Sponsored content from Key Resources, Inc. (KRI)
The mainframe is at the core of every major enterprise that has one. In fact, in a recent survey of IT and security managers, 86% agreed that mainframes are still essential for driving a highly scalable workload. But despite this known reliance, many organizations lack the resources and buy-in needed to put mainframe security on the forefront. The survey also reported that 72% of IT leaders/stakeholders are not prioritizing mainframe security.
At the same time, cyber criminals are creeping in to take advantage of organizations’ negligence — the total cyber-attack volume across the IT landscape was up by 35% in the first half of 2020, compared to the second half of 2019. If organizations know the important role the mainframe plays, why aren’t they getting the support they need from the top to protect it?
The short answer: it’s hard to protect your mainframe if you don’t know what you’re up against.
Zero-day vulnerability awareness could gain buy-in
In general, organizations lack proper security education programs that can spark buy-in. Even those in the technology industry can lack the base-level security knowledge that inspires a commitment to mainframe security. If organizations worked to educate their teams on the types of vulnerabilities threatening their IT environment, it could drive teams to mobilize against them. One risk business leaders may not be aware of, likely because they’re silent by nature, is zero-day vulnerabilities.
Zero-day vulnerabilities are among the most-prized gaps by hackers and could creep-in to an organization’s IT environment anytime software is updated, or even if a previously-undiscovered weakness comes to light. Essentially, a zero-day vulnerability is a software security flaw that may or may not be known to the software vendor. Either way, a patch has not been issued. Once exploited, these vulnerabilities could compromise an entire system. Without an existing patch, closing up the hole is not a quick fix, providing ample time for the hacker to do damage.
In many cases, organizations and software vendors do not know the vulnerability exists until after it has been exploited and the IT environment has been compromised. Once the vulnerability becomes public, other hackers can move swiftly before a patch has been widely issued. This is what makes zero-day vulnerabilities so tantalizing for cybercriminals — either the organization doesn’t know the door is open or they’re slow to shut it.
Scanning the mainframe tracks down zero-day ghosts
Once organizations recognize what they’re up against, they now face the challenge of guarding the mainframe against an inherently hidden threat. Mainframe vulnerability scanning — scanning code on the mainframe to look for zero-day vulnerabilities — can solve for that.
With the vulnerability landscape changing by the minute, organizations need to adopt mainframe scanning into their regular, reoccurring security practice. It needs to be a routine part of patch management and security processes, scanning every time there are changes to the environment.
Manually scanning for vulnerabilities is both impractical and expensive, so many organizations partner with third-party vendors to use mainframe vulnerability scanning tools. Organizations need an automated tool that constantly tests and monitors running code to provide teams with the highest level of insight. With this information in their arsenal, organizations can move quickly to install patches to safeguard their mainframe and their business.
Awareness and insight drive protection
The long-held belief that the mainframe is a stronghold with a moat is a dangerous one. Just like any other cog in your digital environment, the mainframe needs to be protected against the increasing number of hackers bidding for a piece of your business. Risk managers can unite the organization around mainframe security by providing a greater understanding of the threats at hand, such as zero-day vulnerabilities. Once they secure organizational stakeholder buy-in, IT teams need an automated tool that is constantly scanning the mainframe to sound the alarm.
Cynthia Overby is the president and co-founder of Key Resources, Inc. (KRI). An expert in mainframe compliance, risk management, governance, and cybersecurity business-case development, she has served in leadership roles across a variety of industries for the past 30+ years. In her current role, Overby identifies and shapes KRI's strategic plan, leads the company's product vision together with KRI's CTO, and provides product strategy and direction. She was recently elected to the SHARE Board of Directors for a 2-year term and was awarded a position on The Software Report's "Women Leaders in Cybersecurity" in 2020. She has committed her career and personal life to building community and culture, creating unique experiences, tackling tough issues, and influencing sustained change.