Microsoft Sandbox Update Glitch: Everything You Need To Know

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

As cybersecurity consciousness began to grow among consumers and the competition among tech giants becomes tighter and tighter in today’s tech environment, Microsoft has launched one of its most sophisticated security feature – the Windows Sandbox. However, earlier this week, the company confirmed that a new update might have broken it.

The tech giant admitted in an information release that Sandbox feature failed to launch after some users completed a system update. They wrote: “Windows Sandbox may fail to start with “ERROR_FILE_NOT_FOUND (0x80070002)” on devices in which the operating system language is changed during the update process when installing Windows 10, version 1903.”

What is Windows Sandbox and why it is important?

On May 2019, Windows rolled out the Sandbox feature to premium clients and those who signed up for their beta testing program. The feature is designed to run an application on an isolated environment that is independent of a users installation server. To simply put it, Sandbox allows a computer to run a program or an app in a safe environment that is not connected to the network to prevent malicious programs especially those with malware and other forms of online threats from infecting the central installation.

In a bubble, the Sandbox feature is technically a virtual machine that mirrors an actual computer created on demand using Microsoft’s hypervisor using the same OS image as the one on your device. One key feature of the Sandbox virtual machine is that it is lightweight and only takes up a little more than 100MB, which has been optimized to boot and run faster, its focus is on security, and it works more efficiently using integrated kernel scheduler, virtual graphics, and smart memory management.

While anyone can create or download their own virtual machines, the benefit of having Sandbox is it saves the user the time, effort, and expertise in building their own virtual machines; those who don’t have the technical skills to make one themselves reaps the most benefits.

When you run an application on Windows 10 and launch the feature, Sandbox will create a mirror window where the application will be tested. Once the test is completed and the user found that there are no malicious codes embedded in the new program, the user can run the app in its main installation safely, and Sandbox will delete all the data automatically.

Who is affected by the new update glitch?

One thing to understand about the recent Windows update glitch is that it happened only in the version 1903, the May update, for Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise only. Those who are using Windows home are not affected by the incident since Sandbox was yet to be generally released. Furthermore, the KB4497936 is an update exclusive for those who have signed up with Windows Insider program which allows ordinary users to get a glimpse of the unreleased versions of the update so that the company can test them before releasing it to the general public. The Windows Insider program has three “rings” or groups that are categorized according to the frequency of updates they receive. Microsoft confirmed that fast, slow, and preview rings were all affected by the anomaly.

Microsoft should own up.

It is not new for Microsoft to have problems with their system every after an update, but this case is unique as it only affected those who have signed up with the company’s beta circle. This means that those who have been affected have the understanding that the updates they receive may include some problems as they are yet in the advanced testing phase. This expectation eases the burden on Microsoft’s end as problems are common in beta testing. That being said, it is important for Microsoft to own up to the problem and fix it right away.

According to Davey Windor, consumer tech contributor for Forbes, “given the sheer number of problems that Windows updates cause, I hope that Microsoft can own the issues soon or I fear people will simply find ways to prevent updating at all.”

If that happens, Windor added, unupdated systems will miss out on important security updates that aim to keep their computers safe. Ergo, they can be the target of malicious hackers, email phishing, malware infection, and other cyber threats – and that is what we want to prevent.

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