Application Security // Database Security
8/6/2013
03:58 PM
Adrian Lane
Adrian Lane
Commentary
50%
50%

Mainframes Hackable, But Do You Care?

Mainframes may have holes, but they aren't big targets

There have been very few database security presentations at security conferences of late, as SQLi and buffer overflow attacks have lost their novelty. That said, there is a lot of very interesting database security research going on. and I was lucky to proctor Philip Young's presentation at Blackhat USA 2013 on Mainframes: The Past Will Come Back to Haunt You. In a nutshell, Philip identified several behavioral issues that have serious security implications:

1. It was easy to find valid user accounts as the login sequence leaks information.

2. Passwords are short, don't require complexity, and relatively trivial to crack.

3. Mainframes come with a supplementary UNIX environment.

4. FTP automatically executes uploaded files (data sets).

All of which leads to fun and mayhem for an attacker, and potentially serious data breaches. But does anyone care? The presentation and -- given most of my mainframe experience was OS390 -- educational, will this public research yield increased attacks against zOS?

Unlikely.

I asked a well-known database vulnerability researcher last year "Why don't we hear about more DB2 hacks?" His response: "Because no one uses it."

The point he was making was that, in comparison to Oracle and SQL Server, DB2's market size is relatively small. The response may sound glib, but I see very few new -- Web or otherwise -- projects on any flavor of DB2, and certainly not mainframe. We said for years that Mac OS-X was "safe" from a security standpoint as it's market presence was minuscule compared to Windows. It did not warrant attackers focus as the reward vs. effort factor was out of whack. Mainframes, while still alive and running critical applications for the indefinite future, do not attract attackers, as it would require investment of a few hundred hours to understand, and access to a mainframe (emulator).

All of which is my way of saying that you, the person responsible for mainframe database security, don't have a lot to worry about. And if you were worried about these attacks, you can disable FTP to thwart malicious code uploads. Or firewall off the mainframe from Web access, as seems common. Beyond that most of the flaws must be addressed by IBM through code changes.

Adrian Lane is an analyst/CTO with Securosis LLC, an independent security analyst firm. Special to Dark Reading. Adrian Lane is a Security Strategist and brings over 25 years of industry experience to the Securosis team, much of it at the executive level. Adrian specializes in database security, data security, and secure software development. With experience at Ingres, Oracle, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
andrewboon2739
50%
50%
andrewboon2739,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/16/2014 | 8:31:05 AM
re: Mainframes Hackable, But Do You Care?
Came across another article whcih talk about hacking http://www.marcandangel.com/20...
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-1774
Published: 2015-04-28
The HWP filter in LibreOffice before 4.3.7 and 4.4.x before 4.4.2 and Apache OpenOffice before 4.1.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via a crafted HWP document, which triggers an out-of-bounds write.

CVE-2015-1863
Published: 2015-04-28
Heap-based buffer overflow in wpa_supplicant 1.0 through 2.4 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash), read memory, or possibly execute arbitrary code via crafted SSID information in a management frame when creating or updating P2P entries.

CVE-2015-3340
Published: 2015-04-28
Xen 4.2.x through 4.5.x does not initialize certain fields, which allows certain remote service domains to obtain sensitive information from memory via a (1) XEN_DOMCTL_gettscinfo or (2) XEN_SYSCTL_getdomaininfolist request.

CVE-2014-6090
Published: 2015-04-27
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the (1) DataMappingEditorCommands, (2) DatastoreEditorCommands, and (3) IEGEditorCommands servlets in IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 SP6 before EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.3 before 6.0.3.0 iFix8, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.5 iFix...

CVE-2014-6092
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 before SP6 EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.6, and 6.0.5 before 6.0.5.6 requires failed-login handling for web-service accounts to have the same lockout policy as for standard user accounts, which makes it easier for remote attackers to cause...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.