Securing Mainframe Systems: A Comprehensive Guide to Incident Response

Securing Mainframe Systems: A Comprehensive Guide to Incident Response

Mainframe computers are large computers that are used in some of the largest organizations to process large amounts of data and perform extremely important transactions. Such systems contain and work with financial data, medical records, and other important data for the functioning of the government and other industries. The impact level of a security breach or an incident in a mainframe is severe, which can result in data loss, monetary loss, violation of compliance standards, and loss of reputation.

This means that it is necessary to protect the mainframe system by approaching the problem in a most effective way. This includes ensuring that the system has strong mechanisms of access control, constant vigilance on activities that may be deemed malicious or unauthorized, and an effective response plan for handling incidents. It is now possible to minimize the exposure of mainframes to threats by recognizing the specific security threats and vulnerabilities that come with mainframes and applying the best security practices.

Mainframe Systems Incident Detection And Analysis

Mainframe security can only be successful if the detection and analysis of the incidents are efficient. Mainframe system creates large amount of log data which may be user actions, system events or security-related information. With the help of advanced analytics and monitoring tools, you will be able to analyze this data constantly to detect security incidents and anomalies.

Some key steps in the incident detection and analysis process include:

  • Establish Comprehensive Logging: Make sure your mainframe system is set up to write comprehensive logs through all the main system areas, such as user log-ins, system actions, or security operations.
  • Implement Real-time Monitoring: Implement the mainframe log monitoring systems that can analyze all the logs in real time and alert them on any suspicious activity or security breaches.
  • Employ Advanced Analytics: Utilize simple and advanced data analysis methods to find patterns, deviations, and threats in the mainframe log data and thereby respond to incidents.
  • Integrate with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Integrate your mainframe logging and monitoring systems with the centralized SIEM platform to get a complete picture of security events throughout the IT environment and correlate these events to identify possible threats.

If you put these strategies to work, you will be able to improve your capacity for identifying and investigating security incidents in your mainframe domain and provide an appropriate response.

The Key To Protecting Mainframe Systems

The protection of the mainframe system is complex and it involves the use of technical and organizational measures to reduce the risks of an attack. Here are some of the key elements to consider:

  • Access Controls and Identity Management: Ensure that there are strong password policies, access controls, and physical security measures such as biometric authentication. It is important to go through the user permissions list periodically and make changes where necessary to ensure that the principle of least privilege is maintained.
  • Encryption and Data Protection: Please ensure that all data that you store or transfer in your mainframe environment is encrypted, whether it is at rest or in transit, in order to minimize the risk of data leakage or theft.
  • Network Security: Shield the access to your mainframe by means of firewalls, IDS/IPS systems as well as employing secure network protocols.
  • Vulnerability Management: A main system is your mainframe software, firmware, and supporting systems; manage patching and updates to address identified risks.
  • Incident Response Planning: Create a clear incident response plan that would detail every action that should be taken in case of a security breach, the personnel involved and their roles, and the communication channel to follow.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: IT staff and end-users should be informed on ways of protecting mainframes, on how to identify and report anomalous activities, and on their responsibilities towards the organization’s security.

With these key security measures in place, it becomes easier to maintain the security of a mainframe system and minimize cases of successful attacks.

Main Types Of Security Incidents In Mainframe Systems

Mainframe systems are vulnerable to a wide variety of security threats and each of them is different in terms of the issues that they can cause and the ramifications that they can bring. Familiarity with the four common types of incidents will enable you to prevent and handle them most appropriately. Some of the most prevalent security incidents in mainframe environments include:

  • Unauthorized Access: A form of attack whereby unauthorized users try to breach your mainframe system through force, exploiting other loopholes or even fraudulently using your login details.
  • Data Breaches: The unauthorized access, theft or exposure of your mainframe data including credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank or investment records, or research and development information.
  • Insider Threats: Internal threats are those that arise from trusted insiders who are found to engage in unauthorized activities that compromise the security of an organization’s systems and data.
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks: Tries to flood your mainframe system with traffic or take advantage of its weak points to halt your operations.
  • Malware Infections: It is the act of introducing unwanted programs such as viruses, worms, or ransomware into the mainframe system, which may alter its integrity and compromise data security.
  • Configuration Errors: Mainframe system errors that happen without the knowledge of the system administrator and which make the mainframe system vulnerable to security threats or hitches crucial business processes.

By considering these common security incident types, you can prepare for the specific threats and design your incident response and security measures to fit them accordingly.

Mainframe System Incident Recovery And What We Learned 

In your mainframe environment, when a security incident happens, it is crucial to have a documented procedure and everyone in the company needs to be familiar with the same to contain the impact and bring things back to normal. Your incident response plan should outline the steps to be taken, including:

  • Incident Containment: As soon as possible, contain the compromised devices, avoid the expansion of the case, and minimize the harm.
  • Evidence Gathering: Gather all the logs, system data, and other materials that could serve as evidence in case of a legal investigation or trial.
  • Root Cause Analysis: The following are the recommendations that should be followed in the case of an incident: Conduct a detailed analysis to establish the cause of the incident and the areas of weakness that the attackers exploited.
  • System Restoration: Ensures that the mainframe system is brought back to a state that is free from the threat for either it has been restored from backups or rebuilt from scratch.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Make sure that your incident response and recovery actions are in line with the guidelines of the industry regulations or data protection laws.
  • Lessons Learned: Perform an after-incident analysis to learn from the event, revise the incident response plan, and put preventive measures to minimize the probability of such an occurrence in the future.

Thus, by acting systematically in the case of an incident and using the knowledge gained from previous incidents, you can increase the level of protection of your mainframe system.


Protecting your mainframe system is one of the essential goals in the contemporary environment. When using approaches such as incident detection, protection, and response, you will be able to protect your key applications, data, and operations. Remember that the secret to success is to be prepared, to monitor progress, and to learn from experience.

Embrace The Power Of Identity Management Private Cloud Solutions. Effortlessly connect, reset, provision & audit any identity or app using today’s latest platforms. Start your free trial now.

Written by Avatier Office