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Get Real-Time Security Alerts Using Database Triggers

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KST Software gives users a free taste of its security solution that can monitor individual files—as well as users.

 

Perhaps I'm overly materialistic, but if there is one word I like over all others, it's "free." For the next three months, IBM i users in certain markets can download and activate KST Software's DataTrigger security program at no charge.

 

KST is an Israeli company that has a unique take on security: it uses IBM's trigger technology to monitor changes to the database and notify the administrator or security officer through an alert. The technique hasn't gained widespread use largely because of the overhead that triggers place on system resources. With IBM's newer high-performance processors, however, such work is of little consequence nowadays, according to KST.

 

A trigger is a user database exit program that can be activated whenever an event occurs, such as mistaken data entry, sabotage, and other vicious data manipulations. Triggers have an unlimited set of capabilities and are nicely appropriate for security applications because they are embedded into the database and can't be bypassed. The nice thing about triggers is they can alert you to breaches in real time rather than finding out about a security event a day, week, or month later.

 

Security breaches, unless they involve the government, generally don't make the daily news. Yet they occur every day and cost businesses and consumers millions in losses. They could be the result of an organized crime effort or simply of a disgruntled employee.

 

In late December of last year, MicroBilt Corporation of Wisconsin, a reseller of credit bureau information, experienced a breach involving one of its customers—Integrity Bank Plus—affecting about 500 consumers whose credit information may have been improperly accessed. The company is still trying to figure out what happened. Just last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) imposed a total of $600,000 in fines against two firms for failure to adequately protect private customer information. Lincoln Financial Securities, Inc., (LFS) was fined $450,000, and an affiliated firm, Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. (LFA), was fined $150,000. FINRA found that each firm, for varying lengths of time, granted current and former employees access to customer account records through any Internet browser using shared login credentials.

 

My favorite story from last month, however, comes from a customer of Commerce Bank who claims that her social security number was printed on the outside of the envelope used by the bank to mail her lien release. (That's even worse than my bookkeeper putting my social security number in the subject line of his email to me in which he attached my unencrypted draft tax return!) You can read about these and other expensive security mistakes at www.databreaches.net.

 

My point here simply is that really nasty security breaches are happening all the time, and they are turning into very costly mistakes for the organizations responsible. Just a few years ago, IBM i administrators felt reasonably secure since the stalwart systems that contained all the company's mission-critical data were physically separate from any external networks and outside intrusion. That generally is not the case today, with many systems now being connected to the Internet.

 

And can you really trust every single person with access to your system? As Dave Letterman keeps saying on the Late Show, "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie!" (referring to actor Charlie Sheen).  In case you haven't noticed, there is a drug epidemic ongoing in Hollywood, and it's not confined to the West Coast. You just can't assume that every employee working for the company is completely reliable—and will remain that way.

 

KST believes that its DataTrigger solution leverages any existing security implementation to make learning about a breach faster and easier and thus more preventable—or at least addressable before major damage is done. Needless to say, there are a lot of different ways to secure data in IBM I, up to and including field-level encryption. Journaling can be helpful if you don't mind wading through reams of data at the end of your shift every day (yet new solutions from Halcyon and others even help manage this issue.).

 

Besides the performance drag, the problem with triggers has been their implementation. KST DataTrigger solves the problem of having to manually code a trigger by automatically generating the physical file triggers for you. You can monitor specific files, or you can create global triggers to monitor specific users—you know, the ones who are taking drugs and who are going to steal the company blind! If they try to access the payroll file, boom! You immediately get an alert and you nail 'em.

 

Needless to say, KST's customers for its DataTrigger-DataSecurity solution (and there are separate modules for alerts, etc.) have been banks and financial services companies, most of them in Europe and Australia. That's likely because its partners are located in the Netherlands, Australia, Greece, and Spain. It reportedly was looking for a business partner in North America, but to date, we have not heard that it has signed up anyone. This could explain the company's limited free download. You populate the market with your product, people like it, they tell their colleagues, and suddenly—demand!

 

In all sincerity, it's OK if you don't share my penchant for good stuff that's free. Thus, it's really fine if you want to go out and beef up your security with something that costs a bundle. But really, don't let those drug addicts pilfer your company's data! If you don't want to use DataTrigger, at least get something that alerts you to a breach now, this minute—in real time—not next week or a month from now. Because, for all I know, I'm banking with your employer.

 

as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7,

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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