[Owasp-o2-platform] Feedback

Rohit Sethi rklists at gmail.com
Wed Nov 18 23:08:32 EST 2009

Dinis et al, this project is very promising. Although I've known about
O2 for a while now, today was the first time I actually installed the
tool. Dinis, when you demonstrate the capabilities of O2 it's
awe-inspiring, but I imagine many people feel the same way as I do
when they actually install the tool: overwhelmed. I suggest you apply
the principle of "information hiding" to the design of the application
- provide people with a basic, simple view of the application and give
them the option to expand on more advanced features when needed. I
have some ideas for you, but I'm ashamed to say I don't have the
bandwidth to actually implement them :(

A few specific suggestions:
•	Is there a public bug tracking system? If not this is an invaluable
tool to solicit feedback and track bugs on an ongoing basis. You
should provide a link to the bug-tracker from the main OWASP O2 page

•	What was the rationale for creating a new GUI? In particular, why
didn’t you just piggyback off an existing, pluggable IDE like Eclipse?
I'd guess the answer is because O2 is developed (I’m assuming) in .Net
and probably through Visual Studio in order to facilitate GUI widget
development. You’ve created a new look and feel which then requires
the end user to understand the new look and feel in order to make
sense of the application. Although I can appreciate the choice to go
use .Net instead of Java, I wonder if copying some of the GUI
conventions of Eclipse might be useful (more on this later). Note that
I’m no usability expert, but I’d like to share my thoughts anyway. I
would seriously suggest freezing new feature development for a while
and focus on improving usability; once the application is easier to
use, hopefully the user base will grow and so will the pool of
developers willing to pitch in. In general try to minimize the amount
of information in each dialogue box, and provide expandable, grouped
advanced options.

•	I think O2 would be better served as one application with various
features and extensions, rather than a loosely coupled collection of
modules. Not only will this help lower the learning curve to the
application, it will help clarify the user interface. Going back to
the Eclipse point, why not start with the concept of a “Project”? Each
project relates to an individual application, and is comprised of
several child elements. You can even have a Project Explorer /
Navigation similar to what Eclipse has. Rather than dragging and
dropping source files into different module windows, there should be
one location of source files within the projects and the modules can
reference those source files.
Here’s an example of a potential Project structure:
       -Scanner Results (e.g. .ozmat)
       -Source Files (e.g. .class, .xml)
       -Findings (e.g. Ounce findings)
       -Rules (e.g. Ounce rules)
       -Scripts (e.g. Python, Java, C# scripts, etc.)
       -Intermediate Representation (e.g. CIR objects)

•	I appreciate the flexibility in offering discrete modules of O2
functionality; however, in its current format, I had a hard time
distinguishing between which functions are "Core O2 functions" and
what were really extensions. I suggest that you create a single GUI
which users can identify as the "O2 application". Similar to IDEs like
Eclipse, users could open the GUI and then select different views or
perspectives based on the features they wish to use. Similarly, I
suggest creating a single Windows installer that installs all Core O2
functions along with the single GUI (e.g. Rules Manager, Join Traces,
O2 Scripts, Findings Query, Findings Viewer, Findings Filter, Search
Assessment Run, etc.). Provide an option for custom installation in
case people want to scale down the features. Provide an interface to
install "extensions" such as Spring MVC or support for CSharpScripts,
Here’s what I’d recommend for the top level menus of the Core O2 application:

   -New /** starts a new project, perhaps with a wizard to help guide
the user */
   -Import /** import findings from various scanners */
/** Get rid of restart modules - this might be a useful debugging
concept but doesn't make sense to end users. Somebody should open and
close the app if they need to do this */

  -Configuration /** opens a dialog window with top level choices on
the left and details on the right, similar to Eclipse Preferences */
      -File System /** Top level choice */
         -File Location
         -Install Directory
         -Temp Directory
         -Executable Directory
      -Module Specific /** One top level choice for each module that
requires configuraiton */
      -Advanced /** Top level choice */
         -(other configuration items from the KO2Config)
/** Provide a radio button on the top to allow users to toggle between
Main configuration and user-specific configuration */
/** Provide standard Save and Cancel buttons on the bottom of the
dialogue window */

Modules /** Each should bring up a different dialog box */
   -Rules Manager /** don't distinguish between XRules and other kinds
of rules - this is confusing */
   -Log Viewer
   -Trace Joiner
   -Code Reflector
   -Script Editor /** should support  C-Sharp, Python and Java */
   -Findings Manager /** includes Filter and Viewer */
   -Intermediate Representation Viewer  /** or IR Viewer for short,
rather than CIR since this is now platform agnostic */
   -Technology-Specific Modules
       -Spring MVC
       -.Net /**Should include the .Net debugger (the web server
should be part of this functionality rather than a separate module),
.Net Callbacks Maker */

Windows /** no idea what functionality is supposed to be here */

  -Online Knowledgebase (or Wiki) /** Link to owasp site */
  -Request Help from O2 Developers
  -About /** include version, developers names and the email address
to provide feedback, don’t need the Send Comment feature */

•	Do you really need the modules that allow people to run the scanner
from within O2? I argue this causes too much confusion for it’s actual
•	If you use the above-suggested layout, Web Inspect Converter and
other Blackbox scanner import tools should be Wizards to import data
into a project’s Scanner Results rather than new modules


Rohit Sethi
Security Compass

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