Playing (Safely) In I.E.’s Sandbox

Hi Fred, I searched the archives and could not find any reference to this neat little (242KB) program called SandboxIE, although I thought I had once seen you refer to it. ( www.sandboxie.com )

It is designed so a user can surf or run programs in a sandbox. It is free, but the $20.00 license fee allows you to force any programs you wish to run in a sandbox, saving a few clicks and ensuring your protection (well worth the money, and no, I have no affiliation with the vendor).

There is a manual procedure for taking safe downloads and other files out of the sandbox, and writing them to disk. "Sandboxie changes the rules such that write operations do not make it back to your hard disk." Since using SandboxIE, my anti-spyware products (including Spyware Doctor, Spysweeper, Spybot S&D, Adaware Plus, and many others are finding nothing after long surfing sessions. If I see something weird happening, I terminate the sandbox in two clicks (hasn’t happened yet). Any malware picked up will be gone. But the malware would not have affected my OS anyway, as nothing is allowed to write outside of the sandbox.

I realize that more things can be done with the virtual machines, like run operating systems in them, but for surfing safety, which most users have to be concerned about, avoiding exploits, etc., SandboxIE seems to be the way to go.

BTW it is called SandboxIE as it was originally written for IE, but works seamlessly with all the browsers I’ve tried. (A host of IE shells, Opera, Firefox and IE7 Beta).

Of course it will not protect against phishing, as phishing is not malware, but a scam. However, anti-phishing tools once installed in the browser do work when running sandboxed.

Programs launched from within a sandboxed browser automatically run in the sandbox, including download managers, etc.

I do not run my email client in the sandbox, although there is a procedure for modifying the SandboxIE.ini file to allow incoming email to write to disk. "What, me worry? I surf in a sandbox!!" —Cheers, Howie M

Thanks, Howie. Sanboxie is getting rave reviews from many users. The developer, Ronen Tzur, released the current version (2.64) October 14. I tested it with the new Internet Explorer 7 and had no problems.

Note that if you’re considering an upgrade to the registered version (which sports additional functionality and has no nag screens), you’ll save $5 by making that decision while it’s still October. The author of Sandboxie plans to hike the lifetime registration price to $25 on November 1.



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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.