The Essence of the Program
ImproveNet is a system for optionally collecting users’ Outpost Firewall Pro access configurations, having Agnitum security experts review them, and then to create new application access rules and global firewall settings that can be distributed back out to users. The goal of the system is to learn about as many Internet-accessing applications as possible and be able to automatically configure and implement access rules for them for end users. The unobvious value of ImproveNet lies in fact that Agnitum experts can spread certain strict application rules to Outpost users around the world once new applications vulnerabilities are found or during mass PC virus infection.
ImproveNet and What It Means for You
ImproveNet makes the process of creating Internet access rulesets automatic by distributing new access configurations to users. As it is impossible for one vendor to know about all of the network- and Internet-enabled applications in existence, the community helps accumulate reports and produce precisely secure firewall access rules based on them.
Creating rules for applications in Outpost is now significantly easier than in previous versions or competing firewalls. ImproveNet relieves users of the need to develop all their firewall security rules themselves by giving them the option to network with other Outpost users and Agnitum engineers to share configurations and gain access to universally-applicable Internet access security rules. Users simply check a box in the Outpost interface to give their permission for rules they create to be automatically reported to Agnitum engineers. The engineers check the rules for validity and then automatically distribute them to all other users through the Agnitum Update tool.
Users benefit by seeing far fewer action prompt windows, ensuring a less-interrupt-driven computing experience, because Outpost will apply automatic presets based on the rules, adjusted by other users. And because they do not need to manually create their own rules, the primary cause of firewall failure – configuration errors – is removed, increasing security while reducing user input. Updates are delivered daily, so the need to manually configure rules is minimized.
This screenshot illustrates the benefits of having ImproveNet - collaborated access rules automatically applied on the user PC –no pop-up prompts; the firewall is automatically configured to work with the Internet-requesting program.
ImproveNet is a network community that brings Outpost users and Agnitum engineers together to optionally share configurations and enable everyone to benefit from universally-applicable Internet access security rules. By participating in the ImproveNet service and having their application rulesets be applied automatically following ImproveNet collaboration, users can adjust their application access rules to protect against the latest threats. These settings are created, transferred and applied automatically if this feature is enabled, so that users no longer need to worry about how to respond to the next action prompt window – because ImproveNet adjustments mean that the window won’t appear in the first place.
The principle behind the ImproveNet service lies in security experts evaluating the preset access rules in use by the community of Outpost Firewall Pro users. After the rule is checked for validity and approved, it is automatically distributed to all other users through the Agnitum Update tool. Because new rules are created and processed on a daily basis, users have a continuously-updated set of access rules for the majority of Internet-enabled programs, sparing themselves the need to manually create their own rules and removing the possibility of errors in rule structure and application.
Users receive only approved, secure configurations and are safeguarded against malicious or inappropriate ones. To exclude erroneous configurations from the pool of newly distributed rulesets, Agnitum security experts review every submitted user configuration, evaluate it from a security and interoperability standpoint, and produce the final and the most secure presets based on the information collected. Below is an illustration that shows how different users’ configurations are treated and what the final outcome is in relation to the three proposed configuration types submitted by users:
An ImproveNet contributing member submits a new application’s access configuration to be evaluated by an Agnitum specialist. After the specialist has looked at the user’s rule and approved it, the corresponding allowing ruleset is created and distributed to other ImproveNet participants, simplifying the task of making correct access configurations for new programs:
The situation is the same as in the previous scenario, but here the volunteer sends out an incorrect or incomplete rule for the program, for which no effective rule can be developed. The Agnitum specialist looks at the rule and, based on his best judgment, determines that no ruleset should be issued. As a result, the volunteer’s rule is dropped.
In this case, a volunteer sends out a malicious configuration, either by mistake or intentionally, and after the specialist has looked at the rule he specifically decides that a denying ruleset for the application should be created and distributed to subscribers. As a result, recipients get a firewall configuration that automatically prevents network access for a new piece of malware.
By default, the ImproveNet service is designed to work in conjunction with the automatic application of firewall rules to Outpost Firewall – meaning the process is two-stage. First, the user firewall’s network accessing configuration is sent for Agnitum’s review, and secondly, the approved configuration is returned to the user community and automatically applied to the users’ PCs.
Users can opt to not have new firewall rules applied automatically without their interaction by selecting the appropriate checkbox on the program’s interface. In this way, they can still participate in the ImproveNet program by sending out their configurations and thus helping other community members by supplying configuration information, but will see an action prompt following the initiation of a new connection on their computers. New presets will still arrive through the Agnitum Update service, but they won’t be automatically applied, and users will have to select the action, even though the action will be recommended based on the information stored in readily available presets.
Advanced users who prefer to make things themselves and control applications’ access parameters manually would appreciate the ability to have a recommended set of rules to follow while the final decision is left to them.