Ghost Trap is a hardend distribution of the GPL Ghostscript PDL interpreter secured and sandboxed using Google Chrome sandbox technology. It's used to securely convert PostScript and PDF files from untrusted sources into images.
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Ghost Trap - Ghostscript trapped in a sandbox

Ghost Trap is used to securely convert PostScript and PDF files from untrusted sources into images. It's a modified distribution of the GPL Ghostscript PDL interpreter secured and sandboxed using Google Chrome sandbox technology. The objective of the project is to bring best-of-breed security to Ghostscript's command-line conversion applications on MS Windows.

For the less technical audience Ghost Trap was designed with the help of Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Raymond Stantz. It can be simply explained as portable Ecto Containment Unit which securely holds Ghostscripts in a laser containment field :-)


Windows: ghost-trap-installer.exe (version 1.2)

##Motivation Page Description Language (PDL) interpreters are large complex native code solutions. Adobe Reader is also a PDL viewer and as evident by the number of security updates seen over the years, maintaining a secure solution in this space is a difficult and ongoing exercise.

Security is one of the most important goals at PaperCut Software. Many PaperCut users are large organizations printing sensitive data and have high security requirements. In 2012 we started on a project to bring one of our most requested features, the ability to view and archive print jobs, into our print management software. To support viewing of PostScript jobs we needed to reply on a PostScript interpreter.

Rather than risk PaperCut users being susceptible to zero-day attacks we decided to take a more proactive approach by adopting modern process-level sandboxing. This best-practice "extra barrier" has been made possible by mating two fantastic open source projects: Ghostscript and Google Chromium. Ghost Trap brings Chromium's best of breed sandboxing security to Ghostscript. Although sandboxing is not 100% infallible the increased security adds a very substantial barrier, and provides our users with a best-practice secure option for PostScript to image conversion.

##Command-Line Usage

Install Ghost Trap (download link above). Here are some examples using the example PostScript files supplied with Ghostscript.

To convert the Escher PostScript example into a PNG image WITHOUT sandboxing (this is just standard Ghostscript):

C:\Users\me> "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\bin\gswin32c.exe" -q -dSAFER -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH ^
             -sDEVICE=png16m -sOutputFile=escher.png ^
             "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\examples\"

To convert the same Escher example into a PNG image WITH sandboxing using Ghost Trap:

C:\Users\me> "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\bin\gswin32c-trapped.exe" -q -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH ^
             -sDEVICE=png16m -sOutputFile=escher.png ^
             "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\examples\"

To convert a multi-page PDF file into a JPEG images WITH sandboxing:

C:\Users\me> "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\bin\gswin32c-trapped.exe" -q -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH ^
             -sDEVICE=jpeg "-sOutputFile=annots page %d.jpg" ^
             "C:\Program Files (x86)\GhostTrap\examples\annots.pdf"

gswin32c-trapped.exe is the sandboxed version of gswin32c.exe. It should behave the same as the standard Ghostscript console command as documented, with the following known exceptions:

  • The input and output files must be on a local disk (no network shares).
  • The -dSAFER mode is always enabled by default.
  • Defining custom/extra FONT or LIB paths on the command line is not allowed.

##How it works

gswin32c-trapped.exe first determines a whitelist of resources required to perform the conversion. It then execs a child process within a strongly contained sandbox to perform the task. The whitelist of allowed resources is dynamically constructed by determining the input file and output file/directory from the supplied command-line arguments. The Ghostscript interpreter's access rights is restricted and it may only access:

  • Read only access to the Windows Fonts directory.
  • Read only access to application-level registry keys (HKLM\Software\GPL Ghostscript).
  • Read only access to Ghostscript's lib folder resources.
  • Read only access to the input file.
  • Write access to the user-level Temp directory.
  • Write access to the output directory (OutputFile).

The sandbox also constrains the execution process on an isolated desktop session to prevent shatter attacks and limits IPC and other potential escape vectors.

##Release History


  • Recompiled against latest version of Ghostscript (9.10)
  • Rolled to version


  • Addressed an issue that would result in Ghost Trap returning the wrong exit code.
  • Rolled to version 1.2


  • Compiled against Ghostscript 9.07.
  • -dSAFER is now and enforced default.
  • Updated license to AFFERO GPL.
  • Minor code cleanup to remove some FIXME's.
  • Rolled to version 1.1


  • Initial public release.


The following future refinements are planned:

  • Sandbox other executable in the GhostPDL project (e.g pcl6.exe).
  • Support custom FONT and LIB paths defined on the command line (read only access).
  • Look at sandbox options on Linux.
  • 64bit version when/if the Chromium sandbox supports it.


PaperCut Software Logo

Ghost Trap is open source software developed by Chris Dance with the support of PaperCut Software.


To build Ghost Trap from source, here is a brief flow:

  1. Clone this git repo.

  2. Download Google Chromium source into the third-party directory as documented in [ghost-trap]/third-party/README.txt

  3. Download GhostPDL source into the third-party directory as documented in [ghost-trap]/third-party/README.txt

  4. Perform a 32bit Release compile on each dependency (follow the project's documentation). Note: Building Chromium is very involved! Follow the directions carefully. You will not need to compile whole Chromium source. Just the "sandbox" sub project will be enough to generate the required dependencies.

  5. Install INNO setup.

  6. Run build.bat


Ghost Trap is open source software licensed under the Affero GPL:

Copyright (c) 2012-2014 PaperCut Software Int. Pty. Ltd.

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU Affero General Public License as
published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the
License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU Affero General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Affero General Public License
along with this program.  If not, see <>.