You must have heard of virtual machines and virtual software (Softgrid and ThinApp former Thinstall) these solutions are really cool and offer a lot in security and ease, however they are not really good for adhoc projects.
Say you need to test a new application but are not sure you want to keep it, well you can fire up a virtual machine and install the software here, however fireing up a virtual machine takes time, memory and ressources so in other words its not ‘easy’ and convient. Well a little known program takes care of this, SandboxIE, with this baby you can download your application and just right click on it and say run sandboxed.
So how does it work, well its quite ingenious actually. The software will create a “sandbox” for the application (could be anything – a single exe file – Microsoft office or an installation software) anything this software does is written in the sandbox and NOT in your filesystem (both filesystem and registry are sandboxed), however the software can READ anything on your filesystem/registry – the software thus does not know its sandboxed it will preform just as it would in real world. You can even browse the sandbox and see what files are installed and where (or what changes would be made by the software).
SandboxIE has buildin support for internet browsing security, hence you will by default have a shortcut for launching your Internet browser in a sandboxed environment, this is really cool as if will offer you a VERY high level of security when browsing – any evil stuff you stumble across during your browsing can be undone (activex components installed, Google-Yahoo-Live toolbar, trojans installed).
What are the applications of this software?
- Security for one, you can now safely run an application (suspected spyware etc) and the changes it makes are NOT permanent, you can simply empty the sandbox afterwards.
- Installation tests, say you are installing new software but need to figure out which settings etc are right, well now you can install the same software as many times as you like.
- Launch your internet browser in a sandbox, none of the trojans and evil scripts on the net can harm your windows installation – any evil stuff installed (including Google Toolbar etc) can be undone by clearing your sandbox.
A word of caution though, even though the software can NOT write to your filesystem it can still read everything on it (registry and files), thus if we are talking spyware or the likes it can still read your confidential information, also spyware/trojans installed while you browse may compromise your privacy even though they cant do permanent damage to your system.
SandboxIE is very easy to get started with, but offers very complex configuration. If you are interested in or use Virtual Machines of software virtualization you should really check this our, but also if you are concerned with security while you browse the net.
You get a free 30 day trial and then the price is 22€ (well worth its price).
Download and get all the details here; http://www.sandboxie.com/
Get a great podcast intro to SandboxIE here