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File Shares: Accessing Objects in the IFS

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
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File shares are what make the IFS, or part of the IFS, available for viewing or manipulation via the network. You use file shares when you want all users on the network to have access to something. Many organizations define file shares to allow users to map a drive and easily drag and drop documents to or retrieve them from a directory on IBM i.

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from chapter 7 of IBM i Security Administration and Compliance: Third Edition, by Carol Woodbury.

It’s important to note that although an individual file or the entire root directory may be shared on the network, users still need the appropriate authority to a directory or file to perform the intended request. Just because a file is shared doesn’t mean everyone can read it. That ability is still determined by the object authority settings on the directory or library being shared. (Yes, you can share a library!)

The list of shares that have been defined can be viewed using Navigator for i. Go to My Connections > system_name > File Systems > File Shares. (See Figure 7.5.) From this display, you can add, modify, or delete a file share. It also lists the number of users currently connected to the share. This is helpful information if you are trying to delete a share or modify it from read/write to read-only. If you want to delete the share but users are connected to it, right-click on the share name > Properties > Sessions to see the list of users currently connected. Note that this is a point in time. Users who connected earlier in the day and then disconnected won’t be listed, for example.

To create a new file share, you use Navigator. Go to My Connections > system_name > File Systems > Integrated File System, right-click the directory or library you want to share, and select Sharing. You can choose to make the share read-only or read/write. If at all possible, make the share a read-only share since it will prevent uploading to that location. You can also choose how many users can use the share at one time.

File Shares: Accessing Objects in the IFS - Figure 1

Figure 7.5: Listing of file shares

The Risk of File Shares

Prior to the onslaught of malware, the risk that file shares posed was exposing data to users in user interfaces that allowed for easy manipulation (including deletion) when you didn’t have a good object-level security scheme in place—in other words, when users had more authority than was appropriate. While that risk remains, the risk today is from malware. Specifically, the risk manifests itself when a user is attached to a read/write share and their workstation is infected by malware. At that point, IBM i looks like any other drive attached to the workstation, so when the malware is fin- ished infecting the workstation, it marches right across to whatever has been shared on IBM i. If that share happens to be to root (/), your entire system—I repeat, your entire system—is open to infection. I have seen malware that renames directories as well as ransomware that wreaks havoc on IBM i systems that have a read/write share to root. The attack is most successful when root has been left at its shipped value of DTAAUT(*RWX) OBJAUT(*ALL).

Unlike on Windows, you can’t set the access for a file share. Once you’ve created a share, it is available for all network users who possess an IBM i user profile and password.

When creating file shares, follow these guidelines:

  • First and foremost, you should never create a read/write share to share root.
  • You should also never create a read/write share to /QSYS.lib as this will share all of your libraries. If you need to allow sharing of the contents of a library, create the share on that library, not on QSYS.
  • If you create a share to root (or /QSYS.lib), create it as read-only and add a dollar-sign character ($) on the end. (Adding a $ to the end of the file share name causes it to not be browsable on the network.)
  • Create the file share directly at the point that needs to be shared, no higher.
  • Create shares as read-only whenever possible.
  • If you don’t want the share to be discoverable on the network, add a $ to the end of the name.

File Shares: Accessing Objects in the IFS - Technical Note

Review (and Remove) File Shares

Many systems—especially development systems—have an overabundance of file shares, meaning there are multiple shares for the same directory, shares that point to objects that no longer exist, and shares that are no longer in use. Most of the shares have been added without any realization as to what is being made available to the entire network.

To prevent users from being able to create file shares, change the QZLSADFS (Add File Share) and QZLSCHRS (Change File Share) APIs from their default setting of *USE to *PUBLIC *EXCLUDE.

IBM i NetServer

The IBM i NetServer is what makes IBM i a file server. Two aspects of the NetServer have security implications. The first is that the NetServer can have a guest profile assigned to it. The functionality is as it sounds: when someone connects to the system via a file share, when a guest profile has been assigned to the NetServer, they don’t have to authenticate. They simply map a drive to a file share, and then they have access to whatever the guest profile has authority to access.

Two obvious problems arise from this. First, if multiple people connect as the same user, accountability is lost. Second, if you have not implemented a “deny by default” object security model, users will have whatever the *PUBLIC authority setting happens to be. For example, if the *PUBLIC authority of all database files is *ALL and the root directory has been shared, then every person who has access to your organization’s network can map a drive using the root share, connect without entering a valid IBM i user ID and password, and delete any file on your system!

To review the configuration of the NetServer and the list of users currently connected via a file share, open Navigator for i. Open Network, then Servers, then click on All Tasks. Open IBM i NetServer and choose Properties; when the properties are displayed, choose Security. Figure 7.6 shows that a guest profile—GUESTPROF—has been assigned to the NetServer.

File Shares: Accessing Objects in the IFS - Figure 2

Figure 7.6: Reviewing the NetServer configuration

To remove the guest profile, click Next Start, then blank out the Guest user ID field. Click OK, then stop and restart the server. To review the list of connected sessions, choose Sessions rather than Properties.

To Virus Scan or Not Virus Scan?

Although the IBM i operating system isn’t affected by PC- or UNIX-based viruses and worms, the objects stored in the IFS can be. In addition, the IFS has proven many times that it can very efficiently and effectively store and propagate viruses. Today, most viruses are caught by firewalls, routers, or email scanners and never reach the IFS. However, many organizations have processes that directly place objects into the IFS without passing them through a virus scanner—perhaps a download from a bank, EDI transactions, or FTP from a trading partner. If there’s any opportunity for something to be placed into the IFS without first being virus scanned, you’re putting your system at risk if you don’t scan the IFS. The most effective way to scan the IFS is to use a native virus scanner. I do not recommend that you point a virus scanner engine at the IFS and scan that way. That’s because this method actually creates more vulnerabilities on your system. It requires a read/write share to root (/), and the connection must be established using a profile with *ALLOBJ so that you can be assured all directories are scanned (even those that have been secured), and then, when the scan runs, the entire contents of your IFS are sent over your network in cleartext to the server doing the scan. Not only does this cause excessive network traffic, but all of your information in the IFS is being sent through your network in cleartext. (See why I don’t recommend this method?)

Native-running vendor solutions will use two security-related system values together with exit points to enable both static and real-time virus scanning. These features will allow you to determine when you want files to be scanned.

Tips for Avoiding Malware

Malware can and does affect IBM i. Just because the operating system itself is virus “resistant,” do not be lulled into thinking the system can’t be affected by malware or it can’t happen to your organization. If it never happens, great! But if it does, wouldn’t you rather be prepared? Here are some of the actions you can take to reduce the risk of the system being affected by malware:

  • DO NOT SHARE ROOT! There is no need to share root, especially with a read/write share. If you must share root, then make it a read-only share to ensure malware cannot affect objects on IBM i. But it’s better to not share root at all. Why? Because as I mentioned earlier, it shares the entire system, not just the So if someone maps to root, they can see the entire structure of the system. I would prefer not to expose the system in this way. Instead, create shares at the point that needs to be shared, no higher.
  • Create shares as read-only whenever possible.
  • Hide the share so it cannot be discovered by adding a $ to the end of the name when it’s created, e.g., ShareName$.
  • Reduce the permissions on directories to read-only or *EXCLUDE wherever possible to reduce or restrict access.
  • Reduce the number of users with *ALLOBJ special authority. An *ALLOBJ user mapped to a file share on IBM i will provide the malware with sufficient authority to do whatever it wants, regardless of the authorities on the That’s also why it’s important to make the shares read-only where possible. Users with *ALLOBJ will still only be able to read the contents when connected to a read-only share.
  • Reduce the number of users with *IOSYSCFG special authority. You can create a file share if you have *IOSYSCFG even if you have no authority to the directory being shared.
  • If you have exit point software, now’s the time to use it! Put rules in place to restrict who can access the system via the file server exit. (Note: It is not sufficient to simply Rules must be in place to block access.)
  • Restrict access to the /QSYS.lib file system when using Windows Explorer (and Navigator for i) by restricting access to (excluding users from) the QPWFSERVER authorization list.

Final Advice

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, the IFS is the most ignored part of IBM i— especially when it comes to security. Now is the time to start addressing security in the IFS. If you do nothing else, follow my guidelines for avoiding malware.

Helpful Tools

The IBM i SECTOOLS menu provides two tools to help you manage authorities to IFS objects. Both the PRTPUBAUT (Print Public Authority) command and the PRTPVTAUT (Print Private Authority) command let you specify a pathname for the object name. When specifying a directory, you also have the option to search the subdirectories and include those objects in the report. Warning: if you run the report for root (/), the printed report for either command can be huge.

Two other commands can be helpful in determining ownership and other object attributes for objects in a directory. The RTVDIRINF (Retrieve Directory Information) command produces an intermediate file of information, which you can then print using the PRTDIRINF (Print Directory Information) command. Unfortunately, the file produced by running RTVDIRINF is in a format that renders the command unusable for running queries or using SQL statements to produce customized reports.

SQL Views

Beginning with V7R4 TR (Technology Refresh) 1 and V7R3 TR7, IBM has provided the following views to help you manage IFS objects, including usage information. This is very helpful when trying to clean up (get rid of) obsolete objects.

  • IFS_JOB_INFO
  • IFS_OBJECT_LOCK_INFO
  • IFS_OBJECT_REFERENCES_INFO
  • IFS_OBJECT_STATISTICS

 

Carol Woodbury

Carol Woodbury is President and CTO at DXR Security, a company dedicated to helping organizations improve the security of their IBM i Systems - one step at a time. Previously, she was Vice President of Global Security Services for HelpSystems and President of SkyView Partners, a firm that specialized in security services and security administration and compliance software before it was acquired by HelpSystems. Carol's foundation of security experience comes from her 16 years with IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, where she served for 10 years as the AS/400 Security Architect and Chief Engineering Manager of Security Technology for IBM's Enterprise Server Group. During that time, Carol provided security architecture and design consultations with IBM Business Partners and larger AS/400 customers.

Carol is known worldwide as an author and award-winning speaker on security technology, specializing in IBM i security issues. She has authored six books on IBM i security. Carol holds the CISSP, CRISC, and PCIP security certifications and has been named an IBM Champion since 2018.


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

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    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.