IBMs accounting transactions in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland comes under SEC investigation

IBM has revamped its mainframe technology for the super encrypted blockchain era.

The IBM Z is a data encryption breakthrough, said the technology provider, making it possible to encrypt "everything all the time". That means protection for cloud services, applications and data bases in one click, cheaply and easily without any software changes. IBM also announced six new blockchain cloud data centers enabled by IBM Z in Dallas, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Tokyo and Toronto.

The system, capable of running more than 12 billion encrypted transactions per day, addresses the global epidemic of data breaches and appeases data protection strictures set out by regulators around the world.

It's IBM's most significant re-positioning of mainframe technology in more than a decade, when the platform embraced Linux and open source software, said a statement.

Ross Mauri, general manager, IBM Z, said: "The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very difficult and expensive to do at scale.

"We have created a data protection engine for the cloud era that we believe will have a significant and immediate impact on global data security."

Encryption is often largely absent in corporate and cloud data centers because current solutions for data encryption in x86 environments can dramatically degrade performance (and thus user experience), and can be too complex and expensive to manage. As a result, only about 2% of corporate data is encrypted today, while more than 80% of mobile device data is encrypted.

Over 150 IBM clients around the world participated and provided feedback in IBM Z's system design over three years. IBM Z pervasive encryption features the following:

Encryption of essentially all data, all the time

IBM Z makes it possible, for the first time, for organisations to encrypt essentially all data associated with an entire application, cloud service or database in flight or at rest with one click. The standard practice today is to encrypt small chunks of data at a time, and invest significant labor to select and manage individual fields. This bulk encryption at cloud scale is made possible by a massive 7x increase in cryptographic performance over the previous generation z13 – driven by a 4x increase in silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms (more than six billion transistors dedicated to cryptography in a full system). This is 18x faster than compared x86 systems (that today only focus on limited slices of data) and at just five percent of the cost than compared x86-based solutions.

Tamper-responding encryption keys

In large organisations, hackers often target encryption keys, which are routinely exposed in memory as they are used. IBM Z can protect millions of keys (as well as the process of accessing, generating and recycling them) in "tamper responding" hardware that causes keys to self-destruct at any sign of intrusion and can then be reconstituted in safety. The IBM Z key management system is designed to meet Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Level 4 standards, where the norm for high security in the industry is Level 2. This IBM Z capability can be extended beyond the mainframe to other devices, such as storage systems and servers in the cloud. In addition, IBM Secure Service Container protects against insider threats from contractors and privileged users, provides automatic encryption of data and code in-flight and at-rest, and tamper-resistance during installation and runtime.

Encrypted APIs

IBM z/OS Connect technologies can 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. IBM Z now allows organisations to encrypt these APIs – the digital glue that links services, applications and systems – nearly 3x faster compared to alternatives based on compared x86 systems.

Regulations

The IBM Z also is designed to help clients build trust with consumers and comply with new standards such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will increase data protection requirements for organisations doing business in Europe starting next year. GDPR will require firms to report data breaches to the regulatory authority within 72 hours and potentially face fines of up to 4% of annual worldwide revenues or €20m, whichever is higher, unless they can demonstrate that data was encrypted and the keys were protected.

At the US Federal level, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), which includes the five banking regulators, provides guidance on the use of encryption in the financial services industry. Singapore and Hong Kong have published similar guidance. More recently, the New York State Department of Financial Services published requirements regarding encryption in the Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies.

IBM Z aims to automate and streamline security and compliance processes. Rather than auditors being expected to manually inspect and validate the security of databases, applications and systems, firms can automatically provide verification that data is encrypted and the keys are secure. The system also provides an audit trail showing if and when permissioned insiders accessed data.

Blockchain

As blockchain applications become increasingly integrated into core business processes, client's concerns are naturally shifting to security, encryption, and resiliency. IBM Z is evolving onto the IBM Cloud, launching initially as an encryption engine for cloud services and to run IBM Blockchain services. New blockchain services in centers in Dallas, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Tokyo and Toronto are secured using IBM Z's industry-leading cryptography technology.

Marie Wieck, general manager, IBM Blockchain, said: "The powerful combination of IBM Z encryption and secure containers differentiates IBM Blockchain services on the cloud by supporting the trust models new blockchain networks require. Enterprise clients also benefit from the ease of use making management transparent to the application and the user."

In addition, AngelHack, in partnership with IBM, today launched "Unchain the Frame," a global virtual hackathon with over $50,000 USD in prizes. Developers from around the world are invited to show off their skills and creativity using technologies such as blockchain, native open source applications, financial industry APIs and machine learning.