Sandboxing is a technique or architecture in which a file or operation can only do things in its proper environment and can't place things on the computer itself (ex temporary files) or make changes to it (registry, dns, ....). It is the next level of security and will complement the firewall because it will close all the backdoors and tricks that internetbased infections use to bypass the firewall and infect your machine.
PDF was before a fileformat that was easy to trust because it did nothing while the Office files were full of scripts (and infections) and had access to the rest of the system (they infected). When the PDF files became smart (with scripts and functions and integration with other files) without incorporating enough security checks if took only a year for the PDF fileformat to become the main distributor of viruses. The last year it also became clear that it was impossible to win that tit-for-tat war. Every time Adobe found a solution for a securityproblem or bug there were new techniques that made it even harder to discover or neutralise the threats. This was even becoming more dangerous to the format (and the business) itself as it also became the format by preference for targeted attacks against governmental agencies and businesses. As PDF was before the format by excellence to distribute information independently of the version of the Office package or other wordprocessor a business or governmental agency was using, there were enough incidents to make security officials look desperately for solutions.
The only solution was blocking all PDF files on the outside of the network and cleaning them of all codes and functionality and resending them as stupid read-and-print only files. Such a product does not exist yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it would be incorporated as a function or launched as a box soon. Especially in environments were Data Leakage Prevention is essential.
THe securityteam of Adobe seems to be working along the same way of thinking and has announced that the new Adobe Reader will open PDF files in a strictly controlled Sandbox. It has worked with other sandbox developers (for example from Microsoft who uses it for its new Office Files) to integrate this in the reader itself. You can expect that it will take a while before all the different possibilities of bypass have been closed (as the EID has learned us) but in the end this will be an essential functionality that will re-establish the trust we had in PDF files. It will also stop stupidly simple attacks while such files in very limited and strict environments will be handled anyway with much more strict controls.
The next update of Adobe will be an essential one you will have to implement as fast as possible.
This WILL NOT WORK FOR WINDOWS2000. You should throw out these machines. They are defunct, dead and dangerous (because they put the rest of the network and its data and your business in danger).
"With Adobe Reader Protected Mode enabled (it will be by default), all operations required by Adobe Reader to display the PDF file to the user are run in a very restricted manner inside a confined environment, the “sandbox.” Should Adobe Reader need to perform an action that is not permitted in the sandboxed environment, such as writing to the user’s temporary folder or launching an attachment inside a PDF file using an external application (e.g. Microsoft Word), those requests are funneled through a “broker process,” which has a strict set of policies for what is allowed and disallowed to prevent access to dangerous functionality.
The initial release of Adobe Reader Protected Mode will be the first phase in the implementation of the sandboxing technology. This first release will sandbox all “write” calls on Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2003. This will mitigate the risk of exploits seeking to install malware on the user’s computer or otherwise change the computer’s file system or registry. In future releases of Adobe Reader, we plan to extend the sandbox to include read-only activities to protect against attackers seeking to read sensitive information on the user’s computer. http://blogs.adobe.com/asset/2010/07/%20introducing-adobe-reader-protected-mode.html"