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Brian Olson

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Password Self Service: A Critical Piece of the Password Management Puzzle

By: Gavriel Meir-Levi, Enforcive Inc and Brian Olson, Able-One Systems Inc.

In order to ease the password management experience for their end-users, many enterprises are considering implementing Single Sign-On (SSO). SSO provides many benefits, such as requiring a user to only sign on once in a multi-server environment. SSO server becomes the “keeper of the keys” of your IT estate.

Challenges of Single Sign-On

The challenging aspect of SSO is that implementation usually takes a couple of months and requires considerable investment of staff hours and capital. The other major problem with SSO, is that it creates a single point of failure both in terms of system resiliency and security. If your SSO server fails or is compromised, EVERYONE IS IMPACTED!

Imagine a castle where the draw-bridge fails. Worse yet, if your SSO server gets compromised, it has all of your organization’s credentials. Single sign-son’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness; single point of failure.​

SSO_Diagram 

Password Self-Service

Password Self-Service by Enforcive takes a different approach. Instead of locking all of the passwords up in a single sign-on castle, Password Self Service creates a resilient on-going password management strategy that’s more like an ​EZ Pass to a city’s roads, bridges and tunnels or a passport that allows you to travel throughout Europe.​

Password Self Service does not store any of your passwords locally, it just synchronizes and monitors them throughout all of your systems; IBM i, AIX, Linux, Windows AD, OpenLDAP and others.​ The passwords stay exactly in the same place they were before PSS was installed, thus solving the single point of failure problem. 

PSS_Diagram 

Empowering your end users is a crucial piece of this puzzle. You do not want your Help Desk getting that 2AM call from the CEO who is in Indonesia getting ready for a meeting and is literally locked out of everything.

Integrating Password Self-Service

If you run IBM iSeries as well as Windows servers, setting up the IBM i server to interface with Windows Active Directory is relatively easy, creating single sign-on functionality between Windows and the iSeries. This solves the problem of having to sign on separately for Windows and the iSeries. 

From a password management perspective, once you bring the Help Desk into the equation, things get a bit trickier.  ​Your iSeries team will have to make a difficult choice to:

  1. ​Give the Help Desk SECADMIN privileges, or
  2. Turn your iSeries support staff into the Help Desk​

​Neither option is particularly attractive. ​  Giving your users the power to reset their own passwords eliminates this issue.

In terms of implementation, while SSO often turns into a complex and costly project, Password Self Service by Enforcive can be implemented in a manner of days. It provides critical help for your Help Desk by enabling your end-users to securely reset their own passwords 24/7, vastly improving your organization's ROI in terms of Help Desk staffing and resources.​

PSS uses challenge questions, secure tokens and an authentication server call to make sure your end-user is who they say they are​ and​ administrators ​have ​great flexibility in how they implement the tool. Once an end-user has been validated, passwords can be synchronized so that they only have to remember one password.

Empowering your end users to better and more seamlessly manage their credentials while enabling access for different parts of your IT estate without creating a single point of failure is a great way to harden security, improve user experience and help your Help Desk.

Contact Brian Olson of Able-One at brian.olson@ableone.com or 519-570-9100 ext 7316 for more information or to set up a PSS demonstration webinar for you today.  ​

Topics: Security

IBM i Security: 8 Tips You May Have Overlooked

By Brian Olson, Director IBM Power Server and Security Solutions

Having worked with IBM i customers over the past 25 years, we have seen several trends that has impacted the security of the IBM i environment:

  • Increasing use of network based services to access data on the IBM i system from inside the corporate network
  • Increased connection of the IBM i based applications to the outside world
  • Dramatic increases in cyber-crime, and the negative publicity and impact on corporate brand value, that these exploits can have  
  • Increased focus on, and enforcement of, regulatory compliance, whether SOX/CSOX, PCI or a variety of other standards

IBM i (or AS400 or iSeries if you prefer) has long been viewed as a highly stable and secure platform and as such, the security priorities (and budgets) of organizations have tended to be focused in other areas such Windows server/client platforms and external network access (firewalls). Compounding this, is a general lack of experience in the auditor community of the unique attributes of the IBM i environment, to the point where many audits only contain a cursory review of this platform, and usually from the 1,000 foot level.

Given the fact that the IBM i typically houses critical corporate applications and data, this general lack of attention paid by many organizations to IBM i security is a critical exposure for the hundreds (or thousands) of Canadian organizations that rely on this platform and its applications for their existence. Hence, here are some key tips that every IBM i customer organization should consider.

1. Log and monitor audit journal activity

The IBM i operating system provides audit journals that allow the logging of key system activity. Unfortunately, not all organizations have these audit journals enabled, and if they do, many do not monitor or report/alert on suspicious activity taking place. The sheer size and cryptic nature of these journals can make getting useful security information from this a challenge. Use 3rd party tools to provide this extra usability.

2. Implement exit programs to audit network-based activity

In the last 10-15 years, the use of TCP/IP based services (such as ODBC and FTP) to access data housed in the IBM i has grown exponentially. Traditional access to the AS400 has been through direct attached terminals and managed through menu access controls. OS400 (now called the IBM i operating system) provides exit points to allow this “external” access but does not adequately audit access through these services. 3rd party exit point solutions are a requirement to collect the necessary level of information to satisfy most auditor requirements.

3. Clean up inactive user profiles

Inactive user profiles are defined as profiles that have not been used in the last 30 to 60 days. A surprising number of IBM i shops have a large number of inactive profiles and these can pose a significant security exposure. Regular cleaning of inactive profiles should be a priority and there are tools available to help with the ease the administrative effort of this task and even provide some automated assistance.

4. Don’t confuse compliance with security

Your auditor might have told you that you have met compliance with your internal policies or regulatory policies, but this does not mean you are secure. Security is an ongoing process and mindset that does not end with a positive result on an audit. Understand where your key assets are, what poses the greatest business exposure to your organization, and be proactive in addressing these risks on an ongoing basis.  

5. Audit power user profiles

Every organization has trusted power user profiles that have higher levels of access and control over your critical systems.  However, it is exactly these user profiles that pose the greatest risk should they be compromised. Minimize the number of user profiles with these high authorization levels, and make sure you are auditing all activity on these profiles. These are the profiles that hackers love to get their hands on.   

6. Implement and enforce strong password policies

Ensure that your password policies include frequent expiration of passwords, and the use of a reasonably strong password structure. Ensure you check for the use of default passwords because the IBM i operating system and many applications ship with standard defaults. Hackers love default passwords, so make sure you change them.

7. Use a layered approach to IBM i security

Security of any kind, is all about layering. If one layer gets compromised, the next layer should stop (or at least slow down) the attacker. Make it difficult for the hacker – they love “easy targets”. A single security approach is not enough, even within the IBM i platform. You wouldn’t secure your corporate network with just a firewall, would you?

Your IBM i should at least have strongly implemented object security, auditing of all activity, and even look at encryption for your highly sensitive data. Look at integrated solutions as a way of easing the administrative burden of managing all of these layers.  

layers-of-data-protection

8. Automate security and compliance checking where possible

If security becomes onerous and difficult to manage, for most organizations, things begin to fall between the cracks, or get pushed off to be done “when you have time”. Automate your security practices where possible, or use tools to help ease the administrative burden. Run automated compliance checks for key security policies on a regular basis to ensure that you are still OK. Or if you are not, so you can correct the situation in a timely fashion. Again, 3rd party solutions are available to help you with this automation.

Able-One Systems can provide tools and expertise to help you with any, or all, of the above recommendations. We provide consulting services and products for security and compliance for IBM i, and offer a consulting service for IBM i Assessments called Verify for i. For more information, contact Brian Olson of Able-One at 800-461-2253 ext. 7316 or email brian.olson@ableone.com.

Topics: Security

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