Continuous monitoring of security activities has become an integral part of our daily lives, making it easier to track and manage various aspects of protection and privacy, from our health to environmental concerns.
Much like how smart home devices constantly assess and regulate emissions, safeguarding our living environments, cybersecurity continuous monitoring in mainframes serves as a digital guardian, perpetually scanning for vulnerabilities and potential intruders. As a smoke alarm alerts us to smoke or fire, instant alerts from monitoring systems can flag unauthorized access attempts or unusual system behavior. In parallel, the proactive approach to addressing issues, whether in our homes or within mainframes, is essential to prevent catastrophic consequences.
This article gives readers insights into the significance of implementing continuous monitoring solutions within their mainframe systems. It highlights how continuous monitoring can proactively detect issues and enhance security. Readers will understand why continuous monitoring is crucial for businesses and how it can transform their mainframe cybersecurity operations.
Insight into the Mainframe's Risk and Challenges
Mainframes, with their unparalleled processing power and robustness, have earned their pivotal position in handling critical operations across various sectors. These high-performing computing machines manage and protect vast data troves, underlining their importance in safeguarding sensitive information. However, their widespread usage and crucial role also render them lucrative targets for various challenges, from cyber malefactors to increasing regulatory guidelines to innocent employee error. Critical challenges for most businesses today include:
- External Threat Landscape: The contemporary digital environment is plagued by many cyber threats that continuously morph, adopting increasingly sophisticated and elusive methodologies. From ransomware attacks that encrypt critical data, demanding ransom for its release, to Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) that lurk in the shadows of the network, organizations are perpetually in the crosshairs of malevolent entities. Due to their extensive data repositories and critical application hosting, mainframes become particularly lucrative targets, mandating the necessity for an impenetrable security armor.
- Regulatory Compliance: In parallel, as data breaches pervade the digital space, regulatory bodies have correspondingly tightened the reins, introducing stringent compliance norms. Legislations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) necessitate rigorous data management and protection protocols, requiring mainframes to be equipped with robust security mechanisms. Adherence to these varied and occasionally region-specific regulations implies that organizations must constantly realign their security postures, ensuring compliance without compromising operational efficiency.
- Skill Gap: The scarcity of professionals adept in mainframe security further complicates the scenario, making it imperative for organizations to invest in training and skill development and seek solutions that simplify management and enhance usability. The problem thus becomes maintaining a balance between employing advanced security protocols and ensuring they are manageable and navigable by the existing workforce.
- Insider Threats: While external threats are formidable, the specter of insider threats looms equally large. From unintentional data leaks by employees to malicious actions by disgruntled personnel, mainframes must be safeguarded from threats within the organization. These threats mandate implementing mechanisms that meticulously log, monitor and analyze user activity, ensuring that abnormal behaviors are swiftly identified and mitigated.
Proactive Guardians: Leveraging the Benefits of Cybersecurity Continuous Monitoring
Despite today's challenges, lies the seed of opportunities and evolution. By perpetually innovating, fine-tuning, and elevating cybersecurity continuous monitoring mechanisms, organizations can augment their defense matrices, ensuring the security and the sustained excellence of mainframe operations.
- Adaptable, Real-Time Alerting: The capability to intuitively adapt, refining alert parameters in real-time, ensuring that all possible threats — no matter how nuanced — are promptly identified and mitigated.
- Audit and Compliance: Many industries have strict compliance regulations regarding data protection and privacy. Continuous monitoring allows for an ongoing record of all mainframe activities. This not only aids in ensuring compliance but also facilitates easier audits, as all necessary data is readily available.
- Data Protection: Mainframes often house a business's most critical and sensitive data. Monitoring ensures that data access is properly restricted and that any unauthorized attempts to access this data are quickly identified. This includes monitoring both external threats and potential insider threats.
- User Activity Tracking: Meticulously recording all user activities to swiftly detect and respond to any anomalous behaviors or potential insider threats.
- Forensics and Analysis: In the unfortunate event of a breach, having a detailed log from continuous monitoring can provide valuable insights into when and how the breach occurred, the extent of the damage, and what measures need to be taken to prevent future occurrences.
- Comprehensive Visibility of Data: An effective system should provide complete visibility into all aspects of the environment — from system configurations to user activities to ESM configurations.
- Proactive Security Posture: Mainframe systems are the backbone of many critical business operations. By continuously monitoring the mainframe, organizations can transition from a reactive to a proactive security stance. Instead of waiting for a breach to occur and then taking action, continuous monitoring allows for potential vulnerabilities or threats to be addressed before they can be exploited.
Leveraging a tool encompassing these capabilities, organizations empower themselves to be not mere spectators in their security journey but to be assertive, proactive guardians. As we stand on the brink of technological advancements, continuous monitoring will intensify, serving as a linchpin in securing, sustaining, and propelling enterprises forward in their digital journey.
Cybersecurity Continuous Monitoring in Action
One of our customers, embedded in a data-centric industry, vividly demonstrated this during a penetration testing exercise.
APF Libraries became the target of a penetration testing team seeking to gain unauthorized, elevated access to the mainframe's infrastructure. However, thanks to a robust continuous monitoring system meticulously observing the APF libraries, the attempt was promptly detected.
Alerts were rapidly dispatched to the security team, who were able to promptly investigate and discern the ongoing penetration attempt. enabling an immediate cease of the penetration activity.
This incident illustrates the indispensable role of an adept continuous monitoring strategy in enabling rapid, informed responses to security incidents, thereby ensuring the fortified defense of mainframe environments against unpredictable threats.
Illus 1. Modern web graphical interfaces facilitate easy and effective data interpretation by security teams outside the mainframe, enabling them to effortlessly access and analyze critical information.
Navigating Through the Labyrinth: Solutions for Continuous Monitoring of Mainframe Security Events
The strategies below not only illuminate the path towards safeguarding mainframes against external threats but also guide internal protocols to ensure operations are seamless, compliant, and efficiently managed.
- Data Overload: Continuous monitoring can produce a massive amount of data. Parsing this data to find relevant information can be challenging without proper tools or configurations. Employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to differentiate between routine activities and potential threats automatically can notably reduce the burden. Running a new alert in silent mode, where it logs and counts occurrences without sending actual notifications, provides insights into its frequency and relevance without bombarding the team with alerts.
- Achieving Comprehensive Visibility: Attaining a holistic, unified view encapsulating all aspects of the mainframe's operations and security posture is an intricate challenge, particularly in complex IT environments. Adopting a solution that consolidates data from disparate sources into a singular, intuitive dashboard enhances visibility. Ensuring that the dashboard can be customized to display pertinent information enables security teams to maintain an unwavering gaze over the entirety of the mainframe's activities. Security Information Event Management (SIEM) products help you monitor and analyze security events across your enterprise. Doing so lets you quickly recognize threats and remedy them. The mainframe monitoring solution chosen should be able to filter events and forward them to your SIEM.
- Complexity: Setting up and maintaining continuous monitoring can be complex, especially in large, diverse environments. Investing in training and skill development is fundamental. Concurrently, opting for monitoring solutions that prioritize usability and provide thorough documentation and support ensures that the existing workforce can effectively manage and respond to the insights provided by the monitoring tools.
- Performance Overhead: Intensive continuous monitoring can exact a toll on the mainframe's performance, potentially impeding its operations and negatively impacting user experience. Ensuring that the monitoring solution can scale alongside the mainframe ensures that enhanced capacities do not translate into diminished performance.
- Adhering to Compliance Norms: Continuous monitoring must not only safeguard against threats but also ensure that all activities comply with regulatory mandates, which can often be multifaceted and intricate. Integrating automated compliance management features that log, audit, and report activities in adherence with specific regulatory frameworks alleviates the complexity of maintaining compliance. Furthermore, utilizing templates for various regulatory norms ensures that adherence does not have to be manually configured.
- Customization and Scalability: Every environment is unique. Therefore, the monitoring solution should be customizable to meet the specific needs and priorities of each organization. Opting for monitoring solutions that allow for customization and scale to accommodate the evolving needs of the mainframe and the organization ensures that it remains relevant and effective throughout its lifecycle.
- Addressing Skill Shortages: The scarcity of professionals adept in mainframe security and management amplifies the challenge of effectively utilizing continuous monitoring solutions. Investing in training and skill development is fundamental. Concurrently, opting for monitoring solutions that prioritize usability and provide thorough documentation and support ensures that the existing workforce can effectively manage and respond to the insights provided by the monitoring tools.
- Cloud Interconnectivity Security: Ensuring that mainframes securely interact with cloud platforms without exposing themselves to vulnerabilities is essential yet challenging. Implementing rigorous encryption protocols for data in transit and utilizing secure APIs for interaction can bolster security. Moreover, ensuring that the monitoring solution can analyze and respond to threats from these interactions amplifies the mainframe's defense mechanism.
Consider Cybersecurity Continuous Monitoring for a Better Tomorrow
Continuous monitoring is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, enhancing our health, safety, and overall quality of life. The same principles of continuous monitoring extend to the world of mainframe systems, where it plays a pivotal role in reducing risks, detecting intruders, ensuring compliance, and improving operational efficiency.
Moreover, as businesses become increasingly reliant on intricate digital ecosystems, managing myriad systems and applications can become daunting. Cybersecurity continuous monitoring simplifies this challenge, providing a centralized perspective on the health, security, and performance of these systems. It acts as the vigilant sentinel, never tiring, always watching, ensuring businesses can focus on innovation and growth, knowing their digital backbone is robust and secure.
By aligning the security strategy with a solution that seamlessly amalgamates continuous monitoring with automated compliance and real-time, adaptive alerting, organizations forge ahead, solidifying not just their mainframe's security but also the trust and confidence of their clientele and stakeholders. Though wrought with challenges, the path forward becomes distinctly navigable, ensuring that the mainframe, a digital powerhouse, stands unassailable amidst the tumultuous cyber seas.