With the BSA goose-stepping through the halls of the enterprise with increasing regularity, managing a corporate network is not merely a matter of ensuring that packets are flowing, but also ensuring your users are using legal software and not installing applications they have downloaded or 'borrowed'.
The wisdom of controlling applications is more than a legal issue, it is also a feature of every security policy. Whatever can be done to prevent malware being installed secretly behind applications and games has to be a good step. Similarly, whatever can be done to monitor users' hardware to ensure that young Bob does not swap his home PC's 3 GB hard drive for his office's 40 GB drive should also be done, but without hogging the bandwidth, causing bottlenecks and hampering the functioning of employees.
Local software developers, Gencentric, have addressed these issues with NetWhyz, an application designed to audit and monitor hardware, software and environment information on networked servers and PCs. Says Graham Misselhorn, MD of Gencentric: "NetWhyz fills a niche in the market with a management product that is easy to install, simple to use with flexible reporting features."
NetWhyz is designed to run on TCP/IP networks, including Windows NT/2000, Novell and Unix. Client workstations supported include Windows 95B, 98, NT, ME, 2000 and XP. It runs across both LANs and WANs with minimal effect on network traffic.
Implementing NetWhyz is simple. A small software agent is deployed to each computer. Each time the computer starts, the agent runs NetWhyz Interrogator locally, scanning for hardware, software and environment data. "The scan is rapid and requires no user intervention," adds Misselhorn.
The data on each scanned computer is then returned to a server where it is automatically imported into the NetWhyz database - either the free-to-distribute Microsoft Data Engine or Microsoft SQL Server 2000.
The NetWhyz Admin Console (NAC), located on a Windows server is the central management point of the application with access to all PC data. "When an update of a networked PC or server is needed, a remote scan can be done across the LAN or WAN from NAC and the software installed," explains Misselhorn.
A key feature of NetWhyz, according to Misselhorn, is the software scan. He says most competitive products scan for .exe, .com and .dll files, and then compare the file names against a database to recognise the software. The disadvantages of this are:
* Dependency on vendors for upgrades of the software database.
* Since scans can take up to 10 minutes, the practical frequency of scans is monthly.
"NetWhyz, on the other hand, scans for all Windows registered software, reducing the scan to less than a second on the local machine," he adds. "Clients have no dependency on software definitions and software scans can be done on a daily basis if required."
All hardware, software and environment changes to any computer are logged and presented as alerts, allowing the network administrator to keep track of authorised and unauthorised changes, including illegally loaded software and theft of hardware components.
Additionally, NetWhyz has no pre-defined reports. Instead, it has a highly flexible report writer that outputs reports directly into Excel. This feature makes it easier for administrators to format and graph data for reports and presentations.
NetWhyz 2 has just been released to market. New features include:
* The functionality to push the agent onto networked Windows 2000 and XP machines directly from the NAC.
* Network Detector regularly checks the network for live PCs and servers. An Excel exception report lists those that are not yet in the NetWhyz database.
* A standalone PC version enables information from non-networked PCs to also be included.
* Reports can be saved as templates.
Misselhorn adds that NetWhyz has also been positioned more aggressively as auditing software for compliance reporting. Negotiations are in progress with several major IT companies and accounting practices to use NetWhyz for network auditing. The company will be releasing the product internationally in 2003.
For more information contact Irridium Software Solutions, 031 566 8733.