Friday 10 May 2019

Managed Chrome from the Cloud (p2)

A first look at the Chrome Cloud managed browser.

Once enrolled the Chrome browser turns up as fully managed object in the G Suite admin console and shares with users and chromebooks the ability to take policy based on a position in the organisational structure. Like Chromebooks, managed browsers get a dedicated section in the Chrome management dialog joining an ever increasing list of devices types.

Opening the new Managed Browsers section displays a page layout similar to Chromebooks but without the filter options.  Each machine hosting a Chrome creates an inventory entry with the Machine name as the key.

Selecting the Machine Name open a dialog that presents a wealth of information about the browser and the device hosting the browser.

If your dialog looks a little empty it might be because the data collection feature needs to be enabled for the device. Under the User and browser setting for the OU controlling the browser object you need to set Cloud Reporting to Enable managed browser cloud reporting.

This policy pushes out a small Chrome extension that handles the data collection and reports back to the console. Once enabled you can see the extension load on the browser.

There’s little point listing all the reporting elements as they are well documented by Google and fairly obvious but some of the actions are worth a mention.

In the Installed apps and extensions card you get the option to select an element that has been reported and then Block the object from all other browser.

The option allows you to select the root OU object for the action and remove the extension from all browsers in scope, blocking all future installs. This may be of limited use in schools where the policy  is restrictive by default but for organizations with a loser structure this could be a useful feature.

The machine policy section gives a centralised view of the information you would see on the local chrome policy page which is very useful. As you might expect CloudManagementEnrollmentToken shows up as the only Local Machine Policy but for other policies the status flag seems a bit misleading. The fault code is

“More than one source is present for this policy, but the values are the same” 

which is hardly surprising as most of the policies will have two sources, one taken from the user OU and one from the browser OU. Since the policy is actually applied it hardly seems to merit a large red exclamation mark and an Invalid status.

User Profile policies are broken out in the section below and list those policies that override the browser settings by being Locally applied for the user object. If you don’t see this section it’s because you have no valid user policies set.

Policy information is updated by a reboot of the device but there doesn’t seem to be a way to control it directly through the extension directory.

Browser Extension List.
For the curious admins that scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Chrome Management dialog they will be rewarded with a new option Browser extension list.

This allows the admin to view an aggregated list of all Chrome browser extensions organised by extension rather than device.

Apart from selecting the extension name and moving directly to the Chrome Store page there’s also the same Block / Force install feature that you can access from the action menu at the end of each entry.

What might not be so obvious is the fact that the data items themselves are selectable.

This action creates a pull-out from the right hand side that contains extended information including the rights granted to the extension and the extension ID:

This seems to be a new navigation type in the console that we might see in other locations in the future.

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