I’ve performed audit work with security clientele around the world, but even I was surprised by the number of assessments PowerTech performed during the past year. For those of you unfamiliar with this free service offered by PowerTech, please indulge me for a moment. You will discover that cost is not the only benefit spurring its growth in popularity.
Security and compliance adherence has elevated in criticality over the past few years and has now taken its rightful place as a primary IT initiative, alongside virtualization and disaster preparedness. The necessity for better data protection has landed front-and-center in the public eye following some of the largest data breaches on record, including the highly-publicized Target retail breach. This was the first of the national “big box” retailers to be hit with such a public and devastating attack. These stories make headlines, but thousands of lesser-publicized breaches occur every year. The threat landscape has rapidly evolved from socially and politically motivated disruptions to highly sophisticated attacks orchestrated by criminals seeking financial gain, and competitors and governments engaged in industrial and international espionage.
Don’t Confuse “Securable” with “Secure”
A primary obstacle to winning this fight is a lack of knowledge or, worse yet, complacency. Power Systems is considered one of the most securable platforms on the market, which has lulled IT staff and management teams into a false sense of security. The first step to increasing protection on these servers is to acknowledge that there is a big difference between “secure” and “securable,” and to throw out the dangerous misconception that IBM i’s security infrastructure is activated and correctly preconfigured at the factory. While that’s certainly an exciting concept, it’s not a realistic one. No two companies are completely alike and generalized configurations could never meet the demands of everyone.
Regulatory and legislative mandates are often unpopular with those required to provide compliance, as they are an attempt to force the adoption of better business practices—and that typically means more work for those in the “trenches” and expense for the organization. Most mandates, unfortunately, have resulted from a previously discovered transgression. While regulations, and the compliance frameworks they are built upon, contribute to better protection of data and business assets, they rarely speak in specific, detailed terms that IT staff can relate to. This disconnect, along with a typical lack of funding and resource allocation for Power System departments, often results in the platform being dangerously exposed.
Security is not the core expertise for most IBM i shops. The silver lining to this ominous cloud is that many simple steps can be taken to increase protection. Fortunately, IBM has integrated many class-leading controls into the operating system. PowerTech also provides numerous solutions, all of which are specifically designed to provide enhanced security capabilities, as well as dramatically reduce the burden imposed by compliance.
Get Started with Security Scan
PowerTech’s security scans are performed by powerful software, which has recently been refreshed by the HelpSystems development team. Newer systems values, such as QPWDRULES and QPWDBLKCHG, are now incorporated in the analysis to garner a more accurate report on password policy settings. Also, with IBM’s recognition of the possibility of a virus existing within the Integrated File System (IFS), the software has been enhanced to include verification of the OS’s AV exit points to see if scanning is active and configured correctly. For those dealing with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Specification (PCI-DSS) mandate, this was an import enhancement as AV technology is a required deployment on any in-scope servers.
A downloaded executable is installed on a PC and provides the user with the ability to run the assessment during a complimentary seven-day grace period, as well as to view previous assessments indefinitely. The software utilizes an intuitive interface to collect data in a matter of minutes and returns the results to a browser-based interactive display. The new version has wider browser compatibility as well as an increased range of Windows operating systems that are supported.
PowerTech performs deep-dive security audits that require several days of onsite consulting and a greater financial investment. While these audits are more comprehensive, commencing with a no-charge assessment can help establish the cost justification for the detailed analysis, as well as preview what security challenges will likely be discussed. As the consultant who conducts both types of engagements, I find it hugely beneficial to realize the state of the union before beginning the deep-dive.