Microsoft Unveils Windows Sandbox For Safely Running Untrusted Apps In Quarantined Space

Sheri Evans
December 20, 2018

Microsoft has now rebranded this feature as Windows Sandbox and made it available to Windows 10 Pro users as well.

It's pretty straightforward, but not out-of-the-box, so it's recommended for advanced and enterprise users only - it will involve turning on virtualisation in your machine's BIOS which will scare the bejesus out of a lot of people.

Microsoft has released emergency patches for various versions of Windows following a Google security researcher finding a zero-day exploit in Internet Explorer. It will appear as a standard Windows program, and once run, it will appear to be a brand new installation of Windows 10 running within a window. If not, then you wont be able to use the sandbox to test files such as attachments you receive via email or applications that require other applications to be installed, such as game mods. Underneath, it uses Windows Containers tech and employs dynamic links to the host's system files on disk and in RAM.

The concept of a sandbox is not a new one.

Microsoft explains that Sandbox can be enabled in Windows 10 build 18305 which will be released this week, but it could also work on the existing preview builds. This means that if the sandbox has a low priority thread, it can be displaced by a higher priority thread from the host.

Lastly, Long-Term Servicing Channel users are still on the original version of Windows 10 will get KB4483228, taking them to build number 10240.18064.

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Sharing is used for memory, too; operating system executables and libraries loaded within the VM use the same physical memory as those same executables and libraries loaded into the host OS.

The sandbox also uses a new technology called "integrated scheduler", which allows the host to decide when the sandbox runs.

In August the first signs that Microsoft was preparing a sandbox feature for Windows 10 emerged. The company said that the goal here is to make the sandbox act more like an app rather than another virtual machine, but still have the same (or close to the same) security guarantees as a virtual machine.

It took Microsoft six weeks to restart the rollout of Windows 10 version 1809 in November 2018.

"Snapshot allows us to boot the sandbox environment once and preserve the memory, CPU, and device state to disk". Normally, virtual machines are not able to access GPUs because they are isolated from the host system.

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