While it’s easy to set up IBM i report conversion and distribution to automatically email or post spooled file information, there will always be data that needs to be secured or restricted, including:
- Personally identifiable data such as social security, driver license, credit card, bank account, and telephone numbers
- Commercially sensitive data such as company sales, profit margins, customer names, etc.
To solve this problem, here are five commonly used techniques for securing sensitive data when distributing IBM i spool files in PDF, HTML, XLS, or other universal file formats. While a good programmer can code DIY versions of these techniques, it’s more beneficial for your programming efforts to implement this type of security within third-party report distribution and report re-formatting software such as DRVTech’s SpoolFlex and ReportFlex packages.
#1 – Masking Out Sensitive Fields
Some report re-formatting packages allow you to mask out sensitive information in distributed files. A common masking technique replaces all but the last 4-6 digits of an identification number with X’s or other characters in the converted file.
For example, if you have a credit card number of:
With masking, it would show on your distributed reports as:
A knowledgeable person can validate the number but no one else can determine what the actual full number is.
Masking isn’t limited to protecting identification numbers. You can also mask out customer or contact names, email addresses, financial information, and other data you’re prohibited from sharing or don’t want to share.
#2 – Removing sensitive data columns from your distributed spooled file
Some third-party report distribution and re-formatting packages allow you to remove report columns containing sensitive information from distributed reports, as the spooled files are being converted to universal file formats. Rather than hiding restricted data, you can simply avoid the issue by removing the information.
#3 – Encrypting spooled file PDFs and password protecting files
Converted IBM i spooled files can be sent out as encrypted PDFs that can only be decrypted by the receiving user’s private encryption key. You can also password protect converted files to limit the number of people who are authorized to read this data.
#4 – Implement electronic forms handling
Many healthcare organizations still use manual paper flows for billing and patient management. Medical documents contain protected health information (PHI) that can cause security issues. Manual paper flows are unsecured and can be copied or viewed without authorization.
Digitizing paper files with IBM i report distribution software reduces a number of security exposures. Hospitals can securely map existing forms for distribution and printing from an IBM i partition. Not only can you secure distributed reports, many packages also provide auditing techniques to enable you to determine who received which report and when. If there are questions about how converted information was generated and distributed, you have the tools to determine how access occurred.
#5 – Bursting a report to remove sensitive data
You can burst IBM i spooled file reports to send out subsets of individual reports that only contain the data each recipient needs. There are several ways you can sort, split, and deliver sub-reports to protect specific data while allowing other information to be sent out. You can include data for specific targeted customers or distribution lists while leaving off all other data.
IBM i bursting technologies are ideal for extracting individual customer reports from larger reports. Using bursting, you can not only extract the information you need, you can usually do it without using programming or manual separation. Bursting allows you to produce individual customer and partner information on demand, tailored for their needs and your safety.
And that’s not all…
While these are some commonly used techniques for securing IBM i report data, there are more options you can use. Feel free to contact us at DRV Tech if want to learn more about securely delivering IBM i spooled files to associates, partners, and customers. We have over 13 years of experience in report automation and we’ll be glad to discuss more options.
Here are some related materials to help expand your IBM i knowledge:
View our webcast to learn more about our SpoolFlex software for IBM i report conversion: