Annual Checkup

By Rich Loeber

A few years ago, when I passed the age when I thought I might live forever and started maturing (a little), I decided that it would be a good idea to go see my doctor once a year for an annual checkup.  It was paid for by insurance and there was just no good reason not to go.  That first checkup (after many years of neglect, I might add) turned out OK.  The doctor told me a few things that I already knew (loose weight, get more exercise) and generally thought that I was doing OK.

After that first checkup, I got the annual appointment into my schedule and started going faithfully.  Then, after we moved up to the mountains of Northern New York, the doctor at our new home came back with a different response to my checkup.  He saw some things that didn’t look right and wanted to schedule some additional tests.  To make a long story short, he found a blocked cardiac artery and we were able to deal with it well before the onset of a heart attack.

What, you ask, does this have to do with computer security on your IBM i system?  Just this …. you need to do a full system checkup at least once a year just to see if there are any surprises.  I have done dozens of these checkups over the years on systems under my responsibility and I ALWAYS find something that needs attention.  If you’re responsible for system security, you need to do this, and year end is a good time to be thinking about it.  Nobody gets much work done during the last couple of weeks of the year and it’s a good time to go tinkering around in your system.

So, what should you include in your checkup?  Here’s a list of things to start with.  It is by no means comprehensive but will probably get you started and lead you into the areas where you need to be concerned:

●    Check the security settings in your system values using the Print System Security Attributes [PRTSYSSECA] command and reconcile differences on your system from the recommended settings.
●    List the user profiles on your system and check for employees who have left or changed their job assignment.
●    Create a database of your user profiles using the DSPUSRPRF command with the *OUTFILE option, then run a series of query reports to search for expired passwords, profiles with *ALLOBJ authority, and so on as appropriate for your installation.
●    Run the Security Wizard in the IBM i  Navigator (Or Access Client Solutsion) and check any differences on your system from the recommendations suggested.
●    Using the user profile database already created, list your user profiles by group to make sure that the groups are set up as you expect to see them.
●    Create a database of all *FILE objects on your system using the DSPOBJD command with the *OUTFILE option.  Then generate a report using your favorite query tool of new files created since your last audit and make sure that security on these new objects complies with established policies.
●    Run the Analyze Default Passwords [ANZDFTPWD] command to make sure that no default passwords exist on your system.
●    Check *FILE objects on your system with *PUBLIC access authority using the Print Publicly Auth Objects [PRTPUBAUT] command.  Make sure that the objects with public access all comply with established policies.
●    Go to the SECTOOLS menu and see if any of the options available can be of specific help to your audit efforts.
●    Review your backup process and offsite storage arrangements.  Do a physical inspection of the offsite location and make sure you can quickly and easily identify and retrieve backup sets.

Due to space constraints, this is not a comprehensive list but is intended to get you started on the audit process.  As you go through it, document both what you are doing and your findings.  That way, when next year end rolls around, you’ll be better prepared for the process and you’ll have a baseline to compare your results with.  Good luck, and I hope you don’t find any clogged arteries!

If you have any questions about this topic, you can reach me at rich at kisco.com, I’ll give it my best shot.  All email messages will be answered.

Anatomy of an IBM i Hack Attempt

By Rich Loeber

Kisco Information Systems keeps a lone IBM i server connected directly to the Internet in order to test it’s SafeNet/i exit point security software in a real world environment. In the past, we have reported on our experience with quarterly reports in 2013 and even an update earlier this year in March 2017.

Last month we experienced an unusual and persistent hack attempt that surprised us by its depth and the amount of time that was used.  This blog post is to report on what happened and, perhaps, remind everyone about how important it is to take hacking seriously in this day and age.

Starting at 20:30 on October 20, 2017 someone from IP address 79.137.65.236 began a persistent FTP script attack on our server.  This happened on a Saturday evening when nobody was in the office to notice any unusual network traffic. The attack consisted of signon attempts via the FTP server using a very long series of profile names.  The signon attempts were repeated every few seconds.

The script being used called for each of the hack attempts to be repeated 85 times with the same user profile.  We don’t capture the passwords being used, but it is obvious that each attempt was trying to use a different password.  In our case, since our SafeNet/i did not recognize the IP address that was being used as a valid client address, the IBM i OS never got to the point of password validation and subsequent deactivation of the profile by the OS.

The user profiles used during this hack attempt were mostly comprised of common English first names such as ANDREA, BARBARA, KIM, ROBERT and so on.  There were also a few coomon Hispanic names used such as JUAN and FERNANDO.  Other profiles were also used and some of them got special attention with additional signon attempts.  The profile name ADMINISTRA was used 255 times (85 three times?).  Other common profiles that deserved extra attention included ADMIN, INFO, SPAM, “NULL” and, for some reason, BARBARA, all of which were attempted 170 times (85 twice?).

In addition to these common profile names, quite a few other “common” technical terms were  used, each for its own series of 85 tries.  These included profile names like ABACUS, ACCESS, ACCOUNT, ADMIN, APPLE, BACKUP, DEMO, GARAGE, MAIL, MAILSCANNE, ORANGE, NETGEAR1, PASSWORD, PAYMENTS, POSTMASTER, QWERTY, QWERASDF, SALES, SCANNER, TEMP, TEST, USER, WEB, WEBMASTER, WELCOME,123 and SYSADMIN.

The hack came to an end on Sunday morning when I received an email from SafeNet/i advising  me that thousands of break in attempts had been made.  When I checked the system I found that it was still going on and simply turned the FTP server off.  Nobody needed FTP on a Sunday morning.  I restarted the FTP server about an hour later, but the hack did not resume.

After the hack was done, I did a lookup using the IP address that was used and it traced back to the RIPE Network Coordination Center in The Netherlands.  A few days later we reported the abuse attempt to them.  Shortly after reporting it, we received a standard reply email that was un-formatted and very difficult to read.  We went to the RIPE website and there was a place to trace the IP address within their organization and it traced back to an organization in France.  An abuse report submitted to them has not been answered as of yet.  Based on past experience, trying to trace back an abuser is a rabbit hole that you can rarely get out of.  In the past, we have tried reporting hack attempts to the local police, state police and the FBI, always to no avail.

There are some take away things to think about from just this one hack attempt.  You should consider the following:

  • Review your user profiles and look for common English first names.  Consider changing them to something more complex.
  • Stay away from common technical terms, and even some uncommon ones, for user profile use.
  • Don’t run the FTP server when it isn’t needed.  The FTP script hack is the one used most frequently.  If the server isn’t active, it can’t be hacked.
  • Make sure that you have exit point software installed and active to control which IP addresses are allowed to connect to your system.  Our SafeNet/i does this and successfully fended of this entire hacking scenario on our box.

The whole point of the FTP hack is to discover working user profiles and, hopefully, also uncover one that is using a very common password.  Once a hacker has this, they are ready to come back via Telnet or some other server connection and really get into your system.  You need to be prepared to stop them before that can happen.

If you have questions about details of the report, feel free to contact me directly by email (rich at kisco.com).

Watch Your User Profiles

By Rich Loeber

Once you’ve set up a user profile on your IBM i systems, are you tracking changes to it over it’s lifetime?

The user profile is your first line of defense in the ongoing battle of protecting your system.  When a new employee shows up for work, you go to great lengths to get their profile set up just right.  You make sure that they get access to the menus and files they need to get their work done and you set up their object access accordingly.  If you’ve been at this a while, you probably already have a mental checklist of all the things that you need to do for a new user in each department or work group in your shop.

But, what about subsequent changes to those profiles.  Are you watching these updates to make sure that your carefully engineered security scheme is being maintained over the life of each user profile?

In the IBM i OS, there are a couple of ways that you can monitor for this.

First, you can use the system security audit journal as an after-the-fact review process for user profile changes and updates.  To run this report, use the Display Audit Journal Entries (DSPAUDJRNE) command.  Prompt the command using the F4 key and select the entry type code CP (Change user profile entries).  The resulting report will show you at least some of the user profile change activity for the selected period of time on your system.

If you want more immediate information about user profile changes, then the only alternative is for you to code an exit program.  There are four possible exit points that you can use on the system to track user profile activity:

QIBM_QSY_CRT_PROFILE    Create User Profile
QIBM_QSY_CHG_PROFILE    Change User Profile
QIBM_QSY_DLT_PROFILE    Delete User Profile (2 points, one before the other after)
QIBM_QSY_RST_PROFILE    Restore User Profile

An exit point is a marker in the IBM i OS where you can attach your own program.  The OS will call your program, passing parameters, during the process of working with these user profile events.  You can code your program do meet your very specific needs.  This can include on-line notification, detailed change tracking, rules enforcement and more.  You can even pass a return code back to the exit point indicating that the profile change should be disallowed.

Your will find more details about creating exit programs to work with these user profile exit points in the IBM i Security Reference manual.  Registering your program can be done using the Work With Registration Information (WRKREGINF) command.  You will see many exit points displayed, be sure to limit your changes to the specific exits named above.

If you don’t want to code your own solution, there is an audit reporting feature built into Kisco’s iEventMonitor software that can be used for near real time reporting of profile change events.  It is available for a free trial if you’d like to find out if would be helpful in your situation.

If you have any questions about this topic, you can reach me at rich at kisco.com.  I’ll give it my best shot.  All email messages will be answered.

Snooping On Critical Files

By Rich Loeber

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that last time around, I presented a method where you can use IBM i/OS object auditing to keep track of who is doing what with selected files and objects.  That’s a good way to keep a record of what’s happening with these critical resources on your system, but no matter how often you check results, it is always after the fact.  This time, I’ll give you a way to track and report on file access for read, change and/or delete with immediate, real time notification.  Using this method, you’ll know right away when someone is in the critical file you want to keep an eye on.  And, nobody will know about it except you, if you can keep quiet about something this cool.

To accomplish this trick, we’ll create a very simple trigger program and then associate it with the file you want to track.  Keeping the trigger program simple is a key to success for this method of object tracking control.  Keep in mind that every time the file is accessed for the method you choose (which you will see as you read on), the trigger program will be run by the system and it will run in line with the application that is accessing your file.  I’ll put in some cautions along the way to point out where this might be an issue.

A trigger program is nothing more than a standard IBM i/OS *PGM object.  When it is associated with a *FILE, the OS will call the program according to the instructions you provide with the trigger file registration.  Your trigger program must have two parameters, one for information about the event and the other a simple binary two byte number that will provide you with the length of the first parameter information.  The first parm can be variable, but for a simple application like this one, you can code it at a fixed length.  The variable length is there to support multiple record length files and the actual record contents are passed to the trigger program, but for our purposes, we won’t be using that part of the information.  I code the first parameter with a length of 136 and the second parameter with a length of 2.  The first 30 positions of parameter 1 contain the file name, library name and member name in that order.  Position 31 will have an indicator as to the trigger event and position 32 has the trigger time indicator.

You associate the trigger program with the file by using the Add Physical File Trigger (ADDPFTRG) command.  The parameters on this are fairly self explanatory.  Since you don’t want to hold up production, use the *AFTER option for your trigger time setting.
The trigger event will indicate when you want the trigger to be called and the values are:

  • *INSERT – whenever a record is added to the file
  • *DELETE – whenever a record is deleted from the file
  • *UPDATE – whenever an existing record is changed in the file
  • *READ – whenever an existing record in the file is read

A word of warning about using the *READ option, this can generate a huge number of calls to your trigger program and it is probably for the best if you avoid using it.  If you want to track multiple events, you will have to register each one with a separate use of the ADDPFTRG command.

When you’re all done with your tracking project, remember to clear your trigger file registrations.  This is done using the Remove Physical File Trigger (RMVPFTRG) command.  Just use the defaults once the file is specified and all of the trigger registrations can be removed at once.

How you code your trigger program itself depends on what you want to find out.  If you’re looking for a specific user profile, then check for it.  If you’re looking for a specific time of day or day of the week, check for that.  When you’ve found something that qualifies, or if you just want to report on everything, use the SNDMSG to send a message to your user profile (or a list of user profiles that you store in a data area) and you’re done.  If you use the SNDDST to send an email notification, it would be best to do this via a SBMJOB so that the application processing is not held up while you get this sent.

To better explain this technique, I’ve written a simple CLLE program that can be used with any file and contains comments along the way to show different options that you might want to implement.  If you’d like a copy of this trigger file shell program for free, just let me know and I’ll send you a copy via Email.

If you don’t want to bother with coding your own solution, Kisco’s iFileAudit software has this capability built in along with a lot of other neat ways to keep track of what’s going on with your files.  It is available for a free trial on your system.

You can reach me at rich at kisco.com, I’ll do my best to answer.  All email messages will be answered.

Tracking Use On Critical Files/Objects

By Rich Loeber

Most shops have at least one, and probably more than one, mission critical information assets stored on the IBM i system.  If you’re doing your job as security officer, that asset is locked up tight to make sure that only authorized user profiles can get to it.  But, do you know for a fact who is actually accessing that critical data?

Here is one way that you can review who is reading and even who is changing data on an individual object-by-object basis on your system.  That is by using object auditing, a built-in feature of the IBM i OS.

For starters, you have to have to have Security Auditing active on your system.  You can do a quick double check for this using the Display Security Auditing (DSPSECAUD) command.  If security auditing is not active, you will need to get it up and active on your system.  That is a process for a different tip.  If you need help getting this started, send me an email (see below).

With security auditing active, you can set up access tracking on an object-by-object basis using the Change Object Auditing (CHGOBJAUD) command.  Depending on what you’re objective is, you can set the OBJAUD parameter to a number of values.  Check the HELP text for more information.  If you want to check everything, just set it to *ALL.  If you are only tracking usage for a limited time period, be sure to change this value back to *NONE when you’re finished as this will reduce some system overhead.

Once object auditing has been activated, the system will start adding entries to the system audit journal whenever any activity happens on the object you have activated.

To view the journal information, you use the Display Audit Journal Entries (DSPAUDJRNE) command.  The first parameter, ENTTYP, selects the specific information that you want to see.  Setting this value to ‘ZC’ will produce a listing of all of the times that the tracked object was changed.  If any applications are deleting the object, using the report for value ‘DO’ will report those happenings.  Using the value of ‘ZR’ will produce a larger listing showing all of the times that the tracked object was read.  Depending on how your object is used, you might find that the ZR report is just too huge without filtering it down …. read on.

The generated reports are simple Query listings.  The reports are generated from a file that the DSPAUDJRNE command creates in your QTEMP library.  The database file is named QASYxxJ4 where “xx” is the value you used on the ENTTYP parameter.  Once this database file has been created, you can use it to generate your own reports.  This way, you can slice and dice the data for your own unique needs.  For example, if you are looking for specific user profiles, you can add that as a selection criteria.  Or, if you want to analyze access by time-of-day or day-of-the-week, you can do that too.  The possibilities are quite open at this point.

I set this up on my test system to track accesses to an obscure data area that I was quite sure is only rarely used.  I set the tracking and left it for a few hours, then went back to it.  Even on this test system, I was surprised by the number of times the data area was used, and I’m the only user on the system!  Who knows what surprises you will turn up.

If you have any questions about anything in this tip, just ask me and I’ll give you my best shot.  My email address is rich at kisco.com.  All email will be answered.

Monitoring For Security Events

By Rich Loeber

Your system is in use by your user community all day long.  Depending on the size of your shop and the number of users, there could be hundreds or even thousands of security decisions being made by your security setup on a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day basis.  If you’ve done your homework well, those security arrangements will all work to protect your data from being used incorrectly.

But, how do you know when a security violation has been made?

One way is to keep security auditing active on your system and run regular reports from the security audit journal.  In fact, that is a good practice to implement, but it is not going to give you quick feedback when a serious security violation occurs.

When a critical security violation happens, an error notice is posted to the system operator message queue (QSYSOPR).  The problem, however, is that LOADS of messages in most shops go to the system operator message queue and it is easy to loose one in the haze of all that activity.

To address this problem of the security messages getting lost in the system operation message queue, the IBM i OS has an alternate message queue capability set up.  Check your system to see of the QSYSMSG message queue exists in QSYS library.  If you don’t see one, just create using the CRTMSGQ command.

Once the QSYSMSG message queue is on your system, all critical security related messages will also be posted to this message queue along with your system operator queue.  Now, all you need to do is make sure that you end up knowing when a message has been posted.

The quick and easy way is to log on to the system and run the following command:

CHGMSGQ MSGQ(QSYS/QSYSMSG) DLVRY(*BREAK)

Once this is done, whenever a message is posted to the QSYSMSG message queue, it will be displayed on your terminal session as a break message.

But, this could be a problem.  First, it requires that you always be logged on and it limits the number of people who can monitor for security events to one.  A different solution is to create a little CL program to “watch” the message queue for you and then forward the message on to your user profile (or a series of user profiles) when they happen.

This way, you and your security team can find out about security problems in real time and won’t have to wait for audit journal analysis to see that serious security violations are happening.

I have put together a simple little message monitor CL program that works with a set of up to 5 user profiles stored in a simple data area.  If you’re interested in getting a copy of this code, or if you have any questions about this tip, send me an email (rich at kisco.com).

An even better solution is to implement a flexible message queue monitoring software tool such as Kisco Information Systems’ iEventMonitor software.  This will add email and text notification for you and you can implement many of the other features to monitor your system.

If you have any questions about anything in this tip, just ask me and I’ll give you my best shot.  My email address is rich at kisco.com.  All email will be answered.

Terminal Session Security

By Rich Loeber

Like all modern systems, the IBM i requires a user profile and password before you can log on and use the system.  You might think that this simple requirement would always ensure that only authorized users will have access to your system.  But, with the proliferation of devices that can connect to the system, it is not always that simple.

In the old days, we used to have devices that are now called “dumb terminals”.  To use the system, you’d log on to the sign on screen and when you were done, you’d log off.  You could tell by looking at the screen whether the session was active or not.  If the signon screen was displayed, then the session was inactive.

Today, with a proliferation of PCs, tablets and cell phones and with easy access to Telnet based terminal emulation software, it is not always that clear.  On a PC using IBM i Access, the first time you log into the system for the day, there is an IBM i Access logon that establishes connection from the PC to your host system.  Then, there may or may not be another logon for your terminal session.  If you have your PC set up to bypass terminal sign on to the host, then there will be no second signon process.  Once your connection to the host system has been established, the only way to break it is to either log off from Windows altogether or reboot your system.

There are a couple of potential problems with this configuration.  It makes working with your system a lot easier just like leaving the keys in your car makes getting going a lot easier, but you wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis.

If you are using bypass signon, once your initial connection has been established, anyone can come by and start up your terminal emulation session and gain access to your system without knowing either your user profile or your password.  If you’re a programmer or a systems administrator, that could be a significant exposure to your system as you will probably have very generous access rights to objects on your system.  If your PC is located in a public or semi-public setting, you should think twice about having this setup.

Another exposure, which can happen when you leave a terminal session active, is that anyone can come along and use the Client Access upload or download functions to gain access to your system, again without knowing your user profile or password.  If you have any virtual drives mapped to your host, those could also be compromised by someone using your PC without your knowledge or approval.

One simple solution is to activate your PC’s screen saver with a password requirement to unlock the keyboard when it goes into screen saver mode.  That way, if you go for coffee and get delayed by a dumb question from the boss, the screen saver will kick in and protect your system in your absence.  The problem comes from user systems that you, as security officer, are responsible.  Each user can probably reset their screen saver settings on their own, thereby defeating this important additional security measure.  A periodic inspection of all PCs installed in public and semi-public settings for these exposures would probably be a good idea.

Most terminal emulation software for use on tablets allow you to build in a macro for the signon process.  So, anyone picking up your tablet, might be able to establish a connection to your system.  If tablets are available in public areas, then disabling the signon macro function would be a good idea.

If you have questions about details of the report, feel free to contact me directly by email (rich at kisco.com).

Is The Light On, but the Door Unlocked?

By Rich Loeber

IBM i owners regularly boast about the security built into their systems, and rightly so, but if you don’t implement and use the features, they’re not going to do anything for you.

I have mentioned before that I live in upstate New York, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.  In our neck of the woods (literally), security is not much of an issue for most people.  In fact, most of our neighbors never lock their homes or cars since theft is just not a problem.  At our house, we have extensive outdoor “security” lighting installed, and we use it whenever we go out at night.  We even have one light on a motion detector that comes on automatically in case we forget the other lighting.  But, even with the lighting on, we usually leave the door unlocked just because it is easier to get back in when we return home.  If we ever get ripped off, we shouldn’t be surprised as to how it happens.

I’m surprised, however, when I hear about and work with IBM i shops that have this same approach to computer security.  An alarming number of shops just do not pay attention to security issues and are surprised when a problem develops.  The IBM i OS provides robust security capabilities and tools, but too often they go unused just because it is easier without them.

I remember an IT director I knew, I did some consulting work for his company.  I encouraged him to move up to security level 30 and implement object level controls on several mission critical files on their system.  He gave it a try and, without any planning, moved the security level from 20 to 30 and IPL’d their system.  When nobody could sign on except the security officer from the console, he backed the system back to level 20 and never tried it again.  It would still be running at level 20 today if the company had not gone out of business.

My company sells a number of security solutions for the IBM i market.  I am always amazed at the number of customers who buy our solutions and then never fully implement them.  Some of these, it turns out, purchased our software just to satisfy an audit recommendation or someone else’s concern.  For others, they probably just don’t have the time or the people resources to do the implementation correctly, so they shelve it or put it on the back burner.

The same is true for the shop that never bothers to set up the IBM i OS security.  They’ve made a significant investment in IBM i, but are not bothering to use what they’ve paid for.  Security is just as much of an investment as the computer hardware that it runs on.

You would probably never think of leaving the front door of the building open all night with the lights on.  By that same measure, you should not leave your system exposed to intentional or even accidental abuse when you have it within your grasp to correct the situation and you have all the tools to do so at your disposal.

If you’re reading this and see your own shop (or even yourself), don’t worry.  Its not too late to do something.  Take an incremental approach and develop a plan.  Don’t rush into it, like my friend above, and do something you’ll regret, but don’t just sit there leaving your system exposed.  The important thing is to get started and stop putting this off or waiting for enough resources or budget support.

If you have questions about details of the report, feel free to contact me directly by email (rich at kisco.com).

Hacking Report For Our IBM i – A Current Update

By Rich Loeber

In 2013, we issued quarterly reports about attempts at hacking our IBM i system.  At the outset of that series, we explained that Kisco keeps a lone IBM i server connected directly to the Internet in order to test it’s SafeNet/i exit point security software in a real world environment. This article will update the information from that study and review the current state of observed intrusion attempts from more recent activity.  The landscape of what we are seeing in the way hacks are being attempted has changed quite a bit since our last report.

The biggest shift that we have observed is a significant fall off in hacks attempting to gain access using brute force FTP attacks.  However, the overall access attempts have increased from an average of 14 times as day in 2013 to nearly 50 times a day now.  Even after a recent change in IP address for our server, the hackers found the new location almost right away.

Thanks to our SafeNet/i exit point network control software, we successfully thwarted all unauthorized accesses.  Of these, 351 were attempts to gain access via FTP and another 6,009 attempts were to get a Telnet signon session during the analysis period that went from October 2016 through early February 2017.   The big change here is that hackers seem to have given up on FTP Script attacks in favor of just pounding away at the Telnet port.

For the FTP attacks, the profiles named ADMINSTRA and ADMIN were the most popular ones used.  This was true for the 2013 study as well.  Other profile names used included ANONYMOUS, FTP, and WWW-DATA.  Once again, these users were consistent with profiles tried in the 2013 study.

Our SafeNet/i Telnet exit point stops access before a signon screen is presented, so all we have to look at for the 6,009 Telnet attempts that were thwarted is the source IP address that was used.  We continue to see certain IP addresses with repeated access attempts.  The leading violator for this study period traced back to the Asia Pacific Network Information Center in Australia.  This hacker attempted to open a Telnet session more than 1500 times over a 2 hour period.

Some good news from the study, which we also observed in 2013, is that most hackers have no idea that our server is running IBM i OS.  No attempts were observed to connect to the system using connection points other than FTP and Telnet.  It may be that this is because hackers have so much success using FTP or Telnet, but it indicates that a lot of other avenues of access are not being employed, at least in our experience.

For the full study period, our server posted close to 300 thousand network transactions.  This is nothing in today’s computing environment, some of our customer’s servers can record that level of activity in just a few minutes.  But, 2.1% of those network access attempts were not authorized by us.  This is up from 0.5% for our 2013 study.  That is a four fold increase!  You have to take hackers seriously.  Failure to do so will get you in the headlines as the next Yahoo.

If you have questions about details of the report, feel free to contact me directly by email (rich at kisco.com).

Securing the Save/Restore Function

By Rich Loeber

On today’s open IBM i system, the save/restore function can be used to transfer critical files and programs between systems.  With this comes the specter of data and program theft, so it is important to make sure that this avenue of data transfer is secure.

Most IBM i installations run a scheduled save of their system to transfer files, programs and other objects to tape or other media for safe keeping.  Saving the system on a scheduled basis is just good practice since the catastrophic loss of a single disk unit on your system can mean that you loose everything on your system.  Since introduction, IBM has hounded its customers (and rightly so) to do a regular save on your system.  Once objects have been saved, you can also use IBM i/OS functions to restore objects from the saved media.  This can be part of either a full system restore or to recover objects that get damaged or corrupted in any number of ways.

The problem, from a security viewpoint, is that once data and programs have been saved to offline media, they can then be transported to another system and restored.  Mission critical information must be guarded to prevent theft from occurring.  Physical security on the media is critical for this, but I want to talk more about securing the save/restore function on your system.

Today, with an open TCP/IP world in which we work, you can save a critical file to a save file and then FTP or SNDNETF it to any system in the world.  IBM i software developers regularly use the FTP save file to transfer program updates onto customer systems.  With the ease of data transfer that this provides, restricting the use of the save/restore functions on your system is more critical than ever.

The first line of defense for this is found in the user profile.  Before someone can use the Save/Restore commands in the IBM i/OS, they must have *SAVSYS special authority in their user profile.  If you have not done so, I recommend that you review your user profile base to find out which user profiles have *SAVSYS configured and make sure that they have a real business reason for it.  Certainly, your operator(s) will need this authority, as will anyone who runs the scheduled backup or restore functions.  But, I would be hard pressed to think of any other users in a regular environment (including programmers) who really need to have this ability.  I know some programmers are going to howl at this, but they will have to be able to make their business case before you give them these keys to the kingdom, so to speak.  You can always look at granting them this authority on an as needed basis, revoking it once the task to be done has been completed.  Some shops even keep a special user profile around for this use.  When needed, they activate it temporarily and the deactivate it with full documentation kept on how it was used.

The next place to look for restricting Save/Restore use on your system is the IBM i/OS authority setup for the the RSTxxx and SAVxxx commands.  The RSTxxx commands are shipped from IBM with public *EXCLUDE, but the SAVxxx commands have a public setting of *USE.  You might want to consider setting up an authorization list for these commands and then listing the users that you want to be able to use them in the list.  Once the list is built, associate it to the commands and then change the SAVxxx commands to be public *EXCLUDE.  (You can also do this with direct authority, but having the authorization list will make IBM i/OS upgrades easier to implement.)

There are several system values that you should take a look at too.  The QALWOBJRST value lets you restrict certain objects at restore time.  These include system-state programs, programs that adopt authority and objects with validation errors.  QVFYOBJRST controls restoring signed objects.  QFRCCVNRST wil force object recreation on certain objects at restore time.  Lastly, you can specify *SAVRST in the QAUDLVL command to audit save restore operations on your system.

If you have any questions about anything in this tip, just ask me and I’ll give you my best shot.  My email address is rich at kisco.com.  All email will be answered.