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System Sentinel: Moving to an Exclusionary Access Control Model, Part 2

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Last month's article talked about why, in today's IT environments, an exclusionary access control model is required to enforce all but the most lax security policy requirements. It also discussed why many shops are naively reluctant to take on the task of implementing object access control and why alternatives such as "security exit point solutions," while useful, are not an alternative to using object-level access control to implement an exclusionary access control model. The article concluded with a description of how the system determines the level of PUBLIC authority it assigns to newly created objects when that authority is not explicitly specified at the time of creation.

This month, armed with the knowledge from last month, we'll discuss a process you can use to implement an exclusionary access control model on your existing systems. This process allows you to make incremental changes to your system on an application-by-application basis, while limiting the potential of impacting your production systems.

While this process may take a relatively long time to complete for a system with a large number of libraries and applications, it allows you to work on parts of the system in a way that won't impact the rest of it. It means you won't have to carve out one contiguous block of time to make all necessary changes to the whole system while all of your other responsibilities pile up without getting done. It also means that you can attack parts of the problem, slightly improving the security of your organization, and then work on something else before coming back to make more improvements or to move to the next part of the system.

In this case, doing something--even a little bit at a time--is definitely much more valuable than doing nothing.

First Things First

To implement an exclusionary access control policy, start by making a list of your applications and the libraries they use for application data.

Users should require only *USE to most applications. In general, PUBLIC should be excluded from most mission-critical applications as well as application data. The process defined here is done an on application-by-application basis, so this list is a must.

Directories in IFS also have a mechanism for specifying the PUBLIC authority policy of the directory. It works a bit differently and does not use the system PUBLIC authority policy (i.e., QCRTAUT). This article addresses libraries, but you can use a similar approach on directories.

The Process

Our goal is to implement an exclusionary access control policy. This means we want the system PUBLIC authority policy to be *EXCLUDE and, unless we explicitly choose a different policy for a specific library, the library PUBLIC authority policy to be *SYSVAL.

Changing the access control model of one application without affecting any others involves accomplishing three objectives:

  1. First, change the library policy for the system and libraries to *CHANGE. Start by using CHGLIB to change the CRTAUT attribute for QSYS. Then, for each application, change the application's library PUBLIC authority policy to use *CHANGE rather than *SYSVAL. This removes any dependency on the system policy. When this change is made for all mission-critical application libraries, you can change the system PUBLIC authority policy with little fear of impacting production.
  2. Second, reduce the library PUBLIC authority policy for an individual application to the lowest value that allows the application to be used successfully by authorized users of the application. If you can reduce this value to *EXCLUDE, go ahead and change the library PUBLIC authority policy back to *SYSVAL. Then test the application. After successful testing, put the changes into production and start on the next application. It's not a bad idea to run these changes in production for one business cycle just to be sure that there will be no impacts.
  3. The third and final objective is to change PUBLIC authority to existing objects. This will require the most time and effort.

The first two objectives involve changing the PUBLIC authority policy of the system (i.e., QCRTAUT system value) and of libraries (CRTAUT library attribute). This will affect only newly created objects and libraries. While this is a useful and necessary accomplishment, you don't really have an exclusionary access control model until you accomplish the third objective: minimizing the PUBLIC authority on existing objects and libraries.

The easiest way to attack these objectives is to take a single application through the first objective, test it, and roll the changes for that application into production. Then do the same for each of your other applications. Once you have taken all applications through the first objective, do the same for the second and third objectives.

Don't try to take one application through all of the objectives or all applications through a single objective at once. It might take a little longer doing it this way, but you'll minimize the chances of major disruptions to your production systems.

Once you have implemented your exclusionary access control model, the next logical goal is to focus on minimizing the private authority to application data required by authorized users of applications. This goal will likely require changing many of your applications (and is therefore outside the scope of this article).

Let's look at each objective in more detail.

Objective 1: Set the System and Library PUBLIC Authority Policies to *EXCLUDE

To attain the first objective, you will change how the system derives *CHANGE as the default public authority for newly created libraries and objects.

The first item to change is the CRTAUT value on library QSYS. Change it from *SYSVAL to *CHANGE. This will allow you and applications to continue to create new libraries that have a default public authority of *CHANGE--even after you change QCRTAUT to *EXCLUDE. Make this change only if the current value of CRTAUT on library QSYS is set to *SYSVAL.

Next, use your lists of applications and the libraries they use. Working with one application at a time, if the CRTAUT value for an application library is currently set to *SYSVAL, change it to *CHANGE; otherwise, leave it alone. Test the application to ensure it still runs correctly. Do this for each application or for all applications. If you have a large number of applications, it will ultimately be easier to manage the process one application at a time.

When all applications have been accounted for and changed appropriately, set the QCRTAUT system value to *EXCLUDE. Retest the applications. Roll out the changes to production and run for at least one business cycle to ensure no applications have been affected.

If you are running on i5/OS, operating system functions will continue to work appropriately, regardless of the value of QCRTAUT and the QSYS CRTAUT attribute.
If any applications fail, you should be able to determine why and make appropriate changes to public authority for that application. If not, you should very firmly demand that the application provider either explain how to use the application securely or fix it.

Your system behavior and security posture will be essentially the same as it was before making these changes. However, you now have the ability to begin to implement a real exclusionary access control model on an application-by-application basis with little or no effect on other applications.

Objective 2: Reduce the PUBLIC Authority Assigned to Newly Created Objects in Libraries

The second objective is to reduce the QCRTAUT attribute on existing libraries to the minimum required by the application to work as normal without changes. This will require some knowledge of the application and how it's implemented. While this objective is definitely worthwhile, you may find a large number of applications that won't work without the default being set to *CHANGE or without some additional configuration or application changes. But this step lets you get to the low-hanging fruit.

This first step in this objective is aimed at learning whether the application is dependent on the value of the CRTAUT attribute on the library. It may not be if the application has already created all of the objects in the application library that it needs. Or the application may continue to create new objects, explicitly setting the public authority it needs.

The second part of the objective is to change the value of the CRTAUT attribute to the lowest you possibly can without impacting your users' use of the application. If the application is not dependent on the value of the CRTAUT library attribute, change it to *EXCLUDE. If you determine the application is dependent on the value of this attribute, it may not require *CHANGE. If it works with *USE, change the CRTAUT library attribute accordingly. Change the CRTAUT parameter to *EXCLUDE on as many libraries as possible. Reduce the value to something less than *CHANGE on as many of the remaining libraries as possible.

Test your changes and roll them out to production. After at least one business cycle in which all critical applications are executed, if no problems are encountered, change each library with the CRTAUT value set to *EXCLUDE back to *SYSVAL. You have now changed the configuration of these applications to use the standard indirect derivation of default *PUBLIC authority for objects newly created in the library. No changes are required for libraries having other values for the CRTAUT attribute.

Objective 3: Reduce the PUBLIC Authority Required on Existing Libraries and Objects

The purpose of this objective is to tighten up security of existing objects. However, rather than attempting to set PUBLIC *EXCLUDE in one giant leap, we'll focus on reducing PUBLIC authority to the minimum required for authorized employees to continue to run them successfully--without changes to the application.

This objective requires careful testing of the changes you make before you roll them into production. Work with one application at a time. You will need to understand what the application does in order to make reasonable guesses about the PUBLIC authority really required in order for the application to run successfully.

If you have existing groups and authorization lists, you will likely be able to easily and quickly reduce PUBLIC authority for the application's library to *EXCLUDE. If not, you may still be able to reduce PUBLIC to *USE.

Grant *CHANGE to the library or authorization list that you will use to secure the library to those user profiles or group profiles that represent the set of all authorized users of the application. Then, change the PUBLIC authority to the library to *EXCLUDE.

Do enough testing at this point to feel confident that you haven't introduced any problems. If there are no problems, reduce the authority granted to users and groups to *USE. Then perform extensive testing.

If authorized users are no longer able to run the application successfully, undo the last change you made and add this application to a list that will need more in-depth analysis. Do the same thing for the next application.

If authorized users are able to successfully run the application with *USE, follow the same approach for objects in the library. These objects are likely to be more sensitive to changes in private authority. Use your knowledge of how the application works to make reasonable guesses about the authority authorized users will need to the objects. For example, database files are likely to require *CHANGE, while executables are likely to require only *USE.

Once you have done this for every application, you have accomplished your goal! You have moved your system to an exclusionary access control model.

Don't Take Unnecessary Risks

In today's environments, very few if any IT shops can afford the consequences of an open access control model, which includes the possibility of having to defend the adequacy of that model in court.

The problem with an open model is that when you make a mistake, users have access to something they shouldn't. Alternatively, a mistake in an exclusionary model simply means users can't access something they should be able to. It's difficult to determine whether someone has accessed something they shouldn't when the access control mechanism indicates that the person is authorized to the object. On the other hand, it is pretty easy to learn that someone can't access something to which they should be authorized. Therefore, moving to an exclusionary access control model should be one of the highest priority projects on your IT work list.

The process for moving to an exclusionary access control model as defined in this article allows you to move the entire system to an exclusionary model over time and at a pace that you and your organization can handle.

I strongly urge you to start the journey today!

Patrick Botz is currently responsible for security within IBM’s Virtualization Engine. Prior to that, he was the lead security architect for OS/400 and i5/OS. Pat was also the lead architect for IBM’s Server Group’s Single Sign-On. He started his career maintaining basic compilers, moved on to Electronic Computer Aided Design development and support in distributed UNIX environments. Along with Carol Woodbury, Pat recently co-authored the book Experts' Guide to OS/400 and i5/OS Security and is working on another devoted to eliminating passwords on server systems.

Pat Botz

Patrick Botz, an internationally known information security expert, is the President and CTO of Botz & Associates, a firm specializing in information security services for IBM i, AIX, UNIX, and Linux environments. 

With decades of experience in key system security positions, Patrick's expertise includes security strategy; security policy enforcement; password management and single sign-on; industry and government compliance; and biometrics.

As Lead Security Architect at IBM and founder of the IBM Lab Services security consulting practice, Patrick worked with IBM customers worldwide and achieved intimate knowledge of system security capabilities and pitfalls on a broad spectrum of platforms, with special emphasis on IBM i (formerly AS/400), AIX, Linux and Unix operating systems. He architected the SSO solution for OS/400 and i5/OS, and he holds several security-oriented patents. 

Early in his tenure at IBM, Patrick lead the AIX workstation tools team for CAD/CAM systems in Rochester, MN. Previous to IBM, he worked for Control Data Corporation with responsibility for CDC's Basic compiler, and for ETA Systems, Inc., a wholly owned supercomputer manufacturing subsidiary of CDC, where he was the team leader for the distributed, Unix-based Electronic Computer-Aided Design (ECAD) tools.

Patrick is the author of numerous trade press articles and a co-author of the book Expert's Guide to OS/400 and i5/OS SecurityIn addition, he is a worldwide speaker on various platform-specific and general security topics.

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    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.

     

     

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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.