Quantum Secured Cryptography

In 2017 IBM declared the latest mainframe includes constant encryption protection. Not sure if DancingDinosaur covered it 5 years ago. From the initial announcement it sounded pretty good. If I didn’t cover it then let’s cover it now.

IBM still periodically promotes continuous or pervasive encryption with the Z. and there have been plenty of opportunities for mainframe shops to upgrade over the intervening years. Most recently, the z16 has gained considerable attention in that regard. 

The z16 (courtesy of IBM)

Since then the Z mainframe technology has evolved dramatically by embracing Linux, open source, container-driven development, and new tools and technologies. Still, securing data has remained a constant challenge.

“The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use (and steal) because encryption has been very difficult and expensive to do at scale,” said Ross Mauri, general manager for the IBM Z, adding “We created a data protection engine for the cloud era to have a significant and immediate impact on global data security.”

Data security still  remains a serious, ongoing challenge for virtually all enterprises, and the widespread adoption of cloud and mobile technologies have only added to the data security risks. IBM used this product release to underscore a “global epidemic” behind 9 billion data records lost or stolen since 2013.

The cure for this epidemic, IBM believes, is “pervasive encryption.” And yet Big Blue — and many others — acknowledge that encryption is often sparsely applied in corporate and cloud datacenters, because encryption products for x86 environments have tended to degrade performance. And their complexity makes them a pain to manage and expensive to implement.

IBM developed its new system over a three-year period with input from 150 customers, all with data breaches and encryption at the top of their lists of concerns. The resulting IBM Z pervasive encryption capability reflects its call to action on data protection as articulated by Chief Information Security Officers and data security experts worldwide, it added.

“The pervasive encryption that is built in but is designed to extend beyond any new Z, which “really makes this the first system with an all-encompassing solution to the security threats and breaches we’ve been witnessing in the past 24 months,” said Peter Rutten, analyst at IDC’s Servers and Compute Platforms Group.

IBM Z is designed to encrypt data associated with an entire application, cloud service, or database in flight or at rest with one click. This kind of “bulk encryption” is made possible by a 7x increase in cryptographic performance over the previous generation z13, driven by a 4x increase in silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms, according to IBM.

The system also comes with tamper-responding encryption keys. A favorite target of hackers, encryption keys are routinely exposed in memory as they’re used. IBM Z’s key management system includes hardware that causes keys to be invalidated at any sign of intrusion, and can then be restored in safety.

Another capability included is encrypted APIs. IBM z/OS Connect technologies are designed to make it easy for cloud developers to discover and call any IBM Z application or data from a cloud service, or for IBM Z developers to call any cloud service, the company explained. IBM Z allows organizations to encrypt these too.

The IBM Z system can also give companies a means of complying with emerging standards, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect recently or the requirements of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), Singapore and Hong Kong’s similar guidances, and the New York State Department of Financial Services’ newly published Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies.

Finally, the company also announced that IBM Z will be providing an encryption engine for IBM cloud services and run IBM Blockchain services “to provide the highest commercially available levels of cryptographic hardware.” The company also announced new blockchain services in centers in Dallas, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Toronto.

Will all that make you sleep a bit better at night? It should.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter.

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