Enhancing Mainframe Security: Unleashing the Power of Vulnerability Scanning and Patching

Enhancing Mainframe Security: Unleashing the Power of Vulnerability Scanning and Patching

What are the risks in mainframe systems?

Mainframe systems, the primary information processing platforms for many organizations, are often viewed as impregnable citadels. But the fact remains that even these advanced computing platforms can contain vulnerabilities open to misuse by the wrong individuals. Several types of threats could be present in the mainframe systems, including old versions of software and services, open security holes, improperly set up access rights and credentials, and other issues.

These make the system vulnerable to several security risks such as data leakage, unauthorized access and other related issues. These weaknesses are never hidden from the cybercriminals and the nation-state actors, who are always on the lookout and are always devising new ways to develop them. Considering that you are a mainframe administrator or security professional, it is important to remain vigilant and timely act regarding these threats to prevent the loss of valuable data and infrastructure.

The importance of vulnerability scanning in mainframe security

By definition, vulnerability scanning is a critical element of mainframe security since it helps to identify and categorize such points of weakness. This approach entails using tools and procedures to systematically examine your mainframe surroundings, identifying system configurations, software versions, and access rights that may contain flaws.

Having vulnerability scans conducted frequently can help you determine exactly how vulnerable your mainframe is at any given time, as well as what steps must be taken first. It is from this information that specific security measures can be initiated, including the application of patches, updates to the software and better controls on access to systems to address the risks that have been identified.

How Vulnerability Scanning Works in Mainframe Environments

Vulnerability scanning in mainframe environments typically involves a multi-step process:

Discovery: The first step in performing mainframe capacity planning is to recognize all the constituent parts of your mainframe environment: the hardware, the software and the network devices. This is a very relevant approach as it helps ensure that no possible weaknesses are left unnoticed.

Scanning: After the discovery phase, the vulnerability scanning tools will then scan each component systematically, looking for such things as security vulnerabilities, misconfiguration, and outdated software. This may include network scans, agent-based scans, and the more advanced Mainframe scans.

Analysis: The data gathered during the scanning process is then used to determine which of the identified vulnerabilities should be addressed first. This is based on the level of risk that the identified vulnerability poses to the given system, the harm that might be caused by the vulnerability, and the vulnerability’s susceptibility to exploitation.

Reporting: The last activity of this process is to produce detailed reports that present the assessment findings in a format that can be easily understood and applied to address the identified vulnerabilities. 

These reports should contain specific information on how to address the problems, i.e. which patches should be applied, which software should be updated, or what other security measures should be introduced.

With this approach, you can achieve an effective and structured vulnerability scanning that is most appropriate to achieve mainframe security goals.

Patching as an Essential Element of Mainframe Protection

As this paper has demonstrated, vulnerability scanning is just the first step in the process of improving mainframe security. After weaknesses have been exposed, the next major procedure to take is to fix them through patching. Patching is the process of applying any updates, fixes and security patches to correct some of the known security issues and risks.

In the mainframe environment, patching is a challenging activity, as it is a process that consumes a lot of time, and it needs planning, testing and coordination with other systems as well as applications. However, failing to apply these critical updates means your mainframe remains vulnerable to threats that are evident from the vulnerability scan exercise.

Different methods of patching in mainframe systems

Mainframe administrators can employ various strategies when it comes to patching their systems:

  • Scheduled patching: One such approach is to schedule patching or updates at specific time intervals in a systematic manner so that services are not interrupted. This assists in the prevention of risks from materializing and in ensuring that they are managed systematically; however, it may require coordinating activities in order not to disrupt the organization’s fundamental operations.
  • Automated patching: In some of the automation patching types, the patching is done through the automated system where the software is capable of identifying the vulnerability and applying the patches without involving the organization. As indicated above, these tools can help to cut down on the amount of time that it takes to patch, and also the amount of human error that may occur but they have to be set up well and tested to be compatible with the mainframe.
  • Targeted patching: At times, it may be possible to fix or patch only the most severe and prominent vulnerabilities while the rest of the system remains unpatched at that time. This is particularly applicable where time is limited or where resources are limited but it is made on the understanding that one does have to have a good understanding of the threat environment and the seriousness of threats posed by the vulnerabilities that have been identified.

In any case, it is important to point out that patching in the mainframe environment is a technical process and must be done carefully in that it requires considerable understanding of the system, time for testing and a work plan on how to do it without adversely affecting the business’s operations.

Benefits of vulnerability scanning and patching in mainframe security

By implementing a comprehensive vulnerability scanning and patching strategy, you can unlock a host of benefits for your mainframe security:

  • Enhanced protection: This is because when you are aware of the weaknesses of your environment, you will be in a better position to reduce the risks that are likely to affect your mainframe infrastructure through hacking, theft or any other attack.
  • Improved compliance: Some of the disciplines have their laws governing the protection of data in the course of their operation. Vulnerability scanning and patching are also valuable in ensuring that your organization complies with these standards and in preventing the ramifications of legal proceedings.
  • Reduced downtime: The ability to eliminate such risks before they become an issue means that one would be able to avoid planned system unavailability or system unavailability resulting from successful attacks on the mainframe resources that are pertinent.
  • Cost savings: The economic damage that results from a well-executed cyber attack could be relatively costly when one considers the costs of the actual incident and data recovery, not forgetting the impact on the company’s reputation. These risks can be managed by vulnerability scanning and patching; thus, they are equally a threat to the financial well-being of an organization.
  • Increased efficiency: Therefore, with the help of the automated and optimized process of vulnerability scan and patching, you can free your IT staff and make them focus on the work that would be more beneficial for the company.


Thus, mainframe security has emerged as an even more crucial factor than it used to be in the threat environment that is constantly changing. As for the protection of the mainframe systems, and accordingly the mainframe of your organization and its data, it is now advisable to follow vulnerability scanning and patching so that the areas of weakness are covered.

You can now sign up for the free trial of our vulnerability scanning and patching solution for mainframes – this would be the first move towards strengthening your mainframes’ security.

Written by Avatier Office