Working With IFS Security

By Rich Loeber,

For years, IBM’s i/OS provided robust security for its native file system.  For some of us who’ve been around for a while, this has been all we’ve known on our systems.  But, these days, more and more applications and users are working with the other non-native file systems that are collectively known as the Integrated File System, or IFS.  IBM’s i/OS provides the same level of security in the IFS, but the commands to review items in the IFS and a lot of the terminology is different from what the “natives” may expect to see.  This article will attempt to scratch the surface of this issue by explaining how you can view the IFS directories and files from your i/OS command line and how to interpret the security settings used in the IFS.

The main command that you need to start with is the “Work with Object Links” command (WRKLNK).  These “links” can take several different types, the most common of which are directories (DIR) and stream files (SMTF).  If you thought about this from a PC perspective, these would correspond to disk directories and files.

If you use the WRKLNK command with no parameters, a complete list of all of the top level directories in the IFS (the root) will be displayed.  This display will let you explore the entire IFS on your system, including the “native” file system which will be included under the QSYS.LIB file system.  If you want to go directly to a specific directory, you can do so with a qualified OBJ selection parameter.  For example:

WRKLNK OBJ(‘/qdls/kisco’)

On our test system here, we have a directory in the shared folders file system named KISCO.  The shared folders system is found in the QDLS file directory.  Running the above command gets us straight to this folder without having to spend time searching.

To check on the security setting for an displayed object, just put a ‘9′ next to that object.  This will bring up a Work With Authority display and will give you all of the security information about the object selected.  This will include the owner, any applicable authorization list, any public authorization settings and a list of user profiles that are authorized to the object.  If you want to print this information for an off-line review (or for security documentation), you can use the Display Authority command (DSPAUT).

Data authority in the IFS is described by a series of letter codes which, in combination, will describe the authorities in place.  The applicable access letter codes are as follows:

R – Gives access to object attributes (think READ)
W – Gives access to the object for change (think WRITE)
X – Allows the object to be used (think USE)

You will see these codes in combination or singly (preceded by the ever present *), depending on the authorities implemented.  For example, if full authority is being granted, then you will see the *RWX authority setting displayed.  Specific object authorities are also displayed on this screen.  You can use this screen to make changes and to check on specifics for any object shown by placing a ‘2′ next to the line in question and making updates.

So, if you’ve never (or rarely) considered what’s going on in the IFS on your system, now is the time to get started and the WRKLNK command gives you are very good starting point.

A Solution for the Clear Physical File Member (CLRPFM) Quandary

By Trevor Seeney

All too often I see IBM/i security schematics that gives All Object (*ALLOBJ) to all the user profiles. I have recently seen a security schematic that did not have *ALLOBJ authority at the user profile level but instead had all (*ALL) authority applied to all objects.  Both of these schematics amount to no security at all because all the users can delete any object!

In the ideal world, all physical files should have *CHANGE authority assigned to the general user community (i.e. *PUBLIC), that enables the object to be ‘operated’ (Opr) on but there are no ‘management’ (Mgt) or ‘existence’ (Exist) rights. Existence rights are needed to delete or clear a physical file.

In the real world, most applications use the CLRPFM command. The use of CLRPFM really demands that for each file that is the target of a CLRPFM command, existence rights need to the granted to the target file to avoid an authentication failure during execution.

To be correct, what is required is to identify each incidence of the CLRPFM command and grant object existence or *ALL authority to the target file. Finding instances of the CLRPFM command is straightforward enough using the search capabilities of the Program Development Manager (PDM), but then changing the authority on the individual files is a laborious effort. As such, this effort is often not done and the easy way out is taken, that being to grant *ALL authority to all of the physical files. Not good!

There is a quick, albeit sneaky, way of identifying the targets of the CLRPFM command and granting existence rights to the file. The solution deploys a user-defined variation of the CLRPFM command with a Validity Checking Program attached.

Validity Checking Programs

When creating a user-defined command, you can attach a VCP that can be used to perform additional validity checking of the command’s parameters that are not provided for within the command definition itself. To perform these additional validity checks, the CL Syntax Checker runs the VCP when a command with one attached is entered (or changed)  in a source member. Putting it another way, when a command with an attached VCP is entered using the Source Entry Utility (SEU) under CL syntax, the program executes right there and then! In fact, if you compile the CL program, the VCP will execute during compilation.

Before we tackle solving the CLRPFM quandary with a VCP let’s take a couple of minutes to knock up a quick example. We’ll write an abbreviated Work Active Job command.


  • Type into QCMDSRC file a member called WAJ (for work active job) the single line ‘CMD
  • Type into QCLLESRC file a member called RETURN, the single line ‘RETURN’ and compile. This will be the command processing program
  • Type into QCLLESRC file a member called WAJ, the single line ‘WRKACTJOB’ and compile. This will be the validity check  program
  • Create the command as follows:- CRTCMD CMD(WAJ) PGM(RETURN) SRCMBR(WAJ) VLDCKR(*LIBL/WAJ).

Entering the command WAJ into a source member under CL syntax will cause a Work Active Job display to be launched from within SEU!

Compiling the CL program will cause a Work Active Job display to appear again.

Solving our CLRPFM Quandry with a VCP.

Let’s now apply the technique above to the CLRPFM command. We’ll name our command @CLRPFM.  Since the CLRPFM command has parameters, our programs are a little more involved but not by much.

In Figure 1 below at call-out A is the command definition of the command @CLRPFM.  With parameters representing a qualified file name and a member name.

At call-out B is the VCP which is executing the Grant Object Authority command.

At call-out C is the CPP which has no executable commands.

* It should be noted that the CPP and the VCP should have the same parameters passed whether they are used or not.

Finally at call-out D is the command creation string.

The underlying search function of PDM is the command Find String PDM (FNDSTRPDM) and we can execute same over our production CL source file to find all occurrences of CLRPFM and change them to @CLRPFM by inserting the @ sign. This will cause the VCP to execute and thereby grant *ALL authority to the *PUBLIC for the referenced file. Repeat the ‘Find’ within the member until all CLRPFM commands have been found and then exit the source member without update. Repeat until FNDSTRPDM has finished executing.



Using the technique described herein will apply existence rights, i.e. the right to clear file, for only those files that need it. All other files will have the standard authority applied.

About the Author:

Trevor Seeney is the Technical Director at Sentinex Inc. Trevor is a specialist in IBM/i system security. A COMMON presentation entitled ‘How an iSeries/400 is hacked and how to stop it’ spawned an article for Midrange Computing and a Webinar on Search-400. Trevor also developed a workstation security product for the System/i, which secures inactive work stations and is commercially available today under the name of ScreenSafer/400 and is distributed by Kisco Information Systems.

Controlling Remote Command Processing

By Rich Loeber,

One of the cardinal rules of securing your IBM i system is to prevent users from having open access to the i/OS command line unless absolutely necessary.  Typically, access to the command line is limited to operators, programmers and other IT staff users who need it to get their jobs done.  But, users in general should never be granted the use of the command line.

But, a knowledgeable PC user, using PC-based software tools such a iSeries Navigator, can run commands on your system without obtaining a signon screen and command line.  Also, when a user submits a remote command, IBM’s i/OS does not honor the Limit Capability (LMTCPB) setting for the user profile in use.  In my book, that is a significant security exposure!  Granted, the user must be knowledgeable, but it can be done.

There are several ways that this can be accomplished, as follows:

•    Using DDM (Distributed Data Management), a user can open a file and use the remote command function to run any command on the remote system.

•    Using the iSeries Navigator client, or other similar PC software, a user can issue a command through DPC (Distributed Program Call) APIs without even using DDM.

•    Using remote SQL and ODBC, some software can provide a remote command function without using either DDM or DPC

So, what’s a security officer to do?

To deal with the DDM issue, one easy way to control this is to simply turn DDM access off completely for your system.  You should first verify that no current applications running on your system require DDM, DRDA (Distributed Relational Database Architecture) or DB2.  To shut DDM off, simply run the following command:


This step is pretty drastic and will obviously not work for many shops where DDM, DRDA and/or DB2 are in use on a regular basis.  For those shops, your best defense is an aggressive security policy that protects your critical data assets.

If you want to take an more active approach to this issue, then you’ll have to look into coding an exit point program, or you can purchase a third party software package that implements exit point processing.  The easiest approach when creating your own exit program is to limit use of remote commands to a list of known user profiles.  This will allow you to grant permission to process remote commands for known and trusted user profiles while denying permission to all others.  In the exit point process, you can set a flag that will return a failure status to the PC software issuing the remote command process, so your user will know why their attempt failed.  You can find more information about exit point programming in several different manuals.  These include:

  • Implementation Guide for iSeries Security and Auditing – GG24-4200
  • iSeries Security Reference – SC41-5302
  • iSeries System API Reference book

Network/Internet Security

By Rich Loeber,

When your IBM i system is connected to a network, you cannot always guarantee the integrity of the person at the far end of a network connection. If your system is connected to the Internet, ethics go out the window altogether. You have to assume that the person at the far end is a bad guy, then proceed from there. With this tip, we’ll outline an approach to this problem that may help you to focus in on how to deal with the bad guys wherever they may be.

Internet bad guys generally fall into two categories, sneaks and bullies. The bullies you can probably identify easiest, they are the ones who go after you system with active attacks. They will try to break into your system trying just about everything in the book. On our test IBM i server in the office recently, we had a bully come by who tried to log on using over 700 different user profiles in a period of 5 minutes. Each logon attempt was met by our exit point software and tossed out right at the point of entry with a security warning message to our security officer for each try. The user profiles were all different and all “typical” of what you might expect to see in just about any shop in the country. When a bully comes after you, he does it with brute force. They can try to spoof your system, guess your passwords, deny others from using your system by keeping it overly busy dealing with their break-in attempt and much more.

The sneaks are a lot more passive. A sneak will sit back and monitor network traffic to your system and try to uncover secret information that will then give them what they need to gain access to your system “normally”. Sneaks are very hard to identify and the have insidious tools at their disposal to get the information they want. This can even include Trojan horses that gather the information for them. Since sneaks are so hard to identify, you should plan your security strategy assuming that someone is always watching your system.

To guard your system against both sneaks and bullies, you need to think about how to layer your system defenses to guard against anything and anyone. If your system is connected to the Internet, you must assume that a sneak or a bully is going to attempt to gain access and plan accordingly. The best defense is always a good offense and you should consider the various layers of your system and have a plan to deal with intruders at every level. This layered approach will help you develop a good defense. The layers you should give consideration to include:

  • System security – including your system level use of user profiles and regularly rotated passwords. For most IBM System i shops, this will be your last line of defense, so plan it well.
  • Network security – this commonly involves implementation of a firewall between your network and the Internet but can also include services available from your ISP. On the IBM i there are also things that can be done at the IBM i/OS server level via exit programs that can address network security issues.
  • Application security – your applications should be designed to integrate with your security policies. Application software can easily be misused and abused and your applications should be designed with this in mind, especially those applications that are open to network and Internet users.
  • Transmission security – when you use an uncontrolled network like the Internet, your data will be open to anyone while it is in transit from one place to another. To protect your data, you need to consider encryption techniques and the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on your IBM i server.
In your plan for Network and Internet security, you need to have a plan for each of these layers of control in order to guarantee your system. And, even then, a bully or a sneak might still get past you, so watch out.


Securing Printed Output on your IBM i

By Rich Loeber,

In today’s security conscious environment, most System i shops have already locked down their systems.  Object level security is locked down and users are classified as to what they can and cannot do when they are logged onto the system.  But, securing files is only part of the problem.  If a user can’t look at a file, but they can look at processed output sitting in a print spool file, then your hard work of locking up the files is for naught.

There are several things you can do to control spool viewing.  For starters, review your user profiles to see which users have the special authority of *SPLCTL or *JOBCTL.  Both of these special authorities can give a user access to spool files.  Only security officers and system operators should have these authorities.  In a smaller shop, this might also extend to your programmers, but not always.  Generally speaking, most users should not be given these authorities unless they absolutely must manage their own print spool files and job controls.  As a first step, these authorities should be limited as much as possible, especially the *SPLCTL authority because it is not subject to any restrictions and allows the user access to all spool files on your system.

Output spool files are special objects on your system and are not, per se, created with standard IBM i/OS security controls.  The way you can control security on spool files is through the way your output queues are set up and authorized.  If you have output reports with sensitive information, you can control who can see them by the output queue where the report is stored.  Output queues are created using the CRTOUTQ (Create Data Queue) command and they can be changed using the CHGOUTQ (Change Data Queue) command.  You can view the way and output queue is configured with the WRKOUTQD (Work with Output Queue Description) command.

The user profile that creates the report can always view it and control it.  Sensitive reports should be created using a restrictive user profile to prevent widespread use of the spool file.  To impose even stricter security, there are several parameters you can set when you create an output queue that will provide more control:

  • DSPDTA    Helps to protect the contents of spool files be defining who can display, copy, move or send a spool file in the output queue.
  • AUTCHK    Defines what authority is needed to change or delete a spool file.
  • OPRCTL    Defines whether a user profile with *JOBCTL authority can work with spool files in the output queue.

Using these three parameters, you can impose very restrictive access controls to spool files associated with an output queue.  There is a good chart in the Security Reference guide that shows how the three parameters work together.  If you have never given this concept much thought, you should conduct a thorough review of how your current output queues are set up to make sure that they conform to your company’s security policies already in place.

Checking For Default Passwords

By Rich Loeber,

When you create a new user profile, there are a ton of parameter values that you can select from to customize exactly how that profile will work on your system. A lot of us, because of time constraints or ignorance, have a tendency to take a lot of the defaults that IBM’s i/OS presents to us. One of those defaults, unfortunately, is the user profile’s password. Using default passwords is never a good idea, even when you’re rushed for time. This tip will show you an easy way to identify default user profiles on your system so you can get these passwords changed. A recent study I read showed a surprising number of IBM i shops that use at least some default passwords in their day-to-day operations, don’t be one of them.

IBM ships its i/OS with the default value for the PASSWORD parameter on the Create User Profile (CRTUSRPRF) command set to the special value of *USRPRF. When you use this setting, the password for the user profile is set to the same as the user profile itself. So, if I set up a user profile for RICHARD and leave the PASSWORD parameter set to *USRPRF, then the password for RICHARD is going to be RICHARD. It won’t take a rocket scientist for someone who wants to get into your system to be able to figure out how to log on with this in place.

If you’re concerned about this, it would probably be a good idea to change the default setting for the PASSWORD parameter from *USRPRF to *NONE. In my book, having no password is better than having one that everyone will know. You can make this quick change by just running the following Change Command Default (CHGCMDDFT):


If you do this, remember that the next time you upgrade your installed version of i/OS, the setting will get changed and you will have to repeat this process.

Fortunately, i/OS provides you with a nice utility that will let you analyze the profiles on your system and identify any that have the default password in place. The command to do this is Analyze Default Passwords (ANZDFTPWD) and can be found on the SECTOOLS menu. When you run this analysis, a listing of all user profiles with default passwords will be produced on your system. This listing will show the profile status and whether or not the password has expired.

If you want to quickly take care of any current default password profiles on your system, there is a parameter on the command called the ACTION parameter. It defaults to *NONE, which will not take any remedial action. If you choose, you can use either the *DISABLE option or the *PWDEXP option (or both). Selecting these options will immediately disable any profiles that are currently useable that have default passwords in place. The second option will set the password to show that it is expired. Both will stop the user profiles in question from further use.

Obviously, before taking remedial action, it would be a good idea to make a best effort to contact any affected users to let them know that they will have to change the password they are using when this change is made.

Personally, I think IBM should just do away with default passwords completely. They removed security level 10, and I think this falls right into that same category.

If you have any specific questions about this topic, you can reach me at (, I’ll try to answer your questions. All email messages will be answered.

Custom Password Validation Program

By Rich Loeber,

While the IBM i operating system has very good features for controlling password selection, sometimes your password policy just can’t be enforced without additional checking. You may have a list of reserved words that you specifically do not want anyone using as a password. Or, you may have some very stringent requirements that are just not covered by the system values that control password assignment in IBM’s i/OS.

When this happens, the only solution is to code your own password validation routine. This can be coded in any high level language. The operating system passes four parameters to your program, one of which is a single character return code. Once you’ve had a chance to complete your validation testing, just set the return code to the value you want and exit your program. If you set the return code to zero (‘0′), then the operating system will assume that your password is acceptable and the password is updated. The parameters passed are, in order, the new password, the old password, the return code and the user profile for a total of 31 characters.

To tell the operating system that you now have your own password validation program in place, you need to update the system value “Password validation program” (QPWDVLDPGM). It is shipped from the factory set to *NONE. To use your own program, just change this value to your program name and library name. It is recommended that you store this program object in the QSYS library so that it is always saved when you backup your operating system.

Once your program is in place, test it to make sure that it is getting called. Use the CHGPWD command and intentionally use a password that will cause your routine to fail. You will see that a message is displayed indicating that the password rules are not met along with the value of the return code that you used. By varying the return code for different situations, you can give your support team a heads up as to the exact reason for the password failure. While you’re completing your testing, make sure that you process a valid password change to make sure that normal changes are not adversely affected by your new validation routine.

Registering your specific program with the QPWDVLDPGM system value will only work if you are using standard 10 character user profiles and passwords. If you are using the newer long passwords, then you will have to write an exit program and register it using the exit point registration facility. If you take this path, then the QPWDVLDPGM system value must get set to the special setting of *REGFAC and the exit program is registered by the WRKREGINF command. Beware, however, that the parameters for the exit point are very different. There is a good example of the format needed for this exit program in the IBM security guide.

One thing to watch out for in this process is that the passwords, both old and new, are passed to your program without any encryption. So, do not store any values received in a database file as this will compromise security on your system. In fact, you should periodically check this system value to make sure that it does not change and that the program processing additional validation rules remains unchanged. This could easily be abused on your system, so lock up the program object.

If you’d be interested in receiving a sample program for default 10 character password validation, I’ve written one just to test how this works on my system. Let me know and I’ll send the program shell to you. If you have any questions about this topic you can reach me at (, I’ll try to answer any questions you may have. All email messages will be answered.

Password Basics – Password Administration

By Rich Loeber,

There are a number of good practices that you can adopt in the area of password administration that will also help to keep things healthy. First, you should have a procedure in place to disable user profiles for people who have left your company. I normally recommend that the HR department include the IT security officer on all termination notifications. I must admit, however, that this does not always do the trick.

An alternative to this is the use the Analyze Profile Activity (ANZPRFACT) command on your system about once a month. This command will search out the unused profiles on your system and set them to disabled status. There is a variable number of days that you can use, but 30 is a pretty good bet.

You should also require all users to periodically change their passwords. The following system value will help with this:

QPWDEXPITV – “Password expiration interval”

This will force your users to change their password at the interval, in days, that you specify on the system value. Very secure installations may require passwords to change every day, but most business installations can get along just fine with a 60 day cycle, which is what I normally recommend. This is one that is unpopular with users, but if you are going to take security seriously, it is a must.

You should also do a period review of your user profile base. In this review, I recommend that you check for profiles that have permanent passwords assigned. In some shops, the programmers tend to appropriate this right for themselves, but they should be on rotating passwords just like the rest of the user community.

I also recommend that you look at the options offered on the SECTOOLS menu. Space limitations here do not let me go into these in more depth, but take a look and you may discover some interesting exposures on your system. There are also many more system values that you can employ in your quest for the perfect security setup. One last item I like to recommend is a periodic physical inspection of your user community workstations. It is amazing how often this will turn up passwords written down and “hidden” under mouse pads and even posted right on the face of terminals. All the password controls in the world will not overcome this problem. If you find one of these, I would recommend that you revoke the user’s access to the system and wait for them to complain, then go into detail about why their access rights were revoked. They should get the message.

Password Basics – Password Selection

By Rich Loeber,

There is nothing quite so basic in the security arena as a password. The combination of user profile and password, if properly used and administered, can go a long way to establishing sound system security on your IBM i system.

To start with, configuration and selection of your password is important. All those terrible computer hacker movies do have something going for them when they have people guessing passwords. Too many people select a password that is just too easy to guess. (I was actually at a client recently where the password for QSECOFR was set to ‘PASSWORD’!)

There is a good way to deal with this problem on your IBM i. There are two system values that can help you to enforce the selection of passwords that are harder to guess. These are:

  • QPWDLMTCHR – “Limit characters in password”
  • QPWDRQDDGT – “Require digit in password”

By changing the QPWDLMTCHR setting to the value “AEIOU”, you will disallow all passwords that contain vowels. Setting the QPWDRQDDGT value to ‘1′ will require that at least one character position of the password will have to contain a numeric character. Between these two settings, you can almost guarantee passwords that are much harder to guess.

Along these same lines, there are three other system values that you should consider:

  • QPWDMINLEN – “Minimum password length”
  • QPWDRQDDIF – “Duplicate password control”
  • QPWDLMTREP – “Limit repeating characters in password”

I normally recommend that the minimum password length be set to 5 and 6 is even better. The duplicate password control limits how frequently your users can reuse old favorites. Using the maximum value of ‘1′ effectively prevents recycling of favorite passwords by disallowing a password that has been used sometime during the previous 32 password changes. Also, limiting repeating characters will also provide a little more control. I recommend using the value of ‘2′ to simply disallow contiguous repeating characters.

Remember, the whole idea is to eliminate passwords that are easy to guess but not make is so difficult that people never remember their own passwords. There is a fine line here between protecting your system and keeping your users happy and productive.

Password Level – What’s Right For You?

By Rich Loeber,

Ever since the introduction of OS/400 V5R1, a new system value for “Password Level” has been available called Password Level (QPWDLVL). This value lets you have additional control over the kinds of passwords you use on your system and how the system treats them. Using the features provided through this new value, you can implement passwords of up to 128 characters in length.

Why would anyone ever want to have a password that long? I asked myself that very question, but when I started looking into the issue, some things jumped out at me that make perfect sense. With a long password, you can implement a “pass phrase” rather than a password. The implementation of the long passwords allows for case sensitive passwords and will accept imbedded blanks and every character on the keyboard. This complexity in your password can easily increase the difficulty for people trying to break into your system.

The system value that controls this is QPWDLVL and it can have the following settings:

  • “0″ – the default setting which sets up 10 character passwords and is what you are probably used to now.
  • “1″ – uses the same 10 character passwords, but the iSeries NetServer passwords for Windows Network Neighborhood access are not kept on the system. If your system does not communicate with any Win-X machines using Network Neighborhood, you might want to consider this.
  • “2″ – allows you to have passwords of up to 128 characters that are comprised of any character on the keyboard, are case sensitive and may contain blanks (but not all blanks).
  • “3″ – implements the same level “2″ passwords but adds the restriction on Windows Network Neighborhood that level “1″ includes.

If I were implementing a new system, I’d seriously consider adopting level “2″ as a standard right from the get go. But, most of you out there in Ibmilanbd have an imbedded culture of 10 character passwords with specific rules in place that you have your users well trained for. The good news is that you can move to a new password level as long as you do a little planning in advance.

Moving from level “0″ to level “1″ is pretty simple and does not require much planning. This will simply eliminate the storage of another set of encrypted passwords on your system. Moving from level “0″ or “1″ to a higher level should take some planning before you take the plunge.

One of the nice things is that whenever you create a new profile, OS/400 creates the associated level “2″ and level “3″ passwords just in case you want to move to the higher password level. So, the codes are already there on your system. The possible downside is that imbedded code and certain client software may not get along with the longer passwords. Consequently, if you decide to make this change, you really should get a full backup of your current security profiles and passwords using the SAVSECDTA command. This way, if things go south on you, you can recover back to where you are now quite easily. You can use the DSPAUTUSR command to check your profiles for users with passwords that will not work at the higher levels. There is a good, comprehensive discussion on how to move to a higher password level in the i/OS manual “Tips and Tools for Securing Your iSeries” (SC41-5300-06) that you should also take a close look at.

If you have any questions concerning this tip, feel free to contact me directly. My email address is I’d love to hear from anyone who is using the longer passwords just to find out how the switchover process went for them.