PCI Requirement 9.10.2: Verify that cardholder data on electronic media is rendered unrecoverable via a secure wipe program in accordance with industry-accepted standards for secure deletion, or otherwise physically destroying the media (for example, degaussing). The risk associated with data leakage is that on mainframes, electronic media includes data repositories residing on both DASD and tape. Unknown cardholder data won’t be identified and therefore may not be rendered unrecoverable via a secure wipe program.

Although PCI data has been used repeatedly as examples in this discussion, this same thought process should also be applied to any confidential and sensitive information stored on the mainframe.

EE: OK, I see now how data leakage can translate into a mainframe audit compliance risk. So, are there any commercially supported tools available that can help assess and mitigate the risks associated with data leakage on mainframes?

Guski: Your question uncovers another problem with conducting a risk assessment for data leakage on mainframes. Although data leakage discovery tools are presently in use for distributed platforms, they’re only just beginning to become available for the mainframe.

An example of a comprehensive and commercially supported data leakage discovery and prevention tool that runs on the mainframe is DataSniff from XBridge Systems. This product provides the capability to search for and discover confidential and sensitive data so that appropriate protection can be applied. This protection may include deletion, migration to removable media, encryption or validation of the access controls for this data. This action will significantly reduce the data leakage risk to any organization.

DataSniff can also be used to support projects such as “encrypt all social security numbers.” The first step is to find all files that contain social security numbers, including those files associated with data leakage. 

And after the encryption project is complete, running regular data vulnerability scans is important because social security numbers can creep back into the mainframe environment from external sources.

EE: Rich, in closing, can you summarize and possibly leave us with any additional suggestions for improving security for sensitive data of which we may be responsible?

Guski: Certainly. IT managers are responsible for the security of confidential and sensitive information that’s entrusted to their organization. Mainframe interaction with distributed environments and other factors, such as mergers and acquisitions, have added the new threat of data leakage to the existing responsibilities that IT management must address. The PCI standard, which is typical among recently emerged data security standards, implies that Data Leakage Prevention (DLP) must be addressed to prove compliance. Commercially supported discovery tools, such as DataSniff from XBridge Systems, have only recently become available for mainframes. IT organizations with mainframes should consider this tool in order to understand and significantly reduce the data leakage risk and to ensure audit compliance.


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