On occasion, we’ve clicked a link we knew we shouldn’t have. And before we could say “virtualization,” the latest browser exploit was downloading some spyware onto our PC.
In these cases, Trustware’s BufferZone Pro would have been a lifesaver. BufferZone wraps browsers, instant messaging clients, and media players in a virtualized cocoon at the application level. Unlike Virtual PC, which virtualizes the entire OS, BufferZone virtualizes your computer’s file system, registry, and services. While you’re not as isolated as you would be if you used a program that created a separate virtual OS as a sandbox, BufferZone is far easier to use and involves less maintenance. It also offers protection that antivirus programs and malware scanners can’t by letting you erase any changes that come in through an unknown browser exploit. BufferZone can even virtualize network shares and CD-ROM or USB drives, so applications are forced to open in virtual sessions as well.
We tested BufferZone on an unpatched XP SP2 install, and it worked as advertised. Without it, our OS was borked in seconds, but with BufferZone, we were easily able to undo any damage done. Responsiveness was fair to good on a fast machine and poor to fair on an old P4 box with a full hard drive. The app does have an issue with how windows are configured on multi-monitor setups, but it’s more of an annoyance than a major problem. Restoring a window to full size will cause it to jump from one monitor to the other. We would also like to be able to make incremental dumps of the buffer, so we wouldn’t have to take all of our applications back to day one if something fatal happens.
Maximum PC readers will find the program fairly simple to install and understand, but we’re not sure it’s appropriate for civilians. Saving a JPEG from a website to the desktop, for example, places the file in the buffer. You can’t copy the actual file to a USB drive without taking it out of the buffer—something that’s sure to confuse someone unfamiliar with the app. Still, BufferZone is a pretty handy utility for those who occasionally want to walk on the wild side of the web.