It’s Time to Take Advantage of Multifactor Authentication for Mainframe Security

In 2018, organizations that trust passwords alone to manage access to their critical business information are like Cro-Magnon hunters protecting their tribe with a stone ax. While it’s a simple and comparatively easy solution to implement, it isn’t a viable approach in an increasingly competitive digital business environment. It also doesn’t provide enough protection to combat real risks that exist today.

Certainly, passwords are tough to beat when it comes to a cheap, fast and convenient way to deliver authentication. In today’s threat landscape, however, passwords alone represent a dangerous and dated solution. They’re easily guessed, bypassed, stolen and even sold — and they don’t meet modern security needs.

Multifactor Authentication: Mainframe Security Concerns Come Into Focus

Smart companies — especially ones that deploy large-scale systems based on mainframes — are finding ways to manage access to their data and infrastructure safely. Regardless of their industry vertical or geographic location, organizations are increasingly focused on a common concern: cybersecurity.

Cyberthreats subject companies to risk that can damage customer and partner relationships, not to mention brand reputation, lost revenue and fines. The threats will continue to rise in variety and volume as businesses embrace digital transformation (and attackers become more sophisticated).

A recent survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 94 percent of C-suite executives expect their company to have a significant cybersecurity incident in the next two years — and less than 20 percent have a high level of confidence in their preparedness to combat these threats.

Protecting Mainframe Data in the Post-Password Era

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a powerful solution that organizations can use today to restrict access to sensitive information. While variations of MFA have been available for several years to manage access to phones, laptops and tablets, this capability has only recently been an option for mainframes. Since tremendous amounts of valuable data and proprietary IP are typically stored and managed on mainframes, MFA now makes it much easier to control access to mission-critical information.

MFA is an umbrella term for an approach that forces users to identify themselves with something they:

  • Know, such as a password or PIN;
  • Have, such as a cell phone or key fob; and
  • Are, such as a fingerprint, voice print or iris scan.

Organizations across industries are implementing MFA to provide additional layers of access security and make the bad guys work a lot harder. The result delivers on the primary objective: Make access easier for people who are authorized and more difficult for attackers.

The Rise of Multifactor Authentication Means Passwords Are Ancient History

In recent years, more and more companies are turning to MFA solutions to address their security and compliance concerns. In 2015, 66 percent of organizations were using MFA in some capacity, according to SecureAuth. In 2016, that number jumped to an impressive 93 percent. In 2017, more than 30 percent of organizations were looking to expand or implement MFA over the next 12 months.

To meet this demand, IBM MFA for z/OS enables verification of all users, including employees, contractors, outsourced IT, partners and customers — basically anyone who logs into your existing enterprise security management (ESM) solution.

If you are looking to provide the next level of secure access to your organization’s critical data, put down the stone ax, step out of the cave and stop using your password.

Learn more about IBM Multi-Factor Authentication for z/OS

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Mike Zagorski

Offering Manager, IBM

Mike Zagorski has over 20 years’ experience with IBM and is currently an Offering Manager in IBM Security division with a focus on IBM Z. He is responsible for IBM’s zSecure Suite including Multi-Factor Authentication for z/OS and has held several management positions in z/OS security development and IBM Z software delivery. In addition to his management experience, he has held positions in development, test and business operations. He holds Master of Science degrees in Computer Science and Management from SUNY Binghamton and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute respectively.