УJakub Kralka, Product Manager Axence
in the network administrator’s service
License to manage (the IT infrastructure)
Ian Fleming penned several novels about the world’s most famous agent. Every few years we also get a chance to enjoy the incredible and daring operations of Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne. Today, however, we want to tell you about an Agent, who does not wield a Beretta 418 or Walther PPK, and is not associated with spectacular chases or sensational explosions. We will tell you about Axence nVision Agent and show you how it benefits your ICT network. First things first: Axence nVision® is a software supporting the everyday work of network administrators. It has 5 functional modules:
Visualization and the monitoring of network devices,
IT asset management, software and hardware inventory and workstation audits,
User activity monitoring and the development of a workstation security policy,
HelpDesk: creation and management of service requests, a knowledge base and direct user support tool (e.g. through remote takeover of an active workstation session),
Development of external devices usage policy and protection against data leaks.
Four of the above modules (Inventory, Users, HelpDesk and DataGuard) can only show their full capabilities, if supported by a small software program installed on workstations – our Agent.
nVision Agent is a lightweight software program collecting workstation data, which are then sent to the nVision Server. When creating the Agent installation pack, you need to indicate the IP address of the station, where the nVision Server is installed. The Agent itself has no predefined settings, “embedded” and determined during the installation. After it is installed, the Agent connects with the nVision server and acquires a set of policies assigned to the specific workstation or to the map, within which the workstation is located. The software starts
with Windows service session, so the user does not need to be logged in to enable communication between the Agent and the nVision Server. The first communication only aims to ascertain whether the profiles for the given workstation have changed. The profile can be changed dynamically, i.e. when access rights for the given workstation need to be modified, an administrator may change it on demand in the device properties within the software.
An arsenal of possibilities recommended by Q
Let us focus on the Agent’s configuration options and discuss the managed profiles and information the Agent can provide from each workstation.
We can manage:
- Agent profile,
- network filtering profile,
- application blocking profile.
The Agent profile lets you set up the basic properties of the Agent’s operation on a workstation, closely related to the functionalities of nVision modules. In such a manner you can allow the user to access the HelpDesk from the Agent icon level (in the system tray), enable remote access for the administrator or enforce the external data media usage policy from the DataGuard module.
In the Monitoring tab you can specify which activity or application use in the user’s workstation should be monitored. Activity monitoring options can be limited to specific hours and days to avoid disturbing the work statistics by monitoring the user activity after their work hours.
This configuration tab also allows the definition of what idle time of a given workstation will be registered and reported to the nVision Server as an interruption in user activity.
The Resources tab refers directly to Inventory module. It enables software status scanning in order to manage the licenses in your network environment, and potentially limits the unnecessary costs of purchasing software you do not really need.
However, software data are not the only information the Agent provides about the workstation. Hardware, its serial number and the connected peripherals can be also identified by scanning the monitored machine. An added value is, e.g. checking the users’ physical disks for stored files, which can constitute a copyright infringement (movies, music, documents).
Fighting the risks
What about the dangers threatening our users in the endless realm of the Internet? Can we help those who suffer from procrastination or often get distracted e.g. by social media? Do we want to allow the use of private Webbased mail in office hours? The Agent lets you set an appropriate network filtering profile. In such a manner you can block domains or IP addresses, which do not assist your users directly in their duties or expose your organization to potential issues related to downloading illegal content from P2P services.
As an administrator, you can also block ports, so no one creates an FTP disk for file exchange in their workstation or uses unauthorized VPN clients without consent.
An issue often encountered by administrators in their daily work is the files downloaded by network users, which turn out to be dangerous to the infrastructure. This does not necessarily have to be a deliberate action, but admins, as infrastructure supervisors, are responsible for providing best practices in the scope of hardware usage and for user education. However, if the security policy does not require that, or you simply do not have enough resources or time – you can apply a file extension blocking policy for the files allowed or not allowed to be downloaded from the Web.
Can the Agent prevent ineffective use of the work time, so-called cyberslacking?
The application blocking feature enables the prevention of running an executable file in the user’s workstation, even if the original name of the source file has been changed (e.g. change from Diablo3.exe to firefox.exe). The Agent checks the metadata of the executable file and is able to block such a bypassing of the blocking rule.
These are not the only advantages and features of the nVision Agent. A lightweight software program with wide configuration possibilities is an ideal support in the daily operation of a network administrator. Such cooperation can bring many benefits to the entire infrastructure and does not burden its resources (daily data package sent from the Agent to the nVision server is not more than 200 KB).
For more information about the capabilities of nVision Agents, with a clear table of benefits, can be found in the article How to get 100% knowledge about your network, published on Axence website.