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Start Your Journey to Data Integrity by Securing IBM i Data

Achieving trust in data, or what’s now called data integrity, must be the imperative of IT leaders across the world.

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Advancements in storage, compute, analytics and machine learning have opened a world of possibilities for enhanced decision-making, but for most organizations, these initiatives have yet to start paying real transformational dividends. 

In theory, companies have vast troves of data they should be able to leverage—including critical data on IBM i— to make better business decisions, create superior customer experiences and operate more efficiently. But in reality, data is siloed, inaccurate and unsecure—leading 84% of CEOs to be concerned about the integrity of the data upon which they’re basing decisions1.  

Companies have invested millions of dollars into advanced analytics to power intelligent decisions, but when I speak with CIOs, CDIOs and CISOs, they all point to the same problem with getting value from these systems: They don’t trust their data. It all comes back to that age-old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” When organizations achieve trust in their data, their investments will pay off. 

Achieving Data Integrity

Achieving trust in data, or what’s now called data integrity, must be the imperative of IT leaders across the world in organizations large and small. Put simply, when a company has secure, integrated, accurate data enriched with context, they will have achieved data integrity, and they can begin to reap the elusive benefits of their investments in machine learning, AI, and other advanced analytic and decision-making platforms. 

With the ever-present threat of cybercrime, businesses must prioritize security as they set about the task of achieving data integrity. Data breaches often have long-standing effects, with victims requiring years to recover from financial losses, regulatory complications, reputational impact and damage to customer relationships. It’s important that organizations maintain a continual focus on security as part of their data integrity initiatives and seek to leverage and expand upon the security capabilities inherent in
IBM i. 

5 Steps to Data Integrity

There are five key steps an IBM i business can take to set it on the path to data integrity. 

1. Strengthen Login Security

Employees are either a company’s greatest asset in the fight against cyberthreats or its biggest liability. Yet password management for IBM i users continues to be a major pain point. Organizations must ensure that users avoid unforced errors such as relying on default passwords, repurposing usernames as passwords or revealing their credentials to a social engineering scheme. 

Multifactor authentication (MFA) helps strengthen password security by requiring users to verify their identities using two or more criteria: something they know (e.g., a password), something they have (e.g., a mobile device) or something they are (e.g., biometric identification). With MFA, organizations are protected against a potential breach if an external source acquires account login credentials.

2. Control Access to Systems and Data

The days when the IBM i was an isolated platform communicating through proprietary protocols are long gone. Today’s systems are highly connected through standard network and open-source protocols, opening a wide variety of access points to the worldwide hacker community, who recognize the high value of data residing on an IBM i.

As a result, companies must tightly control all points of access to their IBM i systems and data and ensure that authorities are restricted to only those that individual users require to do their job. In essence, a perimeter must be drawn around the system to control every access point, including network connections, communication ports, database connections through open-source protocols, command execution and more.

3. Protect Data Privacy

Customers, business partners and employees trust companies to protect their confidential information from being disclosed, either through theft or unauthorized viewing. Any data breach negatively impacts those relationships and damages the organization’s reputation.

Businesses have options when it comes to strong protection for data. Common industry and state regulations (e.g., PCI DSS, HIPAA and General Data Protection Regulation) stipulate encryption with robust key management to protect confidential information at rest or in motion. Tokenization and anonymization can also be used to reduce the scope of compliance or permanently obscure data, but encryption serves as the gold standard to apply wherever personally identifiable information or sensitive data exists.

4. Monitor for Security and Compliance

To maintain compliance and head off potential data breaches, operations on IBM i systems must be continuously monitored. While IBM i journals and log files are comprehensive, they’re also cryptic and voluminous, making it challenging to obtain security and compliance insights in a timely manner.

Monitoring tools must be put in place to quickly extract information from log sources, spot deviations from security policy or compliance requirements, automate reporting, and optionally integrate IBM i data into enterprise security information and event management consoles.

5. Assess Security Weaknesses

The field of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, with new vulnerabilities rapidly emerging and cybercriminals becoming more sophisticated with each passing year. It doesn’t take long for best practices to become outdated. 

Regular IBM i security assessments should be conducted to ensure continued compliance with cybersecurity regulations and to quickly identify and remediate any weaknesses in security practices. A thorough inspection of IBM i settings can help identify areas where password protection, access control and data protection should be further hardened.

Secure Data Becomes Trusted Data

Data has become the single most important corporate asset for driving strategic advantage. The leading companies in virtually every industry are defining a clear strategy to deliver trusted data to their analytics, AI and machine learning systems in order to achieve greater efficiency and outperform their competitors.  

The IBM i platform, as the source of critical corporate data, must be a key component of a sound data integrity strategy—supplying secure data that can be integrated with data from across corporate systems. Truly meaningful business outcomes cannot be derived from that data unless it’s then made accurate and complete, enriched with location context and enhanced with additional business, location and consumer data.

Achieving data integrity is the next IT imperative for organizations of all sizes in order to build new possibilities for their business. Taking critical steps today to strengthen login security, control access, protect confidential information, monitor system activity and continually refine IBM i security practices will set you on the path to deliver trusted data that drives better business decisions for years to come. 

1. Forbes, “Poor-Quality Data Imposes Costs and Risks on Businesses, Says New Forbes Insights Report,” 

2. Harvard Business Review, “Only 3% of Companies’ Data Meets Basic Quality Standards,” 

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