Office 365’s Malware Sandbox Goes Into Public Preview

Due to how innocent a Microsoft Word file looks, malware developers often use Office documents to smuggle their viruses onto computers. Fortunately, Microsoft has announced the public preview of an Office sandbox, which lets users open files without risk of infection.

What Is the Office Sandbox?

You can check out Microsoft’s announcement of the public preview over on the Microsoft Tech Community. In the announcement post, Microsoft explains that the feature’s official name is “Application Guard for Office.”

The post then goes on to describe how Application Guard for Office works:

To help protect your users, Office opens files from potentially unsafe locations in Application Guard, a secure container that is isolated from the device through hardware-based virtualization.

When Office opens files in Application Guard, users can securely read, edit, print, and save those files without having to re-open files outside the container.

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After this, Microsoft states that the feature is off by default, so those interested in the feature will need to turn it on manually.

The company also links to the Microsoft Docs page for Application Guard for Office. This page explains how the sandbox works, as well as the hardware and software requirements.

Unfortunately, only computers with Windows 10 Enterprise edition and the Office Beta Channel Build installed can use the public beta. As a result, not everyone will be able to give this new feature a test drive.

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A Vital Layer of Defense for Office

Microsoft Office files are commonly used in malware distribution. That’s because it’s easier for a malware developer to disguise their malware in a Word document than it is to send someone a random EXE file.

With this new sandbox for Office, this tactic becomes a lot less effective. Now users can open up a Word document and deduce that it’s fake without it infecting their computer.

Given how it only works with Windows 10 Enterprise edition, this feature seems to target the needs of businesses first and foremost. However, if it’s successful, there’s no reason why other users can also enjoy the added layer of security.

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A Big Blow for Office Malware

With Office getting a dedicated sandbox, businesses can now protect themselves from viruses in documents. If Microsoft decides to roll out this feature for all Windows 10 users, it may spell the end for Office malware.

And remember, even if you can’t get the public preview for Application Guard, you can still secure your computer using powerful antivirus software.

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