Software to help you take control of your network

Intranet and Internet technologies affect numerous aspects of a network environment and create areas of concern in which users can abuse these technologies. These areas of concern include bandwidth use, inappropriate message content, the type of Web sites users visit, and local network attacks. The scope of problems that systems administrators must address makes selecting and integrating network solutions challenging.

SessionWall-3 from AbirNet (a MEMCO Software company) combines current network technology with AbirNet’s innovations to control network resource use. You can implement this software into a preexisting network without modifying the current network topology, and use SessionWall-3 as a standalone solution or to complement existing network tools. The software offers a powerful set of utilities that work at the application-session level. These utilities monitor and block network traffic, detect and counter intrusion attempts, alert administrators to possible violations of corporate standards, and generate reports that summarize network activity. These utilities are flexible, so you can customize them to specific business policies.

The Installation
Installing SessionWall-3 is straightforward. After I inserted the CD-ROM and selected Install SessionWall-3, the installation program prompted me for information about the installation directories and the program folder name. I accepted the default settings. After the software copied files to the appropriate directories, it asked which mode I wanted SessionWall-3 to run in. I chose to run it as a service from within the Administrator account. After rebooting, I entered the product serial number, logged on as the SessionWall-3 administrator, and began using the product.

Although installation is painless, you need to think about how you set up the software in your network. To achieve the best functionality and performance, you must understand your network topology and be aware of your computer resources and network traffic levels. Run SessionWall-3 on machines that are in the data paths of interest and have sufficient resources to efficiently process those paths’ network traffic. You also need to consider a machine’s physical location for security reasons; SessionWall-3 collects, logs, and lets you examine highly sensitive information. For example, the software replayed a Telnet session and exposed the password I used to connect to the remote site.

The Interface
Screen 1 shows SessionWall-3’s primary user interface. Aside from the menu and toolbars, the interface contains three key components. The window in the upper left corner provides a treeview of network activity; you can move down the tree to obtain more specific information. The Statistics window at the bottom of the screen displays the network statistics for all active components, organized by protocol type. The tree and Statistics windows are tabbed, so you can switch between different types of information. The View window in the upper right corner lets you examine FTP sessions, replay Telnet sessions, inspect email messages, and view Web pages that users in your network visit.

The interface is well-designed and supports a lot of functionality in a compact and manageable format. I encountered one weakness in the View window’s HTML support: A Web page caused the user interface to crash, and several other pages resulted in erratic views of the data.

The Verdict
SessionWall-3 delivers a comprehensive solution for controlling the use of intranet and Internet technologies. I don’t have the space to fully address the product's extensive feature list, but the features I tested worked as expected. SessionWall-3 is a powerful, flexible, and easy-to-use network tool. However, in the wrong hands, this software is dangerous and can violate privacy, expose passwords, and compromise sensitive business communications.

Contact: AbirNet * 817-251-7000
Price: $1495 for 125 concurrent user sessions
System Requirements: 166MHz Intel Pentium processor, Windows NT, Windows 9X, 64MB of RAM, 200MB of hard disk space, CD-ROM drive
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