Sandboxing 101: Protect Yourself When Opening Suspicious Documents

Sandbox Environment

The concept of sandboxing has been around for many years in industries ranging from engineering to business, and even political science. A sandbox is a controlled environment where testing can be done and results can be scientifically studied. In engineering, sandboxes are set up to test everything from physics and thermodynamics, to timing and structural integrity; in a controlled and measured environment. In business, it’s used to study consumer behavior and make predications on market fluctuations.

Sandboxing in the Computer Industry

Sandboxing has become popular in the computer security industry, as it allows malware researchers to study the behavior and impact of computer viruses in a repeatable and scientifically sound way. It also provides them with a quick and easy way to set up their lab environment without having the rebuild the whole thing from scratch after every study.

Computer sandboxes work in a variety of different ways, depending on the implementation, however the fundamentals are mostly the same. The sandbox creates an environment that mimics your computer, or isolates your computer’s resources in a way that any application run within the sandbox does not interact with your main operating system, and therefore any malicious or unwanted changes do not impact the core operating system.

Available to Everyone

Nowadays, computer sandboxes are available to the average consumer, and they have become easier than ever to configure and use. Many of these sandboxes are either free, or available at a very reasonable price. They are also a great way to add an additional layer of security to common tasks such as opening suspicious documents and browsing the Internet. If a threat does exist in the document of a website when they are opened in the sandbox, then the threat will be contained within the sandbox and will not affect your computer. When the sandbox is reset, any viruses or other potential threats will be reset with it.

Here are two excellent and free ways to get started with sandboxing:



The Sandboxie application works by isolating your computer’s memory when running applications in sandboxed mode. When you first install and configure Sanboxie, it’ll create a sandbox environment for you, which can be accessed in the taskbar. You can also right click on any document or application and choose to have it run in the sandbox. When the application runs in Sandboxie, it’ll be restricted to only the memory that Sandboxie allows, and it will not be able to make changes to your computer or inject malicious code into other applications running on your computer.



Oracle’s Virtualbox is just one of many virtualization programs available. What makes it appealing is the fact that it’s free and it has a large following in the computer security industry. Although Virtualbox is a little more complicated to configure than Sandboxie, it works just as well. With Virtualbox, you are essentially installing another operating system and running it in parallel with your existing operating system. You’ll have to configure this second operating system from scratch, however, if you’re using it as a sandbox you probably don’t need much more than the bare essentials to open documents and browse the Internet. You can create snapshots and revert back to those snapshots after opening suspicious documents or surfing the Internet. Each time you revert back to a previous snapshot it’s like you’re starting from a clean slate.

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