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Start Thinking About Security in New Ways

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Are you heads down, focused on the tasks in front of you? If so, you may be missing something. In this article, Carol discusses the need to stop, take time, and see if you need to think about things differently.

 

At this time of year, I try to get away for a few days to relax and stop thinking about work. I've found that when I'm constantly heads down on work, I don't pick up on things around me that have changed. I tend to always do things the same way, but when I get away I may realize there's an easier or better way to do something. If I don't take a break, I'm unlikely to realize what I'm missing—as in new topics that I should be paying attention to or researching or new business opportunities that are right in front of my face but I couldn't "see" because I was too busy with other things. In this article, I'll encourage you to step back from your normal routine and see what you might be missing.

 

Here are some topics to get you started.

 

Auditors Can Be Your Friend

I can hear some of you now: "Carol, what are you thinking?" Yes, I'm asserting that you need to think differently about your auditors. Even if they're not familiar with IBM i or your organization, they can help you get things accomplished if you work together in partnership rather than in an adversarial relationship.

 

One of our customers has an imbedded internal auditor in the IT organization. I have to say that it's a brilliant approach. The imbedded auditor is a great liaison and helps translate between the requests from auditors and the reality of what IT can accomplish. He also helps explain IBM i concepts to the external auditors so they have a more realistic view of what to request. I understand you may still dread going through an audit—if for no other reason than the extra time it takes you to respond to their requests. But if you ask questions about what they're really looking for and take the time to explain some IBM i concepts, there's a greater chance you could work with them to perform changes that would really benefit your organization. I encourage you to give it some thought!

 

Start Looking at One of the Modern Ways to Access Your System

Sometimes I get stuck and do things the same way because it's easy, it works, and I think, "Why change?" When you step back and take a look at things differently, sometimes you realize that you need to change the way you're doing things; otherwise, something is going to stop working. When that happens, you're going to have to scramble to fix what's broken when you could be researching a new method and implementing it in a leisurely—or at least measured—pace.

 

Take, for example, how I access our IBM i systems. After a recent Coffee with Carol session I held with Tim Rowe, I realized that I needed to start using the Access Client Services (ACS) or the mobile access support rather than the traditional i Access client because, at some point—most likely with Windows 10—support for the traditional client will no longer be available. The handwriting is on the wall. In case you didn't notice, iAccess was not updated for V7R2. But unless you stop and think about that, you may not realize the implications to your organization. I encourage you to do that now.

 

Consider the Value of Your Data to Your Organization… and to Hackers

Most administrators take great pride in keeping their IBM i (or iSeries or AS/400 or whatever they call it) up—that is, no down time with the exception of system and application upgrades. Considering that other servers crash and burn regularly, this is something to be proud of. But I encourage you administrators to understand why this up time is so valuable to your organization. It's valuable because your systems are where the bulk of your organization's data resides. If that data isn't available, the lack of it comes at great cost to the organization. It's time to realize the value of the data residing on your systems. What if that data wasn't there? Most likely, the organization wouldn't exist. Now think for a moment: what do you do—and what does society in general do—with valuable possessions? Protect them, of course! So why isn't the data on the system protected to the extent that its value demands? Something to ponder to be sure.

 

Another factor in securing data is the value of the data residing on your system to hackers (be they foreign countries or governments, kids trying to prove a point, or other corporations). The latest type of data being sold is healthcare information. There may be an actual monetary value to your data. But there may also be intrinsic value to the data. Leaked data can be embarrassing to organizations or individuals. And don't forget that corporate espionage doesn't just happen in the movies; it's a very real threat.

 

Stop thinking only about keeping the system running and start thinking about the value of the data your systems are holding. Given the value of that data, are your systems secured adequately?

 

Change Your Attitude About Being Hacked

Adjust your attitude from "if we're hacked" to "when we're hacked." Yes, you want to prevent your organization from being hacked if at all possible. But you truly have been working way too much if you haven't seen all of the headlines about companies being hacked. And it's not just major corporations being hacked and attacked. It's businesses of all types and sizes. With the attitude of "if we're hacked," there's a point of denial that it can actually happen and you may not prepare properly. With the attitude of "when we're hacked," you're going to put more processes in place and perhaps change some configurations to minimize the damage that could be done. You're going to consider purchasing cyber insurance, and you're going to put an incident response plan in place so you know exactly what actions you're going to take. Trust me, you don't want to be trying to figure out what actions to take (or not take) or who you should call when you're in the middle of being hacked.

 

Security Is Not Evil

I'm probably not telling you anything new here. Unfortunately, the people who need to consider this new thought probably aren't reading this! But perhaps as you encounter those who do think that security is evil, you can explain it like this. Computer security—specifically security to database files—is put in place to protect

you. For example, a good security scheme will protect you from accidentally deleting or modifying production data, ensuring that it's available and accurate. And it's there to provide privacy. Just like you don't want people to see personal information about you, others don't want you viewing their data. It provides asset protection. Corporations don't want other corporations (or hacking groups!) to gain access to their corporate jewels. Finally, it protects your reputation. If your profile doesn't

have excessive rights, it can't be used inappropriately to perform tasks or actions against the business and you won't have to prove that it wasn't you who did an

evil deed. No, security is not evil.

 

Final Thoughts

I encourage you to stop filling up your life with your routine—at least for a few days—and let your mind consider new and/or different things. I hope this article

has helped you start this process.

Carol Woodbury

 

Carol Woodbury is IBM i Security SME and Senior Advisor to Kisco Systems, a firm focused on providing IBM i security solutions. Carol has over 30 years’ experience with IBM i security, starting her career as Security Team Leader and Chief Engineering Manager for iSeries Security at IBM in Rochester, MN. Since leaving IBM, she has co-founded two companies: SkyView Partners and DXR Security. Her practical experience and her intimate knowledge of the system combine for a unique viewpoint and experience level that cannot be matched.

Carol is known worldwide as an author and award-winning speaker on security technology, specializing in IBM i security topics. She has written seven books on IBM i security, including her two current books, IBM i Security Administration and Compliance, 3rd Edition and Mastering IBM i Security, A Modern, Step-by-Step Approach. Carol has been named an IBM Champion since 2018 and holds her CISSP and CRISC security certifications.


MC Press books written by Carol Woodbury available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

IBM i Security Administration and Compliance: Third Edition
Don't miss the newest edition by the industry’s #1 IBM i security expert.
List Price $71.95

Now On Sale

Mastering IBM i Security Mastering IBM i Security
Get the must-have guide by the industry’s #1 security authority.
List Price $49.95

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