Virtual zone for protecting your system from new software
Virtualisation has been the buzzword of the last 12 months, but many people still think it's a technique only applicable to servers in large, corporate data centres. Here's an everyday application of the technique that can benefit each and every PC owner, particularly those who regularly download files and applications from the Internet.
The idea behind Trustware's BufferZone Pro is simple enough. The program sets up a software environment which looks exactly like your PC to any software running within it; a ‘virtual' PC inside your PC. If that software doesn't behave properly, because of bugs or - more importantly - some form of malware, it can't actually alter settings on your machine or copy Trojans or other malicious programs to ‘real' folders. When you delete the virtual machine, all the software within it goes as well.
BufferZone Pro is very easy to set up and administer. Run the program and after a single reboot it automatically protects Explorer and Windows Messenger, by default. You can tell this is so, as it puts a red border around any program which is currently in the virtual PC; the BufferZone. You can add extra programs to the BufferZone at any time.
Right click on the window of a running program and you can select from the menu to move programs into or out of the zone. This way, you can test new software to check for unusual behaviour, before releasing it onto your PC.
The Trustware site invites you to test your PC's security with its own, non-damaging Trojan demo. This downloads onto your system, runs your Windows Calendar, closes Internet Explorer and copies the names of files from My Documents to its server, before deleting its copies at the end of the demo. Our test machine, which is protected by Bullguard, warned us of the file upload but didn't prevent the firing up of Calendar.
Once BufferZone Pro was up and running, repeating the test ran the Windows Calendar again, but only within the BufferZone. The rest of the attack failed. The idea is not that BufferZone should replace your regular Internet Security software, but supplement it and give you an extra level of protection, while new malware is recognised and signatures are written. This can take several days, even for the fastest security labs, during which time your PC is vulnerable.
As with any new security application, malware authors will no doubt try to write around it, but with this type of virtualisation it may take them some time.
Trustware - BufferZone Pro features - Verdict
BufferZone Pro is a new idea in PC protection, as it doesn't attempt to spot malware and inoculate or quarantine it, but rather to isolate the malware within a virtual machine. This it does discretely and transparently. How long it'll be before the malware authors adapt to cope is hard to say, but for the moment it's ideal for anybody downloading and trying out software from the Internet. It's reasonably priced, too.