How Bad Are Certain IBM i Security Settings? Not So Bad, Pretty Bad, or Really Bad?

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

I realize that I’ve spent a lot of time explaining best practices and what my recommendations are, but I don’t often explain why some settings aren’t the best. 

Some of my favorite magazines will describe a popular action and then explain why that practice is not so bad, pretty bad, or really bad. Using this method, I’m going to describe how bad certain security settings are.


QCRTAUT is the system value that sets the *PUBLIC authority when an object is created. IBM ships this value at *CHANGE. While it’s best practice to set this value to *EXCLUDE or *USE, I’m OK with it being left at *CHANGE as long as you set the Create authority value of all libraries containing data to *USE or *EXCLUDE. If I set QCRTAUT to *USE or *EXCLUDE, I generally set the Create authority value of vendor libraries to be *CHANGE, since they tested their code with QCRTAUT set to *CHANGE. So whether you set your data libraries’ Create authority attribute to *EXCLUDE and leave the system value at *CHANGE or set QCRTAUT to *EXCLUDE and change the vendor libraries, it accomplishes the same thing.

How bad is QCRTAUT set to *CHANGE? Not so bad.

However, it’s a different story when the QCRTAUT value has been set to *ALL. I cringe whenever we do a risk assessment and find QCRTAUT set to *ALL. That’s because it’s very difficult to predict what will fail when you change it. Even setting it back to the default of *CHANGE can cause failures. For example, processes that perform an Add Physical File Member (ADDPFM) need to have *CHANGE plus *OBJMGT to the *FILE. Same with Create Duplicate Object (CRTDUPOBJ). Clearing a physical file requires *OBJEXIST to the *FILE. So while you may think the only thing you’re preventing is the deletion of objects when you change QCRTAUT from *ALL back to *CHANGE, you may actually be preventing tasks that you may think should only require *CHANGE but actually require more.

How bad is it when QCRTAUT is set to *ALL? Really bad!


QSECURITY is the system value that sets the “tone” or security level of the system. While you may think that I’ll say that security level 20 is really bad and 30 is not so bad, you may be surprised. At security level 20, all users are—by default—created with *ALLOBJ and *SAVSYS special authorities. Because the same authority-checking algorithm is run at both levels, you can remove the *ALLOBJ special authority from non-administrator profiles and have a system that runs, essentially, like it’s set to QSECURITY = 30. The problem with running at a security level less than 40 is that you don’t have operating system integrity and you can easily run as a different profile, with the possibility of elevating your privileges to a very powerful profile (as in a profile with all special authorities). This is done by using a Job description (*JOBD) that specifies a user profile. At security level 20 and 30, I only need authority to the *JOBD, not the profile specified in the job description. Many vendors ship *JOBDs with their products, often naming a powerful profile. All I have to do is run a remote command, submitting a job using one of these *JOBDs, and I’ve elevated to a powerful profile. This cannot be prevented at level 20 and 30; however, it is inherently prevented at level 40 and above. (At level 40 and above, I have to have authority to both the *JOBD and the user profile named in the *JOBD.)

How bad is running at either security level 20 or 30? Really bad!


This system value sets the object auditing value when a new object is created. Setting the object auditing value to *ALL causes an audit journal entry to be generated every time the object is either read (a ZR entry) or updated (a ZC entry). This may sound like a best-practice setting, but before you set this system value to *ALL, you need to consider all of the objects being created on your system. Think of all of the data areas, user spaces, user queues, user indexes, database files, and other objects that are being read and updated on your system and how often that happens! Setting QCRTOBJAUD to *ALL tends to flood systems (as in, consume massive amounts of storage) with ZR and ZC entries because of temporary objects being deleted and recreated and read or updated multiple times in between. If you need to monitor when objects are both read and updated, a better approach is to either set the Create object audit value for the library the objects are being created into or be even more granular and run the Change Object Auditing (CHGOBJAUD) command to set the auditing value on a specific object or for all of the *FILEs in a particular library, for example. If you insist on changing the setting for the QCRTOBJAUD system value to something other than the shipped value of *NONE, choose *CHANGE. It’s typically the reads that consume the system storage. Auditing for updates only may be manageable from a system storage perspective.

How bad is setting QCRTOBJAUD to *ALL? Pretty bad!

Authorization Lists

I’m a big fan of authorization lists, especially when setting access controls for *FILEs. It allows me to grant access to many files (and other objects) all at once. I simply attach the authorization list to the objects and then grant users authority to the list. Whatever authority the users have to the authorization list, that’s the authority they have to the objects secured by the list.

The trick comes with setting *PUBLIC authority. When an object is secured with an authorization list, the object’s *PUBLIC authority can come either from the object itself or from the authorization list. My preference is to have it come from the authorization list. (To accomplish that, set *PUBLIC to *AUTL.) I especially want to do that when I’m working with a client and we’re reworking the security scheme of their application. At some point, we typically want to set all database files to be *PUBLIC *EXCLUDE. When all of the objects have been set to *PUBLIC(*AUTL), that’s easy to accomplish. Simply set the *PUBLIC authority of the authorization list to *EXCLUDE. If you don’t take that approach, you must go to each object and set the *PUBLIC authority on each object. That can be difficult, especially if the objects are *FILEs and the *FILEs are in use. I also like to set it on the authorization list to avoid confusion. If the object’s *PUBLIC authority is one value (say, *USE) and the authorization lists’ *PUBLIC authority is *CHANGE, which one does the system use? The answer is the object’s, but it’s easier if the setting just comes from the authorization list! Setting *PUBLIC authority on the authorization list also means that all authorities are coming from one place, so I don’t have to look at both the list and the object itself when trying to debug authority issues.

How bad is it when *PUBLIC authority comes from the object? Not so bad (just inconvenient and potentially confusing!).

Service Account Configuration

Most organizations have one or more profiles I refer to as “service accounts.” These are the profiles that don’t represent people. Rather, they run processes, often connecting to the system from other servers via FTP or ODBC. Most of you know to configure these service accounts to not allow signon—that is, set the Initial program (INLPGM) to *NONE and Initial menu (INLMNU) to *SIGNOFF. But it’s rare that I see the final step taken: setting the Attention program (ATNPGM) to *NONE. I can hear you saying, “But you can’t sign on to a 5250 emulation session with these settings.” True...except if you enter the user ID and password for the service account and press the Attention key when you get the message that the profile can’t sign on. If you press the Attention key quickly enough, you are taken to the Attention menu! Depending on the options on the Attention menu, and if you haven’t set the service account profile to LMTCPB(*YES), the profile may be used to enter commands and access data. When my team performs penetration testing for IBM i, we look for this scenario. When a service account has a default password (which is often the case), we are usually able to access data in this very unexpected way.

How bad is it to not set service accounts to best-practice settings? Pretty bad.

Password Level

QPWDLVL is the system value that sets the password level for the system. Leaving the system at the default of QPWDLVL = 0 exposes your enterprise to allowing a very weakly hashed version of the password that’s stored at level 0 or 2 to be exploited. This version of the password is only used by old clients. By “old,” I mean Windows 95, 98, and ME and Windows 2000 server. Hopefully, none of you are still using this technology. Or, if you are, you aren’t using these operating systems to map a drive to access the IBM i NetServer. Assuming this is the case, you can safely move up to either password level 1 (if running at 0) or password level 3 (if the system is currently running at 2.) For more information on moving to a higher password level, read this article.

How bad is running at password levels 0 or 2? Pretty bad.


QMAXSIGN is the system value that controls how many times people can guess their password before some action is taken. Setting this system value to *NOMAX means that users are allowed to try forever to try to get the right combination. While this might be OK when users are trying to log on with their own password, it’s not OK when someone is trying to sign on with a profile other than their own, or a hacker has entered your network, or an insider is trying to exploit someone else’s profile. Best-practice range for this value is 3–5, and the recommended action to take when the limit is reached is to disable the profile or disable the profile and the device being used.

How bad is it when QMAXSIGN is set to *NOMAX? Really bad!


I hope this discussion has been a fun way to provide perspective on why some settings are better than others.

Carol Woodbury

Carol Woodbury is President and CTO of DXR Security and has over 30 years’ experience with IBM i Security. She started 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 current company - DXR Security - specializes in penetration testing for IBM i. Her practical experience together with her intimate knowledge of the system combine for a unique viewpoint and experience level that cannot be matched.

Carol is known world-wide 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. 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 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

IBM i Security Administration and Compliance: Second Edition IBM i Security Administration and Compliance: Second Edition
Get the must-have guide by the industry’s #1 security authority.
List Price $71.95

Now On Sale

IBM i Security Administration and Compliance IBM i Security Administration and Compliance
For beginners to veterans, this is the definitive security resource.
List Price $69.95

Now On Sale

More Articles By This Author
Related Articles


Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have 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. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    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.

  • 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.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • 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.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

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

    FortraRobot 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

    FortraRobot 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.