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Version: v2.10.x LTS

Zowe Security Overview

Zowe Security Overview

Zowe implements comprehensive measures to secure mainframe services and data resources in transition and in rest:

  • Digital certificates are used by Zowe to facilitate secure electronic communication and data exchange between people, systems, and devices online.
  • User identity is authenticated through modern authentication methods such as OIDC/Oauth2, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), JWT, or Personal Access Token (PAT).
  • User access is authorized by System Authorization Facility (SAF) / External Security Manager (ESM).

Before installation and use of Zowe server-side components, it is practical to first learn about the core security features built into the Zowe architecture.

This document provides an overview of the security technologies and features implemented by Zowe and links to Zowe practical guides on how to achieve specific tasks and goals.

Note: If you are familiar with security technologies and concepts such as digital certificates, authentication, authorization, and z/OS security, you may prefer to skip the introductory sections, and see the Additional resources section at the end of this article to jump directly to the security related technical guidance provided on how to Set up Zowe, Use Zowe or Extend Zowe.

Review the following sections to learn about how Zowe leverages modern security concepts and technologies:

Digital certificates

A Digital Certificate is an electronic file that is tied to a cryptographic (public and private) key pair and authenticates the identity of a website, individual, organization, user, device or server. The de-facto standard is the x.509 family type of certificates, which are the foundation behind Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) security. An X.509 certificate binds an identity to a public key using a digital signature. A certificate contains an identity (a hostname, or an organization, or an individual) and a public key (RSA, DSA, ECDSA, ed25519, etc.).

A certificate can be self-signed or issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). A CA is a trusted organization which provides infrastructure for creation, validation and revocation of the certificates according to the contemporary security standards.

Note: For testing purposes of Zowe, it is acceptable to use certificates issued and signed either by the company's local CA, or even self-signed certificates issued by Zowe security tools specific for the target technology platform. Use of self-signed certificates, however, is not recommended for production environments.

Tip: Review digital certificates terminology in the Zowe security glossary before getting started with configuring certificates.

Digital certificates usage

Zowe uses digital certificates to secure the communication channel between Zowe components as well as between Zowe clients and Zowe services. Digital client certificates can also be used to validate that a client-user (the service user) identity is known to the mainframe security facility.

Next Steps:

User Authentication

Zowe always authenticates the users accessing its interfaces and services.

Zowe API ML implements a Singls-Sign-On feature which allows users to authenticate once, whereby users can access all mainframe resources that they are granted access rights to for the period in which the Zowe credentials remain valid.

API ML uses multiple authentication methods - from Basic Auth (username-password), to external Multi-Factor Authentication providers, and modern authentication protocols, such as OIDC/OAuth2.

Next steps:

Access Authorization

Authorization is the mechanism by which a security system grants or rejects access to protected resources.

Zowe fully relies on the SAF/ESM for control on the user access to mainframe resources. Authorization is processed by SAF when a mainframe service attempts to access these services under the identity of the user authenticated by Zowe.

Tip: We recommend you review the core Authorization concepts by reading the related topics in the Zowe Security Glossary.

SAF resource check

In some cases Zowe API ML can check for the authorization of the user on certain endpoints even before the request is propagated to the target mainframe service. Access to a SAF resource is checked with the installed z/OS External Security Manager (ESM).

Next steps: For detailed information, see the SAF resource checking documentation.

Additional resources

For more information about getting started with certificates including dertermining your certificate configuration use case, importing certificates, generating certificates and using certificates, see the following resources: