Data Discovery and The Key to Mainframe Security

By Andrew Grzywacz

Today’s cyber landscape is overrun with threats. Thieves, hacktivists and other digital criminals practically run freely across the web, deploying an increasingly sophisticated breadth of tools to infiltrate, breach, clone, leak or otherwise steal a litany of personal and confidential data. The victims of these breaches run the gamut from Fortune 500 companies and governments to healthcare insurance providers, universities and law firms down to individual taxpayers and families. Literally millions of people have been affected, with their records compromised and billions of dollars stolen or scammed away.

So, to say that today’s IT teams have their work cut out for them would be an understatement. Cybersecurity has become a progressively difficult proposition to maintain. Even the most informed security managers, who keep apprised of the latest threats and implement the most up-to-date practices – encryption, firewalls, email sandboxing and so on – are always having to play catch-up.

But, mainframes provide a unique and perhaps underappreciated way for IT security teams to stay one step ahead of their digital adversaries.

It may not immediately seem that way to the average IT staffer. After all, mainframes have been the workhorses of IT ops for decades; how could something with that many years under its belt possibly stand up to the ever-evolving barrage of cyber threats in 2016?

Actually, it’s precisely because mainframes have been fixtures of IT operations and data centers for so long that they can be leveraged to weed out cyberattackers. Decades of service mean that mainframes have accumulated and stored incredible volumes of data – data that is always being moved around. The downside to that is that it creates a lot of potential opportunities for the wrong hands to gain access to your networks or other confidential files.

Here’s the upside, though: mainframes are ripe for data discovery scanning. These tools enable managers to deploy a thorough assessment of the kind of data residing within their mainframe, identifying sensitive or potentially vulnerable data that present the greatest risks of exposure. This helps paint a complete portrait of your IT estate, which in turn enables you to limit that exposure to security risks and better meet compliance regulations. The more you know about the kind of data residing in your mainframe, the more opportunities you have to block cyberattacks from being able to access it.

Data discovery is just another example of how mainframes, despite their age, are more than adept at taking on the challenges of 21st century data security – and yet another reason why today’s new generation of IT engineers should embrace mainframes as essential to their responsibilities.

Looking to learn more about how mainframes can be integrated with bold new strategies for maintaining overall data security? Join SHARE, a worldwide IBM user group of over 1,000 z Systems professionals dedicated to mastering the art of the mainframe and its essential, modern applications.

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