Article

Why Network Security 6.50?

IBM i
Posted:
June 27, 2016

PowerTech Network Security, an exit program solution, was designed to fill a security void that appeared with the release of OS/400 V3R1 in the early 1990s, when IBM incorporated TCP/IP network server functionality into the Power Systems server. An exit program is an application program that is invoked before or after a user's request is performed and provides a function that the original software does not. In the case of network access, an exit program assists the operating system and should perform two critical tasks:

  • Audit the user transaction (the OS has very limited visibility to network activity)

  • Provide Access Control functions to limit backdoor data access and server functionality

Keeping Security Simple

Traditionally, shops relied on legacy controls that consisted of green-screen menus, command-line restrictions, and application-level security. We didn't lose sleep over credit card fraud or disclosure of "personally identifiable" information.

We granted everyone *ALLOBJ special authority or simply left the *PUBLIC authority set at the IBM-supplied default value of *CHANGE. The operating system could secure data at an object level, but most administrators didn't see the need for complicated configurations when we could simply present a menu and limit user activities in a matter of moments.

That dynamic changed forever with the birth of OS/400's TCP/IP services.

Evolving Data Protection Needs

Brand names have changed, but utilizing network services remains simple. Users leverage powerful tools, such as FTP and ODBC, to access data and server functions without the restrictions imposed by legacy controls. While object-level security is enforced by every interface, open public authority and permissive private authority mean this potent security layer remains transparent. Ironically, many of us audit our servers for authority failure (*AUTFAIL) events without considering that we must enact authorization rules before an authority failure can occur!

While IBM is often unfairly blamed for providing backdoors to the database, the reality is that years of cutting corners are catching up with us. IBM provided an impenetrable object-level security infrastructure as well as exit points to register those exit programs to do whatever extra tasks we programmed them to do. In my opinion, there are no backdoors into the database and the only blame IBM deserves is their questionable choice of establishing *CHANGE as the public authority default—something that can easily be altered during server setup.

PowerTech Takes Control

PowerTech recognized the need to audit and control requests originating from the network. Leveraging the IBM-supplied exit points for tight OS integration, PowerTech authored a commercial-grade exit program solution called PowerLock, providing out-of-the-box oversight of those TCP services. Enhanced and rebranded as PowerTech Network Security, it remains the de facto standard others are compared to. While I encourage using object-level security as a foundation, Network Security can vastly improve the threat landscape for those who find retrofitting to be an unrealistic goal. 

Those who claim object-security perfection often realize that IBM i supports only one authority setting for each user/object combination, a far cry from the number of access methodologies available today. Of even greater concern are users who can execute commands through interfaces independently of their profile's "limit capability" restriction (this arguably is a backdoor) as well as the fact that data transfers are not considered auditable events!

Layer Security Solutions for the Greatest Level of Protection

Network Security provides an integrated layer of control that augments IBM security with a rules-based analytics engine, designed specifically to audit and control users accessing the system through network services. Restrictions can be enforced for users, TCP/IP locations, and objects. Real-time notifications can alert administrators of select authorized or unauthorized transactions. Transaction history can be recorded into a tamper-proof repository that satisfies stringent audit mandates, including PCI, or escalated to an external SIEM/Syslog server leveraging the capabilities of PowerTech Interact. Configuration is accomplished using either a proven green-screen interface or a new adaptive, mobile-friendly browser interface. An advanced dashboard is now included to visually monitor transaction volumes for identification of data anomalies, and you can run activity reports though the native report generator or via PowerTech Compliance Monitor.

Few investments can improve the security of this critical business server as dramatically as a robust exit program solution like Network Security. During my audit work, this remains the best way to facilitate rapid risk reduction. Without Network Security, users may be able to download or modify business data using simple desktop tools and even execute commands without permission. The 2014 State of IBM i Security study reports that an alarming 66% of servers lack even a single network exit program and only 6% have coverage for all 27 network exit points. The time has come for a fundamental shift in how we perceive Power System security. I welcome an opportunity to show you what the most trusted name in IBM i network security can do for your organization. Sign up for a free demo of Network Security today.

 

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