This is part 3 of 4 of the Personal Information Security Redux.
Since there are things that we cannot protect ourselves from online, the next best solution is to prevent them from harming your computer. This can be accomplished on Windows Platforms by using security software called Sandboxie. What Sandboxie does is creates a virtual sandbox for your browser and other applications to use that does not affect the rest of your operating system. It accomplishes this by storing all the changes that would have been to your system registry and file system into a virtual space on your hard disk. This virtual space is controlled by the Sandboxie application and it can be reset at any time, we’ll get into that more later.
Step One – Choose your Version, Download/Purchase and Install
There are only really a few options for Sandboxie. The big one is whether you are using for home or business use. If you are using it for home, you have the option to use the shareware version. The free version has a reminder every time it starts up for a few seconds and does not allow forced programs or folders. The average home user will probably not take advantage of the advanced features, however I would still recommend licensing the product because it is inexpensive and it will allow the developer to continue to improve it. Commercial users must always pay for the product in the form of an annual subscription.
Step Two – Install and Configure Sandboxie
The product is very simple to install, just follow the prompts. There is nothing that requires configuration.
Step Three – Using Sandboxie to Safely Open Files or Programs
Once installed to use the software you can either right click any file, shortcut or program and choose “run Sandboxed” as pictured:
Once you’ve done this, the item will open in the Sandboxed space. You will know which windows are running in there by the yellow border surrounding them:
Had this program been malware, a virus or some other undesirable application that would damage your computer, the sandbox would protect you. The “damage” would be done to the files in the virtual space that Sandboxie is running.
Step 4 – Using a Sandbox to Access the Internet and Webmail
Earlier it was suggested to use a sandbox for your web browser and Web Mail. The reason for that is simple, the sandbox gives you protection that neither antivirus or the most careful user can. A Sandboxed web browser can give you protection from even un-known exploits. Think of it as peace of mind for anything you access using a web browser. To access a Sand Boxed web browser either right click the shortcut to the browser you’d like to use or click the “Pizza Like” icon entitled “Sandboxed Web Browser” you may want to keep it pinned to your taskbar:
You will know again by the yellow border around the browser, just like the earlier example. While in this mode you can enjoy a layer of protection for your operating system. Nothing that you can access should be able to hurt you unless it is information you input (type) or files that you download and “recover locally”. We’ll address those exceptions more carefully in the next section.
Sandboxie is not an excuse to be careless and cannot protect you from everything
Sandboxie will isolate your computer from Malware, Viruses or other things with a few very critical exceptions. Keep in mind that anything you type including passwords, etc, may be captured by malware or key loggers that are able to infect the environment. To avoid this it is critical that you purge the contents of your sandbox periodically, particularly if something suspicious has been accessed. This can be done several ways, but the easiest is through the start menu/programs/Sandboxie/Sandboxie Control.
It is also important to keep in mind that besides programs that could be running inside the Sandbox, other information and cookies may be present. So even if you think everything is fine, you still may wish to run the Sandboxed browser in Incognito/InPrivate mode to avoid allowing access to any cookies or sessions that may be running in the normal Sandboxed browser. Think of the advertisements you see on Facebook two minutes after you were on an E-Commerce website. Incognito/InPrivate mode will protect you from that kind of targeting.
Another way to completely undermine the safety that your Sandbox gives you is by saving a file downloaded through it locally. This is a really bad idea unless you are 100% certain the file is okay. The dialogue box looks like this, click “Close” if you want to leave the file in the Sandbox where it likely belongs:
Always Know Your Limits
There are some useful tips in this article, if you are unsure of something don’t take risks with your personal information security. Do some research and educate yourself before making a mistake.