How the Retail Industry Is Benefiting from Improved IT

Improved information technology and software programs continue to have a major impact on many different industries across the world. One industry that continues to be improved by IT services and products is the retail industry. Retail benefits in a number of different ways.

Improved Security

One of the main ways that the retail industry benefits from improved IT is through the improved security programs now available. Over the past few years, several major retailers have announced that their systems have been hacked and data for millions of consumers has been lost. Today, there are more IT security software programs and services that are geared to help retailers prevent these risks from occurring. This is accomplished through secure cloud-based networks and other systems that are challenging to access illegally.

Inventory Management

One of the biggest challenges that retailers have always had to deal with is inventory management. Those retailers that are not able to manage their inventory will often have too much of an unpopular product and not enough of the best-selling items. Today, through the use of a variety of IT programs and inventory management systems, companies are able to get better real-time inventory reports that can allow them to automatically modify orders from suppliers.

Mobile Shopping

Mobile apps are also gaining in popularity with consumers and retailers today. These enhanced applications provide a user with the ability to complete entire transactions from their phones while also ensuring that their data is going to be properly protected. This provides a more convenient and enjoyable shopping experience for all consumers. The increased use of mobile applications has also helped to reduce the need for as many brick-and-mortar stores, which has helped many retailers reduce their operating costs.

Understanding Different Disaster Recovery Strategies and Methods

Many information technology professionals come to understand that disaster recovery has several different elements. Categorizing different disaster recovery methods can help information technology departments protect what they have.

Precautionary Procedures

Disasters can strike at any time, and information technology departments need to be ready before there is any indication that one will happen. Part of the process is having solid off-site copies of important data available in several locations.

Making sure information technology departments are equipped with generators and surge protectors can also stop departments from losing massive amounts of data on a basic level. It’s also a good idea to monitor the department regularly, thus giving professionals the opportunity to recognize the warning signs of problems.

Identification of Threats

Even the most carefully maintained information technology departments will face threats eventually, and they need to be skilled at finding them. Antivirus software is used to find threats that are already in place. However, information technology departments can potentially face many different threats. Even something as simple as safety alarms can help protect these organizations.

Restorative Methods

Information technology departments have to prepare for the possibility that they will not be able to catch all threats, and this is a reality for almost all of them. Having the right insurance policies is part of the picture here, especially given the importance of data in the modern world. Working with data recovery professionals who can fix damaged systems is also important.

Departments that have all of these different methods in place, or more, will be less likely to face truly devastating problems at any point.

3 Tasks You Can Take to Improve Your IBM i’s Security and Ease of Administration

By Dana Boehler

Securing an expansive platform like an IBM i system can be an intimidating task, a task that many times falls into the hands of a systems administrator when more specialized help is not available in-house. Deciding what tasks and projects will add value, while reducing administrative overhead, is also difficult. In this article I have chosen three things you can do in your environment that can get you started in ascending order of time and effort.

1. Run the ANZDFTPWD Command

Run the ANZDFTPWD command – This command checks the profiles on your system for passwords that are the same as the user profile name and outputs the list to a spooled file. Even on systems with well controlled *SECADM privileges (the special authority that allows a user to create and administer to user profiles), you will find user profiles that have either been created with or reset to have a password that is the same as the user profile name, which could provide an unauthorized user a method for gaining access to system resources. Additionally, the command has options to either disable or expire any user profiles found to have default passwords if desired.

2. Use SQL to Query Security Information from Library QSYS2

In recent updates to the supported IBM i OS versions, IBM made a very powerful set of tools available for querying live system and security data by using SQL statements. This allows users with the appropriate authority to create very specific reports on user profiles, group profiles, system values, audit journal data, authorization lists, PTF information and many other useful data points. These files in QSYS2 are table views directly accessing the information they are querying so the data is current every time a statement is run. One of the best things about creating output this way is there is no need for creating an outfile to query from or refresh re-querying. A detailed list of the information available and the necessary PTF and OS levels required to use these tools can be found here.

3. Implement a Role-based Security Scheme

The saying used to be the IBM i OS “is very secure”, but that statement has changed to the more accurate “is very securable”. This change in language reflects the reality that these systems are now very open to the world as shipped but can be one of the most secure systems when deployed with security in mind. For those who are not aware of role-based authority on IBM i, it is basically a way of restricting access to system resources using authorities derived from group profiles. Group profiles are created for functions within the organization, and then authorities are assigned to those group profiles. When a user profile is created it is configured with no direct access to objects on the system, instead group profiles are added to allow access to job functions. Although implementing role-based security may seem like a daunting task it pays huge dividends in ease of administration after the project is in place. For one thing having role-based security in place allows the administrator to quickly change security settings for whole groups of users at once when needed, instead of touching each user’s profile. It also allows for using group profiles as the object owners instead of individual user profiles, which means the process of removing users who create large numbers of objects or objects that are constantly locked is much easier. Using role-based security also relies on group profile for authority, so the likelihood of inadvertently granting a user too much or too little authority by copying another similar user is far less likely.

These a just a few of things you can do to get started securing your IBM i. In future posts, I intend to delve into more depth, especially regarding role-based security.

Guest Blogger

Dana Boehler is a Senior Systems Engineer at Rocket Software.

Artificial Intelligence – The Number One IT Career Path

There is good news for those who have decided to acquire artificial intelligence skills as part of their IT career path. IBM Watson gurus will be pleased to learn that AR and VR skills are in the top spot of in-demand skills for at least the next couple of years. According to IDC, in the near future, total spending on products and services that incorporate AR and/or VR concepts will soar from 11.4 billion recorded in 2017, to almost 215 billion by the year 2021 — a phenomenal amount of growth that is going to require a steady stream of IT professionals that can fill the need for these widely expanding fields and others. Read on to learn more about the top five IT careers that show nothing less than extreme promise for anyone willing to reach for the rising IT stars.

Computer Vision Engineer

According to the popular job search site Indeed, the top IT position most in demand for the next few years goes to computer vision engineers. These types of positions will require expertise in the creation and continued improvement in computer vision and machine learning algorithms, along with analytics designed to discover, classify, and monitor objects.

Machine Learning Engineer

If vision engineers are responsible for envisioning new ideas, then machine learning engineers are responsible for the actual creation and execution of the resulting products and services. Machine learning engineers actually develop the AI systems and machines that will understand and apply their built-in knowledge.

Network Analyst

As AI continues to grow exponentially, so does the IoT. This means an increased demand for network analysts who can apply their expertise to the expansion of networks required to support a variety of smart devices.

Security Analyst

As AR and VR configurations become more sophisticated, along with more opportunities for exploitation through more smart devices, cyber attacks will become more sophisticated as well. Security analysts will need strong skills in AR, VR and the IoT in order to protect an organization’s valuable assets.

Cloud Engineer

Behind all the scenes is the question of how these newer concepts will affect cloud services. The current expectations are that solutions will require a mixture of both in-house technology and outside sources. Cloud engineers will need to thoroughly familiarize themselves with AR and VR concepts in order to give them the necessary support.

Staying Safe with the Internet of Things

Smart devices enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) save cost and effort. Users can control them remotely, or they can automatically adjust themselves to the time of day or environment. At the same time, they present risks. Many have poor security. They’re easy to install and forget. It’s hard to notice when malware has infected a device, making it spy on your network or perform actions that could get your site blacklisted.

If you’re aware, you can keep risks to a minimum. Here are some methods that will help:

Keep Track of All Your Devices

You should have a complete inventory of the devices in your network, including models and serial numbers. You need to know why they’re there. If a device isn’t serving a useful purpose any longer, take it out of the network.

Change Default Passwords

Many IoT devices come with default passwords that are public information. Change them before exposing the devices to the Internet. If a device’s password can’t be changed, you need to think hard about whether it’s safe to use.

Limit Network Access

Use firewalls and network configuration to limit the exposure of devices. Don’t give them access to any part of the network they don’t need, especially servers with sensitive information.

Patch Where Possible

While many IoT devices can’t be patched, the better ones can. Keep their software up to date so vulnerabilities won’t stay open.

Monitor Your Network

If there are bursts of traffic you can’t account for, a device on the network may be infected. Find the source and take appropriate action.

Tiny as these devices are, they’re small computers. You need to treat them with the same care as any other computers on the network. Keep them secure, and they won’t cause problems.

Cloud Technologies and Handling Ransomware

Cloud computing is one of the best technologies to have in the workplace. Not only can you store your data quickly and efficiently, but it’s also easier for you to access any data. With that said, when it comes to your business security, especially the malicious tool known as ransomware, why are cloud services so important?

Cloud = Virtual Storage

One reason why, is because cloud computing allows you to store your data virtually over the Internet. This makes it untouchable in the event of a disaster. Let’s say a ransomware attack happened on your device, and it affected the data on your hard drive. Despite this, none of your virtual data would be affected, especially since this isn’t what most hackers are banking on. However, since ransomware locks your computer, you wouldn’t be able to access any of your virtual files, right? As a matter of fact, you can. Cloud computing not only keeps your files safe in the event of a disaster, but your data is also accessible from any device with an Internet connection. Whether it’s another computer in the workplace or even your mobile phone, the sky’s the limit to where you can access your personal data.

For more information about cloud computing, COMMON offers educational opportunities throughout the year. Stay in touch to see when the next cloud-related sessions become available.

New Identity-Access Management Developments: IT in the Banking Industry

Just like in many other businesses, identity-access management is becoming the make-or-break factor for creating dependable IT security in the banking industry. That’s why new technological advancements in access-management strategies for banks are such a hot topic right now.

Ever since The New York Times reported in 2014 that JPMorgan Chase banks suffered a security breach that leaked the details of at least 76 million personal accounts and 7 million small-business accounts, banks have been scrambling to protect their networks better with more strict authentication measures.

BankTo improve identity-access management security, more banks are looking at evolving ways of integrating multi-factor authentication among their network’s users. For example, HSBC bank announced in March of 2016 that they’ll begin using new alternatives to standard password authentication that include both fingerprint scanning and voice-recognition technology to protect online accounts, according to ProofID Ltd.

Meanwhile, the U.S. DOD has started a “soft certificates” test program to evaluate the security of new wirelessly-derived credentials on mobile devices that access some of their private networks. Mobile devices store such soft credentials and use them to encrypt data and authenticate VPNs, for example.

Banks are more than interested in following suit, as evidenced by Payfone’s developments in mobile-payment authentications to create online transactions that they claim aren’t possible to hack or duplicate. Their number of transactions has tripled in just one year as they expand to network with more banks.

FingerprintExpect more fingerprint-activated payment systems to take off as well as more smartphones than just the iPhone and new Samsung models adopt fingerprint-scanning features in the future.

5 Tips to Help Achieve IT Security

When it comes to your information, keeping it out of the hands of cyber thieves is a high priority. As technology regularly evolves, so should your IT security measures. You must have multiple layers of security protecting your systems. Below are five basic tips to aid you in keeping your information as safe as possible.

  1. Minimum privileges basically means deciding who has authority to what information. Limit access based on job duties and you limit the chances of your system being breached. For example, your receptionist usually won’t require access to payroll or your transportation manager doesn’t need to snoop in HR files. This is easily adjusted as job requirements change.
  2. Firewalls are your friend. Firewalls are meant to keep unauthorized users from accessing your systems. They are not infallible, but when used along with complex passwords and anti-spyware/anti-virus programs they can provide that extra level of security.
  3. Have a back-up plan. In Computers 101, you learn to back up your information. This is essential, but do you also have a back-up procedure to fall back on if your system is attacked? You need the ability to keep functioning during a system repair or replacement.
  4. Prioritize your systems, decide which are most vulnerable to attack and which are most valuable. You’ll want the heaviest measures deployed on the highest level, most vital systems and data. Accomplishing this without leaving the lower levels unprotected is important.
  5. Constantly evolve your defenses and grow with the changing threats. Just as hackers will continue to find ways to chip away at your security measures, your IT department will need to develop new ways of repelling them.

Taking these general tips farther, you can grow your knowledge of IBM i security by watching recordings of past COMMON webcasts:

Automatic Encryption with FIELDPROC – No Application Changes!

IBM i and Our False Sense of Security

What’s New in 7.1 and 7.2 Security

Be secure out there!