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Partner TechTip: Security Officer or Security Nightmare?

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Find out why security officers represent your greatest security threat.


OK, I know that the title of this article is probably going to upset some people. After all, I'm a professional security officer and make a good living helping customers secure application environments from both external attacks and "inquisitive" end users. So why would I be so willing to throw my own profession under the proverbial bus? It's actually quite simple. I truly believe that the security officer (SO) represents the biggest threat to many shops. To make matters worse, I will extend my definition of SO to include programmers and system administrators.


The sad reality for a lot of organizations is that many regular users are fulfilling a security role without any formal training or experience. They are the users who "know the most" and so become responsible for administering security for others. According to PowerTech's annual "State of IBM i Security" study, many users carry powerful capabilities without having any associated business requirement. But, even when the staff is trained or specifically hired because of their skills in this discipline, there is still major exposure.


As with most illegal or illicit activities, a perpetrator usually has a combination of means, opportunity, and motive. Let's discuss each of these as they apply to security personnel.


When I talk about means, I'm referring to the skills and the knowledge to be able to perform specialized system tasks. Security officers and other power users (such as programmers and administrators) typically possess advanced skills to be able to access applications, manipulate private application data, and configure system controls—including those that manage the security of the server. Having worked on the "i" platform for 20 years, in numerous roles from systems programmer to security officer, hardware engineer to auditor, I've learned many shortcuts and workarounds. If there is a loophole in your security infrastructure, I can probably find it—and that means that my fellow SOs probably can too!


As the most powerful users on the system, security personnel are presented with constant opportunity. Special authorities, such as *ALLOBJ, grant complete and uncontrollable access to every object on the system. And what programmer or SO doesn't at least request that level of access? Who knows enough to argue the reality of "necessary access" with a programmer or security officer? To make matters worse, command line restrictions are tough to enact for this group, since you can't secure and maintain a server without running commands.


The lack of motive is the only saving grace for most organizations. As system guardians, most SOs take their responsibility seriously. But we are also human. The last couple of years have been tough on most industries, and I think a person would be naive to think that fear of job loss doesn't impact ethics. We all like to believe that nothing could ever compromise our scruples, but that mortgage payment and college tuition bill isn't going to pay itself. I don't wish to dwell on a negative aspect, but the bottom line is that people will usually put family and personal responsibilities before corporate responsibility. As a security officer, it is my professional responsibility to acknowledge that I need to be secured as much as—actually more than—the data entry clerk. My position is not above reproach, and I need to ensure that the security controls that I establish pertain to everyone.

Finding the Balance

PowerTech Authority Broker is an award-winning solution from the leader in IBM i security solutions. Designed from the ground up to provide a secure environment for powerful users, Authority Broker easily satisfies even the most stringent audit requirements. Authority Broker helps you offset auditor concerns by removing day-to-day access to secure resources and powerful functions, yet it accommodates administration needs by enabling key personnel to continue to perform critical tasks. Working in conjunction with IBM's own auditing capabilities, Authority Broker provides on-demand access to an unlimited number of pre-authorized FireCall profiles, including QSECOFR, in both batch and interactive environments. But, unlike the operating system, Authority Broker comes with usage controls and notification, timing restrictions, and secure activity tracking and reporting (see Figure 1).



Figure 1: Authority Broker permits users to elevate authority in a secure manner. (Click image to enlarge.)


Simply put, if you have powerful users, you need Authority Broker. Click here to request a FREE Authority Broker Information Kit.

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


Robin Tatam

Robin Tatam is the Director of Security Technologies for PowerTech, a leading provider of security solutions for the System i. As a frequent speaker on security topics, he was also co-author of the Redbook IBM System i Security: Protecting i5/OS Data with Encryption. Robin can be reached at 952.563.2768 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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