Starting this week Microsoft has released what is called an Application Guard for their Office products which is a defensive technology that quarantines untrusted Office documents so attack codes embedded in malicious files are unable to reach the operating system or any of its applications.

Microsoft announced the distribution of this product around 5 months ago after they provided a public preview of the technology. A direct quote from a Microsoft Senior Manager states “When you’ve enabled Application Guard and a user opens a file from a potentially unsafe location, Office opens the file in Application Guard; a secured, Hyper-V-enabled container isolated from the rest of a user’s data through hardware-based virtualization”.

One item to be extra aware of is that the Application Guard isolates files opened with three primary applications within the suite being Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Documents obtained from untrusted internet websites, files pulled from unsafe areas such as external devices, and attachments received from an Outlook email client are opened in a virtualized environment or what is called a “sandbox” where malicious code cannot cause damage to your system.

In the past, Microsoft has offered the option to open their applications within protected view which simply opens them in a read-only format but with the new Application Guard option you are still able to make changes to the documents. They can be edited, saved, and printed and also when you go to access them later, they are still in the isolation container and quarantined once again within the “sandbox”. Another item to be very aware of however, is that outdated file types meaning documents that are were previously saved using a file extension that is no longer supported by Microsoft will not be able to be added to the “sandbox” so make sure you know what these files types are if this is something that you are interested in utilizing.

The main area of concern on this subject really is this feature is only offered for Office365 E5 and Office365 E5 Security customers, so this does not apply to day to day stand alone Office suite users. If this is an area that interests you or you would like our assistance with looking into this subject please contact us here at Frankenstein Computers and Networking and we will be more than happy to assist you as always.

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