Checking out an open source SSL VPN offering

* The free SSL-Explorer SSL VPN product

A reader wrote in to tell about his experiences with a free SSL VPN product called SSL-Explorer, which provides many of the features that commercial SSL VPN software and appliances offer.

The open source software ( supports proxied Internet access to e-mail, Web application and files. It also supports remote management of other machines via plug-ins for SSH, SFTP, Telnet, VNC, Citrix and Terminal Services.

The software is loaded onto a standard PC, which then acts as a gateway to the resources it protects. Remote users authenticate to a database in the SSL-Explorer gateway itself or by referring to Microsoft Active Directory.

Commercial SSL VPN products offer more features. For example, the software provides two levels of authorization: administrative and standard. On the other hand, some vendors support unlimited levels, each one defined by policies.

Commercial vendors also support peripheral security, such as checking whether remote machines meet security policies, a feature that SSL-Explorer does not support. Also, remote users must be using Windows Internet Explorer browsers.

But the open source software is free and provides functionality that can be useful in a business network. It certainly is an inexpensive way to check out the technology conceptually to help make a decision about whether to invest in, perhaps, a more sophisticated commercial version.

The reader who wrote in said he was using it himself to do off-site administration and to give a software developer access to a terminal server. It's working well enough that he is getting ready to trial it with his company's sales force so they can access servers and their e-mail and scheduling. "It's really worth checking out," he says.

Learn more about this topic

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Network World, 04/18/05

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