a sandbox can refer to a place of creative or experimental safety — a metaphorical boundary imposed on an area in which you can freely test ideas and innovate. In technology, a sandbox is a contained virtual environment separated from live networks, systems, and programs.

The phrase “sandboxing” is a commonly used tech industry term. But what is sandboxing? Sandboxing is testing out new lines of code and programs in the sandbox environment, free from concerns of negatively impacting other operational systems or programs.

Just as the sand in a sandbox protects children from hard surfaces, a virtual sandbox protects developers during experimentation and trial-and-error problem-solving. It stimulates the imagination, allowing room for growth.

The Sandbox Environment

As a burgeoning programmer or developer, using a sandbox is essential in ideation and testing. Making sure code works as designed before incorporating it into a complex system is not only smart from an SDLC (software development life cycle) best practices perspective, it also helps developers save time when finding and addressing new or redesigned coding issues.

Sandboxing, however, is not just for testing code functionality. Sometimes, when new code is introduced into an existing program or system, the new code functions correctly but “breaks” something else. Using a virtual sandbox environment enables developers to discover the issue prior to implementation, helping them avoid downtime and further system disruption.

In cybersecurity, sandbox testing makes sure that vulnerabilities or security gaps get the attention they deserve. In fintech, sandboxing is often used to develop and test consumer financial product functionality, making sure that transactions are attributed correctly and remain secure prior to interacting with actual client assets.

Interested in thwarting the next cyber crime before it happens, or developing the next fintech service sensation? Consider enrolling in a cybersecurity boot camp or fintech boot camp to learn more.

Columbia Engineering Cybersecurity Boot Camp offers learners the opportunity to gain in-demand information security skills. Enroll today!

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The Sandbox Process

There are a few different types of sandbox processes, and their implementation depends on the type of program or software that is running. Several web browsers — like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox — have selective sandbox technology built in, allowing for the separation and security of assets.Alternatively, a sandbox can be run manually using what is known as a virtual machine. A virtual machine acts as a duplicate of the operating system (OS), enabling testing without harming the actual operating system.

In addition, while many elements are consistent, sandboxing can differ slightly across industries in terms of application and usage.

A fintech, or financial technology, sandbox provides a safe virtual space for financial institutions to develop and test innovative technologies and programs ranging from faster counting software to mobile banking apps. And, because fintech occurs at the intersection of finance and technology, products and services must change and grow rapidly to keep pace.

Sandboxing allows for the secure testing of new fintech products and services, ensuring that they are fully functional before being launched in a live environment, while also safeguarding institution and client assets.

Room for trial and error is essential in any job that requires building and creating. If you’re interested in becoming a software developer, sandboxing to test new code will be an important part of your work. Just as a chef develops a recipe over time, or a medical researcher tests a cure for a disease, software development sandboxing provides a safe space for developers to test their product.

Similar to fintech, the software development sandbox mimics the server where the software will ultimately be uploaded. Sandboxing allows the developer to not only test their own code, but test how it will interact with other software, ensuring that other programs or systems won’t be negatively impacted by the new code. In addition, sandboxes are used to test the functionality of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), allowing third-party app developers to test their products within a specific web service that their app is likely to encounter.

For those pursuing a career in cybersecurity, cybersecurity sandboxes are used to isolate malware and analyze it, determining both its behavior and vulnerabilities without endangering live systems.

These sandboxes can be used as a first line of defense in cybersecurity, where they are set up to look like client-side functionality (e.g., payment information collection), enticing cyber criminals to attack and capturing their activities or code. Because the sandbox is an isolated system, sometimes called an artifact, no harm can be done to the actual systems. However, cybersecurity analysts will be able to study the attack, understand its elements, and further harden their systems as necessary.

Cybersecurity is an increasingly lucrative field given the ever-advancing sophistication of cyber criminals. Sandboxing is an important tool in the protection of institutional and individual systems and assets.

Sandbox Code

Code is the essential building block of any website or an internet database. It’s also the foundation of sandbox creation. Depending on the type of project, as well as the industry you are working in, there are many sandbox code options available. For example, if you’re working in web development, you may choose to create a JavaScript code sandbox, whereas if you’re working in fintech, you may find a Python code sandbox useful.

In addition, while some developers choose to create their own virtual sandbox, others rely on a predefined sandbox environment (e.g., sandbox software) to test their code.

Sandbox Software

Many developers choose to use sandbox software when working on various projects. For some, it’s a way to save time and, for others, it’s a way to work in an area that isn’t completely familiar to them so they can safely learn and explore. Regardless, sandbox software is a key tool for software developers across industries.

The ultimate sandbox software choice often depends on the developer’s industry and project type. Here are just a few examples of the types of sandbox software and their common usage.

“What is Avast sandbox?” is a commonly searched question on Google due to its popularity. Avast sandbox software is commonly used to scan websites for security risks, such as spoofed websites, protecting users from remote attacks or ransomware.

This JavaScript sandbox is useful in web development. It’s helpful in building, editing, and reviewing new code individually or collaboratively with a team.

This sandbox enables end-to-end UI testing for Android and iOS mobile apps, storing all test artifacts (tests, builds, and reports) in one dashboard.

This sandbox helps reduce new products/product enhancement testing timelines that require links to back office IT systems. It enables multiple, concurrent versions as well as iterative prototyping development up to product release.

This sandbox is used to run multiple operating systems as virtual machines (VMs) on a single Linux or Windows PC. This is often used by IT professionals who build, test, or demo software for broad third-party or consumer usage.

Sandbox Games

Even if you do not write code or develop software programs, you may have encountered elements of sandboxing in video games. Games implement a kind of sandbox element known as an “open-world environment,” allowing the player to explore a territory and make choices without being limited to a purely linear, narrative path.

Freeform gameplay with a more lax sense of rules allows the players to “teach themselves” how to play the game. Players can explore a landscape, go into dungeons, upgrade their weapons, or play minigames within the game. The lack of instruction makes the experience purely customizable for those disinterested in linear gameplay. Eventually, to level up or move on to a new section, a player may have to complete a set of tasks, but the flexibility they have to get to that point — including the order in which they accomplish said set of tasks — allows them to move at their own pace.

What Is a Sandbox? FAQs

Avast Premium Security offers a fee-based sandbox tool to help protect users from cyber crime and malware while using the internet. Specifically, Avast scans the web to detect spoofed websites and malware code that allow hackers to remotely take control of your PC.

An embedded sandbox is placed in a web page, containing components and content that the webmaster has no real control over but feels they must have (e.g., third-party widgets, ads). In order to ensure these components don’t negatively impact the site, the sandbox confines this content to make sure it can’t damage the rest of the site if undetected malware is present.

A sandbox in Salesforce creates copies of data in a secure environment so new programs and functions can be applied to them and tested without risking the original data. Sandboxing in Salesforce also protects data from outside influences before new programs and functions are deployed.

Summary

Sandboxes are valuable tools in web development, fintech, cybersecurity, and more. Sandboxing not only allows developers to create and test, free from the concern of negatively impacting systems, it also protects institutions and users from cyber crime.

Are you intrigued by the opportunity to create your own sandbox and put your tech-savvy creativity to use? If so, consider all you can learn from Columbia Engineering Boot Camps and begin your knowledge-building journey today.

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