Sandbox is an environment created to run untrusted and unauthorized applications so that they cannot harm the underlying OS. Sandboxing is a common security practice that is used to test third-party unauthorized or suspicious codes. It is very much like Virtualization, as an application running in a sandbox environment cannot access the original device, nor access your personal files or folders.
Running programs in a sandbox is not a difficult thing these days. With a lot of Sandboxing software available out there for Windows 10/8/7 OS, you can easily run any program in a sandbox. It is also considered as a good security and a protective measure against malicious applications. Applications running in the sandbox have no special privileges and they run in a very low profile.
What is Sandboxing
Sandboxing is basically a technique of running applications in a virtually isolated environment. The running applications are provided with a virtual memory and disk space. The communication between the running application and the underlying operating system is barred. Sandboxed applications are usually not allowed to access the hardware components or the contents of hard disk without permissions. They run with a very low profile & privileges.
Most of the application these days are already running in a sandbox whether or not you’ve noticed that. Most of the PDF viewers, web browsers, document viewers are already running in sandbox mode. Even the Microsoft Office comes with a built-in sandbox mode that prevents access to running certain expressions that could be harmful to your data and computer. Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome run itself in a sandbox so that any malicious website cannot affect your system or access your files. For a malicious website to affect your system, it will have to come over the sandbox of the web browser which is indeed a difficult task. You can run any other application in sandbox mode to completely cut off its interaction with the operating system.
Sandboxed applications usually do not appear any different and it is difficult to differentiate them from normal applications. Although some programs may show some border to mark the sandboxed applications.
Another way of testing software in a sandbox is a using a Virtual Machine. You can create a virtual machine using Microsoft Virtual PC or VirtualBox or any other virtualization tool. Any changes made to this virtual machine will not affect your operating system.
Let us take a look at some free sandboxing software that are available for Windows.
Sandboxie is the most popular sandboxing software and it now supports Windows 10. The free version does not offer all the features. Also after 30 days, the free version stays functional but starts nagging you about the Pro version. Sandboxie puts all your applications into a virtual environment so that you play safely while using any applications.
2. Time Freeze
ToolWiz Time Freeze is another great tool that can be potentially used to sandbox applications. What it basically does is create an effective restore point of your computer. So now when you enable the ‘Time Freeze’ mode, the whole system runs in a sandbox and all the changes are reverted after you’ve disabled the tool. While in the time freeze mode, any application except those in the exclusion list cannot make any changes to the registry or the files on your computer. Using this tool, you can freeze your actual operating system and work in a virtual environment that is exactly same as your original operating system.
The internet is to be blamed for most of the viruses or malicious programs creeping into your computer. Browser in the Box is a free tool that can be a secure alternative to conventional web browsers. BitBox is basically a web browser installed on a virtual machine. With this tool, you can browse any website without even a minute risk of viruses or Trojans. BitBox comes with its own copy of VirtualBox that is running a reduced operating system. And that operating system has your choice of web browser installed. You can choose from BitBox Firefox or BitBox Chrome. BitBox is the securest web browser you can ever have because whatever website you browse; it will not affect your original operating system. And in case anything bad happens on the virtual machine, it will automatically get reset at the next browser start up. Click here to download BitBox.
4. Shade Sandbox
Shade Sandbox is another sandbox tool that is completely free to use. The tool features a drag and drop functionality that makes it easier to use. You can simply add as many applications to Shade and next time you can open these applications with confidence. Shade creates a virtual environment which can trap malware and prevent it from reaching the actual OS. The best part about this tool is its accessibility. It is easiest to use and moreover free of cost. Click here to download Shade Sandbox.
BufferZone is a sandboxing software that can let you run all your application in an isolated environment. There is no whereabouts the developer’s website but the software is still available to download from major software hosting websites like MajorGeeks, Softpedia, etc. The same is the case with Returnil.
These were some of the sandboxing software available out there. You can also find sandboxes included in most of the security software these days. Sandboxing applications is a great technique to stay protected from modern malware. Sandboxes let you browse & compute with greater confidence. You can run web-browsers, actually download viruses, run games or just any other suspicious program in a sandbox.
One thing to note is that you need to have a computer with good hardware specification and capabilities to handle sandboxed or virtual applications, else you may at times face performance issues.