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2/23/2010
02:22 PM
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Firewalls And DIY Plug-Ins

Let's face it: Users love the concept of adding free plug-ins and apps to customize and empower the base software tool, whether it's in a smartphone or browser. Doing so is fun, it's cool, and it lets them personalize their software to augment or shape how they use it. Even firewall management has joined the plug-in party.

Let's face it: Users love the concept of adding free plug-ins and apps to customize and empower the base software tool, whether it's in a smartphone or browser. Doing so is fun, it's cool, and it lets them personalize their software to augment or shape how they use it. Even firewall management has joined the plug-in party.Firewall management vendor Secure Passage is now hosting a collaborative online community for its customers to write extensions for its FireMon product. While the so-called Nexus community is basically a continuation of an existing program for which Secure Passage's customers are able to use a Firemon framework to write their own extensions internally, this opens the door for its customers to collaborate and share these plug-ins with one another. There are about 50 or so free plug-ins available on the new Nexus site, including one that addresses the vulnerabilities recently exposed at Black Hat DC with the Cisco Architecture for Lawful Intercept, a Conficker "isolator" tool, and an SNMP vulnerabilty check.

So is this model more about empowering users or providing software vendors a cheap way to expand features in their products?

It could be a bit of both. It definitely keeps customers engaged (who doesn't want free stuff?) and likely more loyal during these tight financial times when many don't have the budget to pay for upgrades or next-generation products. Secure Passage president and CTO Jody Brazil says customers have written hundreds of these custom extensions to the product during the past three years, including some that perform audit checks and run custom reports.

Financial services firm Raymond James is one Secure Passage customer that has written several plug-ins internally for Firemon. Todd Ferguson, enterprise information security architect for Raymond James, says his company is in the process of "sanitizing" the plug-ins and sharing them online with other Firemon customers.

Ferguson says every off-the-shelf product needs to be customized and extensible, so the user community-based extension program makes sense. From now on, Raymond James plans to check first on Nexus for the availability of a specific extension, and then create its own if one that fits doesn't exist.

There's obviously a level of trust here among the Secure Passage customer community, but the plug-ins will be vetted, verified, and labeled as such by Secure Passage, plus the APIs have built-in controls that protect Firemon from tampering or corruption.

Still, it's good practice for users participating in this type of forum to not share any plug-ins or extensions they wrote that are remotely proprietary or specific to their environments.

-- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading Follow Kelly (@kjhiggins) on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kjhiggins Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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