Partner TechTip: We've Been Hacked! But What Did the Intruder Access?

Security - Other
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

PowerTech DataThread provides critical visibility into data access.


2011 is quickly becoming the "Year of the Breach." Although the sun has barely set on the summer solstice, we've already heard of significant breaches at financial giants Citi and Bank of America, gaming organizations Sony PlayStation Network and Sega, and a number of well-known household names like Google, Michael's, Netflix, and Best Buy. While the cause of these events varied, the majority of them resulted in illegal access to confidential data. And, in the case of Netflix and Bank of America, a trusted employee simply handed the information to criminal outsiders.


Though regulatory compliance remains a key initiative for organizations in the months and years to come, the recent explosion of breaches involving companies that already have spent big money on compliance probably will shift the corporate focus to security. Too many organizations have viewed compliance as the ultimate goal, even when compliance standards outline only a minimum amount of security.

Multiple Layers Provide Protection

Most security experts recommend a layered approach to protecting critical infrastructure and data assets. Multiple layers increase the chance that an intruder will simply move to a less-protected target. Unfortunately, if someone wants access badly enough, we have to acknowledge the possibility that they'll get in. To prepare, it's best to deploy a net of proven controls that provide detection, notification, and auditing.

Start with a Strong Foundation

No discussion of IBM i security is complete without mentioning what IBM includes for "free." Object-level security is integrated, rock solid, and strongly recommended as a foundation layer. The difficulty for many organizations is finding the security expertise to implement it properly, which allows users to circumvent restrictions. Another challenge is the lack of separate authority designations for the numerous access methods found in a modern network. Despite these limitations, a good object-level foundation is crucial.

Build on the Foundation

PowerTech Network Security reinforces that foundation with firewall-like access controls and in-depth auditing over data access requests and commands from the network. Deployed on every partition, it helps monitor and control TCP server activity. Configured properly, it can limit the use of these powerful functions to business-use necessity.


Overly powerful users frequently are cited by auditors as one of their biggest concerns. Even if powerful authorities are restricted to programmers and administrators, the risk of unauthorized and uncontrolled access to system functions and private data remains. PowerTech Authority Broker provides a balance by allowing temporary access to elevated authority when users need it, while providing auditors with a detailed audit trail.

Track Database Changes as They Occur

PowerTech DataThread is the latest weapon in the war against unauthorized data access and tampering. It provides a quantum leap over IBM's basic object auditing by tracking data access at the record and field levels. You no longer have to guess who or what process accessed information in a critical file, and you don't need to assume it compromised your entire system database content.


DataThread processes information provided by the operating system in real time. A powerful workflow engine analyzes the activity and determines whether the event meets business rules. DataThread also differentiates between access that is expected and access that is not. Most of us don't want to be alerted each time an SQL update occurs as part of the nightly inventory update, but we certainly want the alarms to sound if someone accesses the personnel file using DFU at 11:00 p.m. The workflow process can react immediately, either by forcing the user to enter a password to electronically sign the database change or by sending an email to a supervisor for a critical field change (see Figure 1). It can react if the change is more than a specified percentage or amount, and it reports on the sequence of events to satisfy the auditors. DataThread is a powerful ally that eases the burden of tracking data anomalies.



Figure 1: The DataThread workflow process provides a complete view of database activity. (Click image to enlarge.)

Steps to a Secure Organization

Step One: Accept the reality that no method is 100 percent guaranteed to prevent unauthorized access to your data. Step Two: Deploy as many layers as necessary to monitor normal server and database use, and identify and react to anomalies in a timely manner. Step Three: Plan how your organization will manage a breach when it occurs.


Click here for more information on DataThread. To learn about PowerTech's line of professional security solutions for IBM i, visit

as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7, V6R1