Sophos plans to open source Sandboxie, a relatively popular Windows utility that allows users to run applications in a sandbox. Until that happens, they’ve made the utility free.
Sandboxie creates a virtual container in which untrusted programs can be run or installed so that they can’t maliciously modify the underlying OS or data on the host machine.
If can make the use of apps such as browsers, email programs, IM clients, Office suites, etc. safer, and it can be used to test newly downloaded, untrusted applications.
“Sandboxie extends the operating system with sandboxing capabilities by blending into it. Applications can never access hardware such as disk storage directly, they have to ask the OS to do it for them. Since Sandboxie integrates into the OS, it can do what it does without risk of being circumvented,” the project’s FAQ section explains.
“Sandboxie also takes measures to prevent programs executing inside the sandbox from hijacking non-sandboxed programs and using them as a vehicle to operate outside the sandbox. Sandboxie also prevents programs executing inside the sandbox from loading drivers directly. It also prevents programs from asking a central system component, known as the Service Control Manager, to load drivers on their behalf. In this way, drivers, and more importantly, rootkits, cannot be installed by a sandboxed program.”
Freeware and open source
The original Sandboxie author is Ronen Tzur, who sold it to Invincea in 2013. Invincea was acquired by Sophos in 2017.
“Sandboxie has never been a significant component of Sophos’ business, and we have been exploring options for its future for a while,” Seth Geftic, the Director of Product Marketing at Sophos, explained.
“Frankly, the easiest and least costly decision for Sophos would have been to simply end of life Sandboxie. However, we love the technology too much to see it fade away. More importantly, we love the Sandboxie community too much to do that.”
So, they decided to open-source it. They are still working on the details of making the transition but, in the meantime, they decided to make all premium features of Sandboxie free.
To that end, they have released v5.31.4 of the software, which does not restrict any features. It can be downloaded here.
The software supports Windows 7 through 10, all major browsers, Microsoft’s Office suite, PDF and multimedia files. Versions up to 5.22 support Windows XP.
“As part of our transition to a free and potentially open source product, Sandboxie support will become community based. The community will include developers directly involved with Sandboxie,” Geftic added.
Comments on the announcement were both positive and negative.
Some say that this might be the end of Sandboxie because not a lot of developers will choose aid in its development for free. Others have more faith in the open source community, have welcomed Sophos’ decision and hoped that the company will complete the shift to open source soon.
They also pointed out that the code, once open source, might go on to be integrated in other software and “knowledge won’t be lost.”