IBM plans to thwart hackers with a cover-all encryption system

IBM plans to thwart hackers with a cover-all encryption system”

There are some applications that can profit from having one of IBM's mysterious black monoliths in the data center today.

"The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very hard and expensive to do at scale", said Ross Mauri, General Manager, IBM Z. As user experience is affected by poor performance, encryption is used for only about 2% of corporate data, while over 80% of mobile device data is now encrypted. Drawing on 21 years' worth of data about security incidents, the researchers concluded that, "Of the breaches and incursions analyzed, they could reduce the threat surface by 92 percent by having pervasive encryption on IBM Z", said Nick Sardino, IBM's program director for offering management, z Systems Growth Initiatives. Businesses not already running on IBM Z would have to switch out much more than just their encryption system to benefit.

IBM says the IBM Z is the most significant re-positioning of mainframe technology in more than a decade, when the platform embraced Linux and open source software. Unfortunately, of all the lost data, only 4% of it was encrypted while the remaining was left unprotected during the process.

According to IBM, the new system introduces an encryption engine that allows users to essentially encrypt all data associated with applications, cloud service, or database, all the time, and at any scale.

These x86 systems run a process that IBM said requires a significant labour investment to select and manage individual fields.

IBM said it has been able to achieve this through a 7-fold increase in cryptographic performance versus the previous generation z13 mainframe, driven by a fourfold increase in the amount of silicon dedicated to encryption algorithms. Solitaire modeled the cost of running a business on IBM's z14 and compared it with data from thousands of businesses using x86 systems of different sizes to selectively encrypt data. In large organizations, hackers often target encryption keys, which are routinely exposed in memory as they are used. The "tamper responding" hardware of IBM Z invalidates the encryption keys at the first sign of intrusion.

The latest IBM Z embedded with the IBM Security has been primarily created to ensure complete automation of security and compliance. This IBM Z capability can be extended beyond the mainframe to other devices, such as storage systems and servers in the cloud.

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Besides this encrypt-decrypt-and-encrypt cycle, IBM Z also limits the number of administrators who are able to access raw, readable data. Report author Kat Lind concluded that in IBM Z and x86 systems supporting the same overall level of business performance, the IBM Z encryption system would deliver 18 times the performance for one-twentieth the cost of the selective encryption systems in the x86 systems studied. For example, auditors are expected to manually inspect and validate the security of databases, applications and systems. Organizations can now immediately demonstrate that data within of scope of compliance is protected and the keys are secure. The system also provides an audit trail showing if and when permissioned insiders accessed data. Container Pricing for IBM Z is planned to be available by year-end 2017 and enabled in z/OS V2.2 and z/OS V2.3.

Already, IBM's transaction engine already supports 87% of all credit card transactions and almost $8trn payments a year.

Financial institutions and banks are processing millions of transactions every day for a functional economy.

"While people have been calling for the mainframe's demise for years, requirements today are more diverse than ever and customers are suggesting that for substantial segments of their workloads, the mainframe remains an efficient platform", he said.

Ninety-two of the world's top 100 banks rely on the IBM mainframe because of its ability to efficiently process huge volumes of transactions. With the encryption capabilities of IBM Z, organizations can overcome the standard practice of encrypting small chunks of data at a time. They do not require any changes to applications and they do not impact the business service level agreements. It's as if someone told you a Tesla can store away electricity much faster than all the smartphones in your company, and the electricity to run apps on its dashboard is thus way cheaper than that used by all the smartphones: It may well be true, but you'd have to seriously rethink your business's approach to mobility to profit from it.

What does IBM have o offer?

Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT, also saw the value in IBM's focus on security.

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