Product Review: PowerTech ComplianceMonitor

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Over the past few months, the trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling has renewed public interest in the Enron scandal and corporate controls over financial reporting. But for many IT auditors and iSeries system administrators, this topic has long been top of mind. The Enron fiasco was one of the prime motivators behind the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002. Although IT security was not at issue in Enron, generating reports to demonstrate compliance with policy, as required by section 404 of SOX, has become an expensive and time-consuming burden for many IT departments. Many companies that have passed their initial audits are now looking for ways to cut costs by streamlining and automating the process.

ComplianceMonitor from PowerTech was engineered to help companies that must comply with SOX, HIPAA, and many other regulations. Designed to be used by system administrators, auditors, and security officers, ComplianceMonitor enables any company—especially companies with many iSeries or AS/400 servers—to easily manage security policy compliance. The product assesses four categories of compliance: system values, user profiles, network, and object authorities. The user profile category, for example, includes commonly requested reports like Default Passwords, Users with Special Authorities, Group Profile Membership, and Inactive User Profiles. But the real power of ComplianceMonitor is that companies can create any conceivable report in any of these four categories using the report customization features. (Click figure to enlarge)

Figure 1: Select reports to include in ComplianceMonitor.

In ComplianceMonitor's three-tier architecture, a lightweight, low-impact agent is installed on each system to be audited. Audit data is archived and stored on a central iSeries, called the "consolidator." Product administrators have full control over the amount of data that is stored, and data collection can be scheduled to run on a regular basis or at off-peak times.

The ComplianceMonitor console will run on any Microsoft Windows PC, and a GUI is provided for command, control, and report display. Reports can be output to PDF files or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. One of the most compelling features of the product is the interactive grid viewer in the console, which allows users to "slice and dice" the data to meet their needs.

Assessing multiple systems is greatly simplified in ComplianceMonitor. With one command, users can launch assessments across multiple servers and consolidate audit data from any number of iSeries servers into a single, easy-to-read report. One of the standard reports included with the product even provides a side-by-side comparison of values from different systems. Audited servers can be grouped according to business need for more efficient auditing and more business-relevant reporting. For example, IT auditors in large enterprises could run a set of reports for servers in the Midwest region, or they could run reports against systems that are running JD Edwards applications.

Many CIOs have grumbled about using their best programming talent to write custom queries that produce data for auditors. With ComplianceMonitor, companies can reassign scarce development resources to revenue-producing projects. ComplianceMonitor's intuitive interface allows users to quickly and easily create custom audit reports that display only the information they need. Users have full control over the columns included on any report; they can drag and move columns interactively, or they can change sort order by simply clicking on column headings. Users can also easily create "filters," which are powerful SQL queries.

Internal IT audit staff at large enterprises are paying much closer attention to the iSeries and AS/400 systems than they have in the past. But many organizations lack the expertise to adequately assess how well iSeries servers are complying with security policy. ComplianceMonitor makes it easy for staff unfamiliar with the iSeries to retrieve and interpret relevant audit information.

PowerTech has long been a recognized leader in security. PowerTech founders John Earl and Dan Riehl are familiar speakers at the security education sessions at COMMON and at other user groups and technical meetings around the world. The ComplianceMonitor product integrates the collective wisdom of PowerTech security experts in a number of innovative ways:

For users who prefer guidance, the product ships with a set of PowerTech-recommended audit reports, including a list of audit reports specifically for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

Scorecard reports compare user ID configurations and system values (environment variables) against a PowerTech-recommended policy, which can be updated to match a specific corporate policy.

An interactive and dynamic compliance guide provides helpful information on how to set up your iSeries servers to comply with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. iSeries security settings are mapped to accepted industry audit standards like COBIT and ISO17799. (Click figure to enlarge)

Figure 2: Here's a side-by-side comparison of system values on two iSeries systems. The Compliance Guide below the report explains OS/400 terms and maps recommendations to industry standard frameworks.

As you would expect from a security solution, ComplianceMonitor includes its own comprehensive security model. Users don't need OS/400 special authorities, but they do have to be granted explicit rights to use the product by the product administrator. The obvious benefit of this feature is that auditors don't get powerful access to OS/400 systems. Access restrictions on objects like reports or system groups can also be set at the owner, group, and public levels. As an example of how companies can leverage these capabilities, a system administrator could be given rights to run reports against only the systems for which they're responsible, while the audit group could be given rights to run against all systems in the company.

An easy-to-use tool for system administrators as well as auditors and security officers, PowerTech ComplianceMonitor is a valuable new solution for any iSeries or AS/400 shop. ComplianceMonitor greatly simplifies the task of monitoring and assessing security policy compliance across enterprise systems, allowing companies to refocus internal IT staff on initiatives more relevant to their core business.

Brendan Patterson, is Director of Product Management at The PowerTech Group, a leading provider of security software solutions on IBM’s System i, iSeries and AS/400 servers. Brendan has more than 10 years experience managing product direction at technology companies and has co-authored many white papers on iSeries security. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The PowerTech Group, Inc.
19426 68th Avenue South
Kent, WA 98032
Phone: 253.872.7788 or 800.915.7700
Fax: 253.872.7904
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.