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Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 8,885
Thanks: 411
Fixes: 36
Registered: 06-04-2007

Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Earlier this month I participated in a demonstration of the alpha version of eSafe Agent running on a PC at Aladdin's headquarters. Screen sharing was used to show the agent in action with telephone used for voice contact.
As trialists know, their control of security features is presently limited to choosing one of a small number of predefined profiles, malware, family and office safe or public/restrictive. With agent that control moves to the home administrator's (parent's) PC. The parent can create any number of generic access-profiles (for example child, teen, adult) by selecting from the long list of website classifications. Then by associating a profile with a user account on that PC, control what that user is allowed to access on the Internet. Whitelists and blacklists featured in the settings to provide finer grain control as required.
Parent's might wish to restrict Internet access by children to certain hours of each day, or total hours per week, etc. Agent provides control at that level if required.
Agent installs as an additional browser toolbar and interfaces with a new version of the eSafe gateway (GW) product we currently work through. Default GW settings defined by the parent will apply for any access where agent-level control is not available. For example this will apply when Internet access is from games consoles, different browsers or PCs without agent toolbar installed, or non-Windows computers. At the initial beta stage it is likely that only the Internet Explorer toolbar on Windows PCs will be fully functional.
Since the agent and GW products demonstrated were alpha versions it is not surprising that some (small parts) of the functionality did not work properly. My impression was that this was mainly where interfaces were involved, always a tricky area. However these should not take long to solve.
The next stage is for a beta version of the GW product to be released, followed by beta release of the agent. Timescales and the method of implementing these on the PlusNet network are still to be agreed between Aladdin and PlusNet. I assume at least some of the trialists will be keen to try out the beta versions, and understand the risks that implies. Would it be best if this was done as a sub-trial on a separate GW box to minimise risk to others? I emphasise that question is mine, and neither Aladdin nor PlusNet might want to adopt what we decide is our favoured approach.
Please provide your feedback by posting in this topic. Questions are also welcome on the content of this post, or on things I haven't mentioned.
David
David
8 REPLIES
sheepdip
Dabbler
Posts: 16
Registered: 14-05-2008

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Great to read that the Agent software has at least been seen.  Smiley
How reliable did it seem to be, and how quick was the switching of profile. Did you have to disconnect to switch profiles or was it done on the fly with just a press of the button on the toolbar? Also was there any other options given or just switching between the preset profiles.
I am currently off the trial at the moment as there was a problem being switched from the Family prfile to the Malware profile but if the agent release is in the pipeline then it may be time to reapply as this is the No1 feature I was looking for at the start of the trial.
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 8,885
Thanks: 411
Fixes: 36
Registered: 06-04-2007

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Quote from: sheepdip
How reliable did it seem to be, and how quick was the switching of profile. Did you have to disconnect to switch profiles or was it done on the fly with just a press of the button on the toolbar? Also was there any other options given or just switching between the preset profiles.

Reliability? Nothing crashed during the hour or so running through the demonstration. My impression was that the agent itself was quite robust but some of the interfaces to the GW were flakey. However nothing that I would expect to take a long time to resolve.
Switching profiles? We didn't specidically cover that aspect. However the effect of whitelisting a site was instant (one I chose, not "one they prepared earlier").
Options? I'm not sure what you mean by "preset profiles". There will be no centrally set profiles, it is up to individual parents to define a set of profiles suitable for their needs. Changes to these can be made as required.
Quote
I am currently off the trial at the moment as there was a problem being switched from the Family profile to the Malware profile but if the agent release is in the pipeline then it may be time to reapply as this is the No1 feature I was looking for at the start of the trial.

I don't want to set expectations that won't be met so let us assume the beta trial of agent at PlusNet is unlikely to begin until September. As I mentioned the first step is to get the beta GW in place. The Aims and Timescales post is due for an update, I'll add that to the "to-do" list.
I think there are probably quite a few trialists keen to evaluate the agent. Feedback in this topic would help to demonstrate that.
David
David
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 2,535
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Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

I'm keen to try the agent, but a limitation to Internet Exploder is a bit of a downer?  I tend to use Firefox by preference, so it will need to be evaluated in that environment to be of any real value. 
M
aladdin
Grafter
Posts: 33
Registered: 11-03-2008

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Hi
Fisrt,  i would like to thanks David for he's time and for the summary he added here.
Second, i would like to emphasis and clarify some points regarding the SecureSurf Agent.
The eSafe SecureSurf Agent is a small, simple and robust utility which allows parents the ability to choose the right policy for each of their house members.
The Agent is an enabler of the parental control service enforced on the eSafe boxes that reside on PlusNet network.
eSafe  SecureSurf Agent Includes:
– A simple web browser toolbar providing status indicator and menu for interaction with the service
– A taskbar icon to access administrative functions and switching profiles
– A configuration and control administrator application
Each local user is assigned a profile that includes:
-      Multiple user selection
-      Local black/white lists
-      Time restrictions +quotas

As said enforcement is done on eSafe GW machines ensuring the following benefits
– The service is always in place
– Allows pre-defined profiles based on the ISP needs
– Cannot be deactivated by users
– Always up to date
Here are some answers to your questions:
Quote
'm keen to try the agent, but a limitation to Internet Exploder is a bit of a downer?  I tend to use Firefox by preference, so it will need to be evaluated in that environment to be of any real value.

The tool bar is only part of the Agent. you can use the Agent with full functionality  (setting policy, switch users and so on ) with a small minor limitation of statusbar indications.
Quote
How reliable did it seem to be, and how quick was the switching of profile. Did you have to disconnect to switch profiles or was it done on the fly with just a press of the button on the toolbar? Also was there any other options given or just switching between the preset profiles.

The user switching is done on the fly with no need to disconnect from the service. the user can be a local user that you have created or attached to the user system logon.

Best Regards
Asa
hook
Dabbler
Posts: 13
Registered: 14-05-2008

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

I read this with interest, as you've previously stated that the client won't be available on a mac.
I don't have access to a PC at the moment, and I know several families/other plusnet customers who are in a similar situation. In order to address this imbalance, are there any plans for a web-based agent that will allow users to tweak their settings that isn't reliant on an operating system? This seems to be to the simplest way to allow users who are on other operation systems/devices access to their settings. Windows is no longer the defacto operating system in use, and you need to address the hundreds of thousands of mac users in the UK, and those who run linux and other systems.
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 8,885
Thanks: 411
Fixes: 36
Registered: 06-04-2007

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

I think the longer term need for the Agent to work with different operating systems and browsers was recognised from the start of its development. A stand-alone web-based solution is obviously a way to satisfy this need. Usability considerations would probably drive the look and feel towards the general style of the operating system so complete "independence" may not be desirable.
However these thoughts are excellent feedback and I'm sure Aladdin will be taking them onboard.
David
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 8,885
Thanks: 411
Fixes: 36
Registered: 06-04-2007

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

Re-reading my original post in this topic I realised one feature of Agent that I didn't mention is its ability to access the Gateway activity logs for that user. These give a parent sight of what the system is doing for them. Attempts to access blocked pages are the obvious example of what the logs will show, however this also extends to content that is stripped out of a page because of the content classification.
It struck me that such information could be useful for diagnostic purposes if an application didn't work properly because part of the information it needed came from a "suspect" site. Subject to the parent being happy the relevant content was safe whitelisting could be used to allow the application to work.
David
aclow
Dabbler
Posts: 11
Registered: 05-08-2008

Re: Feedback from a demonstration of eSafe Agent

I'd like it if the Agent could be turned on or off by raising a ticket. Then I can get it right and freeze it.
Tickets leave an audit trail that can't be edited by users at all.
In time I expect my sons to develop strong hacking skills, and evidence at the server end gives me confidence.