Tag Archives: Multi Level Security

What happens after a breach? The vultures descend

There have been so many breaches. In every case, the business or agency affected realizes that they must spend money to fix the breach. That’s when the vendor sales teams come out of the woodwork. Everyone has something to sell. New analytics, new detection mechanisms and new management offerings are just some of the products. However, in almost every case, a quick decision on a new product would be like putting lipstick on a pig. At the heart of a breach is a fundamental problem with people, process and technology associated with security. While a witch hunt for the base problem may be happening, it’s important to take a step back, take stock of what’s good and bad about what is already in place. Re-look at processes and find the gaps that need to be considered. But most important, what is the scope of the processes?

Too many systems to manage securely

Too often, a business will have multiple domains that are independently managed. For example, there may be separate domains for management of desktops, web servers, application servers, data warehouses, transaction servers and database servers. My experience has shown that when a breach is found in one area, the other areas breathe a sigh of relief as it is not their problem. That’s a bad attitude. Business problems are end to end solutions that cross several of these domains. As such, a business should be looking to collaborate their security and harden processes across domains rather than manage them individually.

Create an Enterprise Security Hub

The IBM mainframe is an ideal hub for centralization of security focus. For the same reasons that IBM calls the mainframe the System z, z being for zero down time, it could have been  System s for fail safe security. IBM has spent years in hardware and software R&D to harden the mainframe for business resilience and security and include that level of functionality in the basic hardware and software systems. The bulk of the built-in security services meet industry standards for interoperability and programming interfaces. As a result, these services can be executed on behalf of any other system or server that is interconnected with them. This includes usage as an authentication server, managing logs, providing real-time analytics to prevent loss and a central site for audit management. Unfortunately, no sales person is going to run to a business to brag about these capabilities. The unintended consequence by IBM and for its customers is that with all this capability “inside the box” they don’t have a commissioned sales force pushing these functions. IBM has a wide variety of software solutions that they are selling for distributed domains. They have software to manage the mainframe better. However, there is no end to end play that focuses on the mainframe as the central hub for enterprise security.

Wealth of Documentation

All is not lost, however. IBM and their Business Partners have a wealth of documentation and capabilities to demonstrate the strength of the mainframe for enterprise security. European customers can attend an excellent security conference in Montpellier, France from September 29 to October 2. The IBM Design Centers provide briefing centers and proof of concept capability tailored to an organization’s needs. There are IBM Redbooks describing the security functionality, including cryptography, analytics and Digital Certificate management for global authentication.

Shared Credentials to sign on via Biometrics and Multi-Factor authentication

There are also a wealth of up and coming vendors that can contribute to end to end security. Two that I’ve been working with are Callsign and Cyberfy that can leverage a mobile device for multi-factor biometric authentication in a consistent way across platforms. Throw away your userids and passwords that could be key logged and stolen and move to something that is truly unique to an individual. With these tools, a common authentication is used and managed across a wide range of servers and applications. Common authentication is the center of cross domain security management. Without a consistent authentication mechanisms, it becomes extremely difficult to correlate security activities across domains.

Operational Collaboration

I started this about breaches. A mainframe can provide and collect a wealth of forensic information across systems. As the host server for a tremendous amount of financial and personnel transaction processing, this information is used in real-time to prevent fraud because of the mainframe’s ability to run multiple transactions and database servers simultaneously, with integrity, while satisfying a service level agreement. This combination of functionality can work well with network attached applications and user devices.

These are the tenants that provide the foundation for hardening an environment. If a business or agency looks at what they have already and they find a mainframe, they’ll find a wealth of capabilities to lock down their end to end systems. The most important element is collaboration across organizations. Through collaboration, organizations can find weakness and inconsistency.  Once these efforts are undertaken, then the gaps can be identified and the acquisition of new products can be done intelligently.

Start Locking down systems before it’s too late

If anyone needs assistance getting started in locking down their systems, give me a call. Don’t wait until you’ve been breached, it will only cost more to solve the problem. As has been said, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

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Webinar April 15th: Mainframe Security – How good is it? Unfortunately – only as good as the End User device accessing it

Vicom

hosts a Lunch ‘n’ Learn Webinar presented by

Raytheon_logo

April 15, 2015 12-1PM EDT

Call in: 888-245-8770 passcode 206580

Presentation Slides will be posted here prior to the call

Presentation Abstract:

For years, the IBM mainframe has been the benchmark for secure transaction and data base processing. It’s considered hacker resistant, via a hardware and software architecture that inhibits buffer overflows, which are the bane of Trojan Horses, viruses and worms.

The modern PC, smart phones and tablets are rife with malware and identity spoofing. As long as an end user is the systems programmer for these devices, there will continue to be problems. If a userid can be spoofed on the end user device, there isn’t much to prevent them from accessing back end servers of all types that these devices may be connected. Businesses spend enormous sums looking to detect problems and attempt to better manage these devices.

Raytheon Cyber products takes a different approach. They compartmentalize infrastructure to create a more secure computing environment. E.g., separating Internet traffic from internal business systems. They’ve simplified operations so that the end user behaviors and server access barely change. The result is an environment that prevents malware intrusions and data theft. Detection products are nice, but how much will a business spend on unplanned forensic efforts and brand loss marketing should a theft occur? Raytheon’s approach simplifies the hybrid deployment model and reduces the risk at back end servers, such as the mainframe, and can help to lower overall security deployment costs.

This session will introduce the “battle tested” Raytheon Cyber products to commercial customers. It will demonstrate how compartmentalization of networks, data and applications can simplify end-to-end operations while preventing attacks. It will show how their technology is complimentary to existing Hybrid infrastructure. They’ll also introduce some of the future deployment models they are considering to further prevent attacks on electronic business.

Presenters’ Bios:

Jim Porell is a retired IBM Distinguished Engineer. His IBM roles included: Chief Architect of Mainframe Software (10 years), led Business Development for the mainframe (3 years), Security and Application Development marketing lead (3 years), Chief Business Architect for IBM Federal Sales (2 years). He’s presently a partner at Empennage, developing its marketing and investment possibilities. Jim is also on the Advisory Board of startups: Callsign and Malcovery. He’s a sales consultant to Vicom Infinity. In each of these roles, Jim is focused on the secure and resilient deployment of Hybrid Computing solutions across server architectures and end user devices (e.g. smart phones, tablets, PC’s).

Jeremy A. Wilson, is a member of Raytheon’s CTO Council & the Director of Customer Advocacy. Mr. Wilson works closely with Raytheon’s Executive Leadership Team focused on solving information sharing challenges for their extensive portfolio of customers including the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, as well as Civilian and Commercial agencies. Mr. Wilson has over 15 years’ experience in Multi-Level Security and Cross-Domain Solutions. Prior to joining Raytheon in 2005, he served as the Chief Technology Advisor and Architect for both SAIC and General Dynamics. In these roles, Mr. Wilson held a vast number of responsibilities such as System Design, Technical Assessments, Security & Policy Auditing, Strategic Planning, Proposal Generation, & Certification & Accreditation. Mr. Wilson has spoken at number of technical events and sessions and is a member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA).

Modern Data Usage Patterns – a case for Data consolidation

Last week, I wrote about organizational fiefdom’s and how they can inhibit efficiency in deployment models.

This week, I’ll describe a couple of data patterns that are common across several business models. Most important, they can take advantage of a hybrid deployment model and some unique System z characteristics that can result in a dramatic reduction in operational and security overhead and simplify compliance to a wide variety of government, industry and business regulations. It’s all based on a shared data model and collaboration across end to end technologies.

To me, there are three critical business oriented data operations: update a record, read a record and analyze a collection of records. There are also management operations: backup/archive, migration/recall and disaster recovery. I’m going to focus on the business oriented aspects for this post.

Let’s consider three different scenarios. A national intelligence operation that is processing satellite and other electronic information. A health care environment that processes medical records and data from medical devices. And a Criminal database containing wants, warrants and criminal records.

Each of these has a data ingest process that comes from individuals or individual devices. Satellite data is beamed to earth, typically to an x86 based server and then transmitted and loaded into a “System of Record” which might be considered the master database.

Medical records can be updated by a medical professional and patient via an end user device or portal and input can be received from medical devices e.g. EKG, MRI, XRay, etc. All of this information is then loaded into a master database.

BOLO’s (Be On the Look Out), Criminal Records, Wants and Warrants are input by various police agencies and transmitted to a master record database that can be accessed by other police departments to see if someone they’ve stopped or is in custody may be wanted by other jurisdictions.

Each of these scenarios has something special about them – a need to know. A doctor or nurse can’t “troll” a medical database looking for any data. That’s against HIPAA policy. They should only be looking at records associated with patients they are working with.

Intelligence analysts may only be able to see certain satellite or ELINT (electronic intelligence feeds) based on their security clearance.

Police in one jurisdiction cannot query or update records in other jurisdictions unless they are pre-approved for a particular case.

This Need to Know can also be called Compartmentalization or labeling of data. DB2 on z/OS has technology known as Multi-Level Security that allows data to be hidden from users and applications that don’t have a need to know. The best part of this technology is there doesn’t need to be any change to an application. The need to know criteria is established between security administrators and database administrators. As a result, when multiple users attempt to query an entire database, if they are in different compartments they’ll get completely different result sets without knowing the full breadth of the database.

So let’s look at a Medical System that has multiple hospitals scattered across a broad geography. Each hospital has specialty areas: Orthopedics, Oncologists, Pediatrics, etc. There is a Primary Care Physician (PCP) for each individual patient. There is the Patient. There are a bunch of different medical test devices: MRI, CTScan, EKG, etc.  At some point, a Patient Care Record is created. A PCP is identified to that Patient. They may order tests on behalf of the patient. Test data is captured, stored and linked to the patient’s record. A Cardiologist may see and annotate information associated with the EKG. Any other Cardiologist at the hospital may also see that EKG and annotate it. An Orthopedic surgeon may look at it, but not annotate it. A doctor at another hospital may not even know that the patient exists unless they are invited to look at it by a peer or via the patient requesting a second opinion.

The following diagram shows a Manufacturing business that gets a variety of “parts” from different suppliers. They allowed each of their suppliers to check the on hand inventory to allow for continuous manufacturing and improve the supply chain operations. The unintended consequence of this implementation was that each supplier could see another suppliers’ inventory and price per unit. As a result, devious suppliers could undercut the competition or worse, collude with their competitors to raise prices.

Commercial MLS

By turning on the labeled security capabilities of DB2, the suppliers can only see their records. Employees of the manufacturing company can see all the records in the database. No applications were changed. The manufacturing company had to collect some additional security information for each supplier in order for this to work properly. You’ll notice the inclusion of internet address (IP @) as a security context. The manufacturer can “force” supplier updates to come from the supplier’s site. It will not allow a supplier’s employees to logon from home, for example. This could help inhibit a rogue employee of the supplier from compromising the Manufacturer’s database.

There are other examples of production systems leveraging MLS capabilities. Lockheed Martin has been operating a secure environment for multiple agencies for many years. This has been for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and its mission partners.

But here’s another important distinction from other models. The data operations are somewhat like the Eagle’s song Hotel California: 

“We are programmed to receive, You can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave”.

That means if you are viewing the data, you are viewing the “System of Record”. Where you are viewing from is called the “System of Engagement“.  By definition, the System of Engagement can overlay and complement the System of Record by transforming it. This is can be a  stateless entity or read only. The XRay image, stored in a database, is just a collection of bytes. The end user may not have the proper viewer installed on their desktop. The System of Engagement will transform the image into something consumable and recognizable by the end user. The Hospital doesn’t make a copy of the data and transmit it to other service providers. If they did, they’d have to ensure that those new data owners of the copy adhered to the same stringent privacy laws for which they are accountable. This becomes a logistics nightmare. Instead, the “user” being a patient or medical professional accesses a program (The System of Engagement), which could be a virtual desktop or web service, which in turn accesses the database and remotely presents the requested data to the end user. This is more of an image as the end user device is considered stateless. No local copy is saved. Because this is solely a remote presentation of the information, that device can be exempt from Privacy audits because it is understood that no local copy is made. This doesn’t address an end user taking a picture or writing down information associated with the record being processed. There are other products that can be deployed to capture these breaches of privacy policy. I can cover that in a later post.

Compartments can be created that contain only a subset of the stored records, similar to a view. So analytic processing might be done across all database records, looking for patterns, fraud, opportunities, etc, but without including protected personally identifiable information. For example, disease outbreaks by region, trends, risks, etc, but again, this analysis may only be done by someone with a need to know.

Look here for a video associated with Intelligence Analysts dealing with Satellite transmissions and leveraging this workflow.

SatelliteDemo

It may be hard for some of you, but imagine the different satellites are actually medical devices. Imagine the different compartments are associated with various hierarchies of users at a Corporate level, Branch/Region, Department and individual basis. Imagine the spatial data results of this video as demonstrated using Google Earth, are instead rendering views of XRays, CTScan’s, etc. Hopefully, this is a compelling view of the realm of possibilities. One thing that might appear contrary to what I described earlier is the fact that in this video,  various users know that a satellite exists when they didn’t have a need to know. Some satellites may be Top Secret, so unauthorized users have no need to know that that particular satellite even exists. To correct that situation vs what the video depicts,  if the System of Engagement had requested sign on by the user first, they would not have seen the entire list of satellite’s as that may have been excluded by an additional database query of accessible satellites for that user. However, when comparing to medical devices, there is no secret that there are multiple imaging devices, but the results may not be visible to a user, based on the need to know. Many, many options exist. These are just examples to get the discussion started about new possibilities.

There’s another important aspect of this. Any business with DB2 on z/OS already has the System of Record capability. There is a change in operations management required, but no additional software license charges required to implement this. Other platforms are required to separate data (aka copy it) to facilitate the ease of compartmentalization available on DB2 for z/OS. Analytics can be provided against this system of record locally, by products such as the IBM Data Analytics Accelerator (IDAA) or Veristorm’s zDoop, which is a Hadoop solution running on the mainframe. The mainframe is capable of meeting the service level agreements of both the updates and queries of the database with very large scale.

The Systems of Engagement may be Linux or Windows systems running on Virtual Desktops or PC servers, as well as within Linux for System z or z/OS application and transaction processing environments. The end user access could be from kiosks (thin client terminals), Smart Devices, PC’s or business specific devices e.g. Point of Sale, ATM, police cruiser access points, etc. These systems could be hosted in a public or private cloud. They could be part of an existing system infrastructure. Authentication and access control should be centrally managed across the entire operational infrastructure.

The net of all this is a couple of examples of hybrid computing and collaboration across systems that can dramatically reduce the complexity and improve the efficiency of end to end business processes. If you are still compartmentalizing operations by server silos you may have the unintended consequence of missing some dramatic cost savings or better stated, cost avoidance. Compartmentalization on a need to know basis may initially lead a business toward separation of duties and separation/copying of data. But with the capabilities described, it’s actually a form of consolidation and collaboration that enables a greater degree of sharing the System of Record. You might not have to spend more in systems deployment to solve some very complex problems. Happy programming!

Unintended Consequences

I’ve found that many times in my career, a decision that was made for one reason, had unintended consequences in another area. Sometimes, these were good things and sometimes, they were not. I’ve decided to write about some of these activities in this blog. So you’ll see this title, as a recurring theme throughout my writings.

Here’s a list of the items I’m thinking about writing. Let me know what you think is most interesting to you and I’ll try to get them done earlier than the others:

  1. z/OS “stabilizes” it’s Shell and Utilities offerings at very old code levels- Rocket Software “fixes” that.  Done.
  2. OS/390 and z/OS are a better package, but they lost their sales channel. Now Solution Editions and new workloads help to drag z/OS. TCO and High Availability remain king.
  3. Apple and IBM mobile deal is pretty cool, but reminds me that Apple MacOS and z/OS are a lot alike – tons of value in a single package  – Done
  4. Use of z/OS Unix System Services introduces “surrogate” security – which might end up giving too much authority to an individual – what can be done to reduce that risk.
  5. MVS and zVM might have been considered the first cloud platform, but no one originally marketed it that way. Now, ASG’s Cloudfactory provides an Amazon Web services like front end for z/OS workloads. Done
  6. The IBM Mainframe is advertised as hacker proof, but the weakest link is not the mainframe, it’s the end user interface and people using them. What can be done to help prevent problems? Use of Intellinx zWatch is one method that a wide range of customers use to prevent human errors across platforms.
  7. Application development on the mainframe wasn’t always as simple as it was before the IBM Rational products came along and the Unit Test feature was added, which is also known as  the zPDT . This was difficult to bring to market. For the first time,  IBM separated development pricing from production pricing.
  8. Linux is ported to S/390 in December 1999.  Novell is offered the opportunity to be the first vendor on Linux on S/390. They say no.
  9. Human Resource lessons learned in a 30+ year career.
  10. High availability lessons learned. It’s not always the technology, it’s the process.
  11. Multi Level Security – probably the answer to a lot of cloud sharing problems, but no one knows what it is or does. It’s in production in some very secure locations today. Done.
  12. Thin Client Computing and usage with Mainframes