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Security How To

Introduction

NOTE: 3SP has been purchased by Barracuda Networks and there have been major changes to the program. Please see this Forum Thread.

SSL Explorer logo

At a Glance
Product 3SP Ltd. SSL Explorer "Community" Edition SSL VPN 0.2.4
Summary Multi-featured open source browser-based SSL VPN server
Pros - Easy to install and set up
- Java and Web browser based
- Requires only one port exposed to the Internet
- Extensive configuration options
- Free
Cons - Some advanced capabilities are reserved for the "Enterprise" ($) edition
- Limited support

Remote access to a home or work PC is almost a requirement these days, especially if you telecommute. Unfortunately, navigating the plethora of remote access solutions available today can be a daunting task. Today most organizations require data to be secured in some fashion (i.e. encrypted). The standard accepted way of deploying remote access to users has been some sort of virtual private network solution (VPN).

Traditionally, IPsec and PPTP VPNs have been used to provide secure network access for mobile users by providing an encrypted tunnel for data. These VPNs can provide a remote user with an actual "local" IP address, which essentially makes the user's PC a node on the local network. The user then has access to any of the resources on the local network with the exception of any restrictions enforced by the VPN server.

Unfortunately, VPN protocols by nature are very sensitive to hardware and network changes (IPsec especially) and require the installation of a specialized client software. With such complexity, it can be very difficult to troubleshoot what is wrong when it breaks. Nobody likes fielding the phone calls of frustrated VPN users who can't connect or reliably sustain a connection back into a company network.

If any of these issues sound like situations to avoid then let me introduce you to a new type of VPN, which I believe offers the best of connectivity without all of the complexity. Secure sockets layer (SSL) VPNs have really begun to take the IT community by storm, in part due to their inherent ease of installation as opposed to the complexity of a traditional VPN setup. Most require only a Web browser and a small applet or ActiveX control to support the tunneling features.

Don't be led to believe that only Web based applications can be served up through an SSL based VPN. In reality, an SSL-based VPN can offer the same services which you could access through a traditional IPsec based VPN through the implementation of a secure tunneling mechanism.

In this two-part series, we will explore a very popular open source SSL VPN from 3SP Ltd. called SSL Explorer. SSL Explorer can give you the ability to securely access your files remotely, access private intranet resources and even remotely control your PC desktop just by using a Java-enabled Web browser. Part 1 will cover SSL Explorer's feature set and installation. Part 2 will then show you how to configure SSL Explorer for some common road-warrior tasks.

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