Security Again Top Concern in HelpSystems Marketplace Study
February 2, 2022 Alex Woodie
If you’re concerned about cybersecurity in your organization, you’re not alone. According to the latest IBM i Marketplace Study from HelpSystems, cybersecurity and ransomware were the top concern of IBM i customers, beating out HA/DR, application modernization, and IBM i skills.
About 450 IBM i shops from around the world participated in HelpSystems 2022 IBM i Marketplace survey, the eighth year in a row the survey has been conducted. Security has been the number one concern of survey-takers for the past five years, during which security has garnered anywhere from 69 percent to 75 percent of respondents’ votes.
For the 2022 report, only 62 percent of survey respondents identified security and ransomware as a top concern, three percentage points higher than high availability and disaster recovery (HA/DR), and six points higher than modernization applications.
HelpSystems tries not to change its Marketplace Survey too much from year to year because it makes comparisons more difficult over time. But it made a change to the 2022 survey by pairing ransomware and security together. This is likely the reason for security’s drop from 2021, when 75 percent of respondents identified security as a top concern.
“Cyber security is a little bit down this year, and maybe because we added ransomware to the question,” Tom Huntington, HelpSystems’ vice president of technical services, said during a one-hour webcast to present the results last week. “We used to just say ‘cybersecurity.’”
Ransomware certainly was a major cause for concern in 2021, as companies large and small reported their computers being held hostage by cybercriminals who had encrypted the contents of victims’ hard drives. Schools, fuel companies, meatpackers, and others were hit with ransomware, including one IBM i shop that reached out to IT Jungle to share its scary story last July.
“I am so surprised that cybersecurity and ransomware isn’t like 99.7 percent, because that’s a real problem,” IT Jungle President and The Four Hundred Co-Editor Timothy Prickett Morgan said during the HelpSystems call. “Air gapping your backups and locking down your system as much as possible, all these things. Everyone’s going to get that phone call or that email or whatever at some point if they’re not careful, and that’s a real big deal and it’s getting worse. So I’m surprised that people are not more concerned than that.”
The HelpSystems survey shows that IBM i customers have taken various steps to close security gaps on their servers, and that they plan to take more steps in the future. The most common security measure taken is the use of secure managed file transfer, which is something that 48 percent of survey-takers report doing, with another 15 percent saying they plan to do this.
That is followed by privileged user management (46 percent implemented, 16 percent planned) compliance and audit reporting solutions in place (43 percent implemented, 17 percent planned), exit point security (37 percent implemented, 17 percent planned), and antivirus and ransomware protection (33 percent implemented, 20 percent planned).
Less than one quarter of IBM i shops (24 percent) have implemented multi-factor authentication (24 percent), database encryption (21 percent), and a SIEM/SYSLOG solution for aggregating security threats from multiple systems (20 percent).
Curiously, for all eight categories of security solutions, the percentage of respondents saying they plan to implement these solutions stays remarkably consistent, ranging from 12 percent (for SIEM/SYSLOG) to 20 percent (for AV and ransomware protection). It would be interesting to find out if the folks planning on implementing these solutions represents a monolith of practically wide open systems (more unlikely) or if the deployment of security solutions is more evenly mixed, with the bulk of IBM i shops having a mix of areas they have successfully locked down and others areas they need to work on (more likely).
According to Ian Jarman, the CTO of IBM Lab Services, birds of a security feather do indeed flock together.
“If you have exit point security in place, you would likely be sleeping well at night, but if you don’t, then you likely have not only a lack of exit points, but you probably don’t have everything else covered,” he said during the HelpSystems Marketplace call. “If you don’t have the basics covered, like exit point security, you’re likely to have vulnerabilities that you don’t know about. So I would advise people to take this very seriously because the threats are serious and they’re out there, not only on IBM i but on every other platform as well.”
Getting that IBM i firewall in place (i.e., exit point management) can do a lot to cover up other bad security practices, Huntington says.
“On IBM i, there’s a lot of things you can be doing if you’re looking at security and really putting the proper attention to it,” he says. “To me, always one of the top things these days is a good kind of firewall system with exit-point type security to augment some of the other bad practices that we see from object0level perspective and what people have done.
“IBM i is, to me, the most securable system on the planet,” he continues. “It’s just that, as administrators or developers, we maybe made some mistakes along the way when we configured our applications or our objects on the system and what kind of security have.”
The lack of security knowledge and skills is the biggest hurdle when it comes to security, with 47 percent of users according to the Marketplace Surrey. That’s followed by the constantly changing nature of the threats (42 percent), balancing security controls and business efficiencies (38 percent), and continuously evolving technology (30 percent).
Jarman highlighted one potential solution from IBM that can take a bite out of ransomware. Last summer, IBM announced the addition of Safeguarded Copy functionality to its FlashSystem arrays. First developed for the high-end DS8000 arrays, Safeguarded Copy uses built-in data replication technology to automatically create copes of data that cannot be accessed.
“There’s a really hot area that we’ve been working, which is Safeguarded Copies, where you can create a separate immutable copy that cannot be changed as a protection against cybercriminals and ransomware,” the longtime IBM i executive said. “If you haven’t looked at those types of options in the past, these are coming very fast to the IBM i marketplace today.”
HelpSystems, which is one of the biggest providers of security solutions and services on the IBM i platform, also produces the annual PowerTech State of Security study, which is now in its 18th year. You can download a copy of the 2022 IBM i Marketplace Report and view the HelpSystems webcast at this link.