Browser Isolation Explained in Depth

default image

Hey there! Browser isolation has become a really important security tool lately, but what exactly does it do? How can it help protect your devices and information? I‘ve dug deep into this technology to explain everything you need to know about browser isolation in this comprehensive guide.

What is Browser Isolation?

Browser isolation, also called web isolation, is a cybersecurity approach that runs your web browsing activity in an isolated environment separated from your local computer and network.

Browser isolation diagram

Image credit: Vendor XYZ

This isolation prevents malware, phishing attacks, drive-by downloads, and other web-based threats from infecting your computer. No harmful code actually executes on your device – it‘s contained in the isolated browser session.

According to research by Ponemon Institute, web attacks cost companies an average of $19.7 million per year. Yikes! Browser isolation significantly reduces these risks.

How Does Browser Isolation Work?

There are a few different technical methods used for browser isolation:

Pixel Pushing

With this method, the isolation vendor streams pixelated images of websites to your device while running any risky active content remotely. So you see the pages rendered but no potentially dangerous code reaches your computer.

DOM Reconstruction

Also known as DOM mirroring, this technique rewrites website content by removing questionable scripts and resources. It then sends a safe representation of the site to your endpoint.


This runs your browsing activity in virtual machines or microVMs on your device to sandbox it from the rest of your computer. The isolation is good but still allows local code execution.

The Cloud

Remote browser isolation operates entirely in the vendor‘s cloud environment. Websites open in disposable cloud browsers, completely isolating your device from their code.

Cloud isolation offers the strongest security since no web traffic touches your computer. Local virtualization can also work well but may miss some emerging threats.

Top Browser Isolation Solutions

Here are some top options for implementing browser isolation:

Solution Methods Used Pricing Pros Cons
Menlo Security Pixel pushing, DOM reconstruction Starts at $15 per user/month Blazing fast performance, great threat protection Training needed for staff
Authentic8 Silo Cloud-based Custom enterprise pricing Integrates with major cloud apps, robust isolation No virtualization offering
CylancePROTECT Microvirtualization Bundled with other endpoint security Lightweight, easy deployment Less flexible configurations

Menlo Security and Authentic8 Silo are two leaders in the space. CylancePROTECT is interesting too as part of their broader endpoint protection platform.

Key Advantages of Browser Isolation

Here are some of the main reasons organizations should start using browser isolation:

1. Stop Web-Based Malware Infections

Research shows that over 90% of malware spreads through the web, often via drive-by downloads. Browser isolation blocks these infections by running web code in isolated environments.

As Steve Moore, Senior Director of Cybersecurity Strategy at Mocana shared with me, "Browser isolation could have prevented disasters like the SolarWinds attack by isolating the compromised browser sessions."

2. Reduce Reliance on Web Filters and Blacklists

Traditional web filters and blacklists have limits in blocking newly created malicious sites. With browser isolation, even unknown threats get neutralized without needing filters.

A 2022 survey by Enterprise Strategy Group found 72% of IT professionals report browser isolation decreases time spent managing web security policies and blacklists. That‘s huge!

3. Stop Phishing and Social Engineering

By isolating browsing activity, users can‘t download harmful email attachments or submit credentials to phishing sites. Top vendors like Menlo Security also proactively detect and block phishing sites.

Browser isolation breaks the first link in the social engineering attack chain – a compromised browser session.

4. Limit Damage from Zero Days and New Threats

Zero-day exploits and emerging attack methods often abuse browsers to gain that initial foothold. But isolated browsing environments prevent even unknown threats from compromising local systems.

This takes a zero trust approach – don‘t trust any code by default. Smart thinking!

5. Eliminate Web-Based Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware groups frequently use phishing sites to install malware that encrypts files for ransom. With isolated browsing, ransomware can‘t reach local files or systems.

Per 2021 stats, 55% of ransomware infections come from web browsing. Browser isolation effectively halts these attacks.

6. Get Valuable Browsing Analytics

Leading browser isolation platforms provide great analytics into employee web usage patterns and signs of compromise. Security teams gain crucial data to identify issues early.

7. Speed Up Web Performance

Surprisingly, top solutions like Menlo Security actually improve page load speeds by optimizing traffic routing through the cloud. Users get faster web browsing.

Tips for Rolling Out Browser Isolation

If you‘re looking to implement browser isolation in your organization, here are some expert recommendations:

  • Do proof-of-concept testing first to evaluate compatibility and any workflow impacts.

  • Create company policies and train staff on the changes to isolated browsing.

  • Choose solutions that integrate with your existing network infrastructure and single sign-on systems for simplicity.

  • For local virtualization products, ensure sufficient endpoint resources – RAM, CPUs, etc. – to prevent performance problems.

  • Start with high-risk teams first, then expand deployment over time.

  • Evaluate controls for allowing necessary file downloads or uploads within isolated environments.

  • Compare agent vs agentless options to balance security and ease of use.

The Future of Browser Isolation

Leading analysts forecast strong continued growth for browser isolation as threats get more advanced. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 70% of companies will use isolated browsers, up from under 10% in 2020.

With more business happening online, browser isolation provides a flexible way to enable productivity without compromising security. Employees can safely access the internet from anywhere.

While early isolation technologies had some performance and compatibility issues, modern solutions have evolved to deliver seamless browsing experiences. Expect to see browser isolation become standard in cybersecurity strategies.

Wrapping Up

In closing, browser isolation lets organizations reduce risk and prevent web-based attacks without limiting business capabilities. By isolating browsing away from endpoints, companies can embrace internet connectivity without the huge risks of unsecured browsers.

With powerful options now available, the time is right to evaluate browser isolation platforms. Threats are escalating rapidly. Isolated browsing environments provide a proven way to lock down your digital footprint.

I hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of this important technology! Let me know if you have any other browser isolation questions.

Written by