I Need to Start Somewhere with IBM i Security, But Where?

February 24, 2017


You’re hit with the realization that you need to do something about the security configuration on your IBM i, but you don't know where to start.

Don’t panic. Help is available.

The good news is more organizations want to do something about their IBM i security settings. The bad news is many organizations don't know where to start. And this really isn’t "bad news." Frustration is a better characterization. In this article, I pose questions to help you get past the frustration and help you get started.

What Type of Data Is Stored on Your System?

The first question I ask when helping organizations get started with IBM i security is "What type of data do you store on your system?" And by that I mean, do you store credit card numbers or HIPAA (healthcare) information or other data that may be controlled by specific laws or regulations? If you do, then we can look at the various laws and regulations governing that data, and make a plan to implement those requirements.

What many organizations forget to consider is data covered by the various federal, state, Canadian, or European breach notification laws.

This data is any kind of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which includes data such as social security numbers (SSNs), social insurance numbers (SIN in Canada and Europe), bank account numbers, drivers' license numbers, and more.

California often leads the way in defining new laws, and they have consistently been the leader in defining what constitutes PII data. They recently changed the law so that an email address is classified as PII data if both the email address and the answers to the "I forgot my password questions" are stored together and both lost.

Europe has quite strict privacy laws about who can see private data and how (for what purpose) it can be used.  The European courts struck down the Safe Harbor Principles associated with the EU Data Protection Directive which granted exceptions to U.S.-based companies’ use of Europeans’ private data. The ramifications to U.S.-based companies doing business in Europe is yet to be seen.  My point is don't assume you don't have PII data.   Before you make that claim, you need to research the current definition of PII data and its allowed uses.

What about Your Company-Specific Data?

The next consideration is company-specific data stored on IBM i. For example, many organizations have customer lists on their IBM i systems. These lists are often highly confidential. If that data was sold to a competitor, it would be very damaging to the organization.

Other businesses have information about inventory, pricing, and employee compensation on IBM i. Revealing that data to the world could affect the business in countless ways.

To answer my question, what you need to think about is the information stored on IBM i that is unique to your organization and what the impact will be if that data is lost, stolen, or unavailable.

What Is Your Goal for Securing Your Information?

If you have data that falls under some law or regulation, the answer to this question is easy: follow the requirements of the law or regulation. But if the data is company-specific, the answer may not be obvious.

Let's look at the examples I used previously. A customer list is very confidential information and, if it were sold to a competitor, it could be catastrophic to the organization. In this case, you want to make sure only approved individuals can access this information.

However, your main concern with inventory levels is to make sure the data is accurate. So in this case, restricting who sees the data might be less important than ensuring it’s updated only through the appropriate application interfaces.

Final Thoughts on Getting Started with IBM i Security

Now that you've thought through what data you have stored on your IBM i and you've defined your organization's goals, you can start thinking about the specific changes required to get you from your current configuration to a configuration that meets your organization's requirements.


Get More Details

Learn more about security controls on IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) at your own pace with our convenient, free e-course led by Carol Woodbury and Robin Tatam. 

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