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Barry Schrager

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Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 7 of 7: Monitoring the Security of Your z/OS System

Posted by Barry Schrager on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Every day, after you get your first cup of coffee, do you scan the mainframe security system violation and logging reports looking for abnormal behavior, strange activity, etc.?  Given the size of these, do you do a thorough job of it?  How much time has elapsed from the time any activity occurred to the time you got to this?

When I first developed these reports for ACF2 (dataset and resource) we had systems that ran at a rate of a few MIPS – maybe 10-20.  The current IBM z13™ will process 110,000 MIPS.  The volume of processing has grown exponentially and so has the volume of security incidents – either loggings or violations – produced each day.  Remember that the violations and loggings are there to highlight activity which may affect sensitive data – either the organization’s sensitive data or the z/OS system itself – for, if the z/OS system is modified illicitly, this may be the vehicle for actually accessing or modifying sensitive data by bypassing the z/OS security system controls.  In case you didn’t realize this – if someone can modify the z/OS system and libraries by doing something as simple as link editing a program with the Authorized Program attribute and storing it in an Authorized Library, they can then execute that program and utilize that authorization with relatively simple code to bypass whatever controls you have in place in ACF2, RACF or Top Secret.  

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Topics: insider threat, compliance standards, network security, security threat, z/OS security, mainframe security

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 6 of 7: Is the network connected to your mainframe secure?

Posted by Barry Schrager on Apr 20, 2016 12:00:00 PM

This segment of my series was authored by Peter Hager and Earl Rasmussen of Net’Q (www.net-q.com). I thank them for their input since the network connected to our mainframes must also be secured.

In today’s world we are all connected. There was a time that mainframe access was reserved to the datacenter. Those days are long gone….

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Topics: insider threat, compliance standards, network security, security threat, z/OS security, mainframe security

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 5 of 7: Monitoring Access to Sensitive Data

Posted by Barry Schrager on Apr 7, 2016 11:56:03 AM

Now that you have eliminated all the z/OS system integrity vulnerabilities you could find, re-evaluated your user validation to minimize the possibility of credentials being stolen, found all your sensitive data and eliminated unneeded copies and implemented a test data management solution, and validated the users who have access to the remaining data and transactions, it is time to evaluate how accesses by authorized users are being monitored.

Remember, there are two different scenarios that can harm your organization. One is the obvious one – a trusted employee goes rogue, obtains sensitive data and uses it in a manner that either profits him and/or harms the organization – Edward Snowden of the NSA is the poster child for this type of calamity. The other is that a loyal employee has their identity stolen and the hacker misuses it. Note that even though you have gone through the steps of securing your z/OS system, nothing is perfect and there are still vulnerabilities in the network configuration and usage that allow Userids and passwords to be passed in the clear, people doing silly things like writing down their passwords on a post-it note, someone looking over a valid user’s shoulder, etc.

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Topics: insider threat, compliance standards, network security, security threat, z/OS security, mainframe security

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 4 of 7: Who has access to your sensitive data?

Posted by Barry Schrager on Nov 19, 2015 11:00:00 AM


Now that we’ve gone through verifying that your system has no known integrity vulnerabilities, users are validated in a manner that will minimize the chance of someone stealing their identity and located all the sensitive data on your systems, remediating the copies that should not have been there in the first place, it is time to focus on who has access to your organization’s sensitive data.

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Topics: compliance standards, network security, security threat, z/OS security, mainframe security

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 3 of 7: Where's the data?

Posted by Barry Schrager on Jul 15, 2015 3:00:00 PM

Mainframe Security: Part 3 - Where is all your sensitive data?

bigstock-Expressive-businessman-shruggi-47454826One vulnerability I see a lot are copies of sensitive data outside of the production environment. This sensitive data, if disclosed, can harm the organization just as much as the production versions. Examples are Social Security Numbers, medical diagnosis or treatments, credit information, and, of course, credit card numbers which should never be stored unencrypted in the first place. One example that comes to mind is an insurance company discovering a series of database query results, stored under an individual user’s high-level index that correlated medical treatments with diagnosis, but also contained the patient’s identification. When investigated, it turns out that the employee was asked by an executive to do this analysis, but, never bothered checking with the security people on where and how to temporarily store this information and never cleaned it up afterwards.

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Topics: insider threat, compliance standards, collect log data, Log Management, enterprise SIEM system

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 2 of 7: User Authentication

Posted by Barry Schrager on Jun 30, 2015 12:10:00 PM

Mainframe Security Part 2: User Authentication

How can a system accurately determine whether access to data should be allowed when it is not certain who the user is? We have seen this in the NSA - Edward Snowden case – he borrowed other administrators’ User IDs and passwords in order to gain access to data that he was not authorized for. Also, people working together sometimes share this information for convenience. But, what does that do for security and accountability? It destroys it. This is a critical situation for any user with access to some segment of an organization’s sensitive data, which is almost everyone these days.

I raised the idea of two-factor identification in my 1974 papers, but the world was different then. 

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Topics: insider threat, automated threat detection; event log management;, Log Management, enterprise SIEM system, indexing and storing data

Guest blog post, z/OS security, from Barry Schrager Part 1 of 7: System Integrity

Posted by Barry Schrager on Jun 22, 2015 7:29:00 PM


Mainframe Security Part 1: System Integrity

I’m often asked about what installations can do to maximize their data security in an IBM mainframe environment. For those that do not know me, I was one of the people who started the data security initiative in the mainframe environment when I was asked to form the SHARE Security Project in 1972. We worked together to create a series of requirements to be presented to IBM and I did that in 1974. For more details on this, see www.share-sec.com/history.html.

When IBM delivered RACF in 1976, it did not meet two of the crucial requirements – protection by default and what we called algorithmic grouping of resources. 
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Topics: compliance standards, Log Management, z/OS security, system integrity, mainframe security

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