Sidebar

Tips for Auditing an IBM i

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

In this article, Carol describes the system values, user profile attributes, and access control settings she'd recommend that auditors pay attention to.

I’m dedicating this article to auditors. I’ve found that many auditors have either never heard of IBM i or, if they have, don’t know how to audit it properly—that is, they miss key elements, or they use checklists developed 10 or more years ago, and the settings to be compared are often irrelevant or inaccurate. The capabilities of this operating system are vast, and the need to ensure the security principles of confidentiality, availability, and integrity apply just as they do on other operating systems. Let's take a look.

What Should You Be Examining?

There are key areas of the system that need to be examined. I’m not going to explain the details of each as that’s been done in other parts of this book, but here’s the list that I’d suggest you examine to ensure they’re set to best practices:

System Values

  • QSECURITY
  • QPWDLVL
  • QPWDRULES or the other, individual system values that define password composition
  • QPWDEXPITV
  • QMAXSIGN
  • QAUDCTL and QAUDLVL
  • QSSL*—Specifically QSSLPCL to ensure only strong protocols are in use
  • QCRTAUT—Ensure it’s never set to *ALL, meaning all newly created objects are created with the default (*PUBLIC) authority set to *ALL

While there are many other security-related system values, these are the ones that are critical to ensuring a secure system. For example, if QSECURITY is set to level 20 or 30, users can easily elevate their own privileges at will and neither operating system nor data integrity is guaranteed. If you are going to state that the audit of your client includes data integrity and/or confidentiality, the partition must be running at level 40 or 50. Period.

User Profile Attributes

  • Passwords
    • Default Passwords—No valid excuse exists for profiles having a default password (a password that’s the same as the user profile name).
    • PASSWORD(*NONE)—Note that this is actually a good security measure and is not a vulnerability on IBM i (as it is on some operating systems). Profiles without a password cannot be used for signon or a connection to the system.
  • Special Authorities—The capabilities provided by each special authority are described in Chapter 4. Assignment of each special authority needs careful examination. A special authority should not be assigned unless that user’s job function requires it. Most organizations have not implemented role-based access; therefore, many special authorities have been over-assigned. Often this occurs because an existing user’s profile is copied, rather than copying a “template” that has been configured with least privilege access and then modifying the profile accordingly.

Obviously, *ALLOBJ special authority is the capability to be scrutinized most. That’s because it provides *ALL authority to every object (file, command, program, library, directory, etc.) on the system. Considering least-privilege access, the only roles that should have *ALLOBJ are that of the system and security administrators. And please note, you must allow some profiles to have this authority! *ALLOBJ cannot be removed from all profiles. The OS requires the profile running some administrative tasks to have this special authority. And while there are vendor products that allow one to elevate one’s privileges—eliminating the need to have *ALLOBJ assigned to some profiles—they only work well in the “green-screen” environment. IBM ships some features that are available only in the Access Client Solutions (ACS) or Navigator for i browser interfaces; therefore, *ALLOBJ must be assigned directly to the profiles using these interfaces. If you insist on having *ALLOBJ removed, system administrators either will not be able to perform their jobs or will be forced into using the system-supplied, all-powerful profile QSECOFR, and that is not appropriate. QSECOFR should not be used for routine tasks. It should be used only to upgrade the operating system. Bottom line is that a small number of user profiles will need to have *ALLOBJ directly assigned to their profile to allow them to perform their system administrative duties.  

  • Group and Supplemental Groups—Don’t just look at the capabilities of the profile named as a user’s group profile. Make sure to also look at the profiles named in the supplemental group attribute. You must sum up the capabilities given to all of a user’s groups to determine the full capabilities granted to that user. Remember that special authorities assigned to the group(s) filter down to all of the members. For example, *ALLOBJ special authority assigned at the group, is, in effect, given to all members of that group. The same with private authorities and object ownership. If the group owns an object, all members, in effect, own the object and therefore have all rights to the object.
  • Limited Capability—Most users should be set to LMTCPB(*YES), meaning that if they can get to a command line, they can run only the commands that are allowed to be run by a limited user. By default, only a handful of commands are shipped with this configuration—commands such as SIGNOFF, Display Message (DSPMSG), etc. My goal with our clients is to have no more than 100 profiles set to LMTCPB(*YES) on their production partitions (this number includes IBM-supplied as well as vendor profiles). Development and QA partitions typically have more, and that’s usually appropriate for that type of system. This number may also be inflated if the organization has hired an outside vendor to help them manage their system. Each vendor profile will typically have administrator rights (i.e., *ALLOBJ special authority) as well as be set to limited *NO so they can manage the system.
  • Password Expiration Interval—This is one of the attributes that can be overridden at the user profile level. On occasion, I see a reasonable expiration interval set at the system value (QPWDEXPITV) but all user profiles set to *NOMAX, meaning that the user’s password never expires and, therefore, never has to be changed. More frequently, I see administrators set their own profiles to have a non-expiring password. The only profiles that should have a non-expiring password are those that are considered a “service account”—that is, a profile that is used to make connections to the system and for which a regularly expiring password could cause significant disruption in the business process associated with the profile.

Note that I have mentioned nothing about the User class attribute of the user profile. I see way too many auditors focus on this attribute when it is absolutely meaningless as an indicator of a user’s capability. It is never used by the system to check authority—in other words, it is never used to determine if a user can access an object or perform a task. User class is a way for administrators to initially configure which special authorities the user is granted, but after that, it is virtually meaningless. If you are looking at the user class attribute and assuming that because all profiles are set to *USER they have no special authorities, you couldn’t be more wrong. Even as the profile is created, you can set the user class to *USER and grant the profile all special authorities, including *ALLOBJ. Conversely, I could create a profile in the *SECOFR user class and grant them no special authorities. Stop looking at the User class! Forget about User class and examine the special authority attributes to ensure you have an accurate picture of users’ capabilities.

While there are other attributes of the user profile that you may want to examine (except for User class!), the ones I’ve described here are the primary attributes that define users’ capabilities.

Authority to Data

While most auditors do a great job of evaluating user profile capabilities, I’ve seen very few correctly assess access to data. I understand that it depends on the scope of the audit as to what database files need to be examined. But if you need to evaluate who has access to specific data—whether it’s financial, healthcare, PCI, or PII—you need to look beyond the application settings—that is, beyond the menu options users have been granted. To accurately evaluate who has access to the data, you must look at the object authorities and ownership of the database(s). Many administrators will tell you that “users only have access to data via the menu options provided to them.” And there is some truth to that statement. It’s true in the context of when the user accesses the application interfaces—for example, through a green-screen menu or via a browser interface. But unless a deny by default access control setting has been implemented, users can gain access through other interfaces outside of the application interfaces using protocols such as ODBC, FTP, or SSH, for example, or users with command line access (those configured as limited *NO or *PARTIAL) can read or modify the file through any number of vendor- or system-supplied commands.

To fully assess users’ access to data, you must look at the *PUBLIC authority setting, the list of any private authorities granted as well as the primary group if one has been assigned, along with the users and groups authorized to the authorization list if the object is secured by one. In addition, you must look at the object’s owner. If the owner is a group profile, every member owns that file—in other words, has *ALL authority to the file. If all application users are a member of that group, then all application users have *ALL authority to all data in the application; they are not simply only authorized to the menu options assigned. They have full authority to the entire application! And, unfortunately, this is the way many application vendors configure their applications—that is, they require application users to be a member of the profile that owns the application. In addition, as the system ships, the default *PUBLIC authority when an object is created is *CHANGE. So, unless changed, database files by default are created with a default access control setting (*CHANGE) that allows the files to be read or modified by any profile on the system. It goes without saying that this scenario poses a significant risk to the confidentiality and integrity of the data.

Summary

While not a comprehensive list of all areas that need to be audited, I hope that you’ve found this discussion of the most critical to be useful. I’m passionate about the need to adequately and correctly audit this system because it contains many organizations’ valuable data. If this helps one of you perform a more thorough or accurate audit of the system, then I’ve done my job.

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 - both focused on helping organizations achieve their IBM i Security goals. 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, CRISC and PCIP 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
BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

RESOURCE CENTER

  • WHITE PAPERS

  • WEBCAST

  • TRIAL SOFTWARE

  • 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.

     

  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline

     

     

  • 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 NodeRun.com 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

     

     

  • 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.

  • 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.