Notes IDs – The Backbone of the Domino Security Model

IBM Domino Notes ID Security

The Domino and Notes security model is rooted in its ID files, formidable keys that are unique to each Domino installation. The loss or compromise of any Notes ID results in a recovery process, especially time consuming if that ID happens to be an Organization or Organizational Unit certificate. Properly storing and maintaining your Notes certifier, user and server IDs will reduce the risk of having to go through a recovery process.

Don’t raise your hand, but how many of you have your Domino’s O or OU certifier on your C drive that you use to register new users? While this is convenient, it is far from a security best practice. These IDs are literally the keys to the kingdom and need to be protected. At a minimum begin using Domino’s Certificate Authority to register, re-certify and rename users. Now, the CA acts as a proxy to the certifiers and you can remove them from your computer’s disk. Be sure to keep back up copies of the certifiers in a secure location – ie on a USB flash drive in a safe. These back up copies should have multiple, complex passwords.

Like the certifier IDs, steps need to be taken to secure server and user ID files. If you are not already using the ID Vault, I cannot stress how important it is you start doing so today. The ID Vault is a living copy of the user’s ID file. I know many Domino administrators store a copy of the user ID on a secure network drive, and the ID either has a generic password or uses a known algorithm. Security issues aside, a problem with this approach is the IDs become outdated as renames and recertifications happen. With the ID Vault the ID is updated as these occur. And, they are stored in an encrypted format, enveloped with Domino security settings. Secure your IDs and free up your time spent bailing out users forgetting passwords or crashing hard drives by implementing an ID Vault. Also, be sure to follow IBMs best practices for ID Vault security.

Pssssst…. The Password is….

IBM Domino Notes ID Security

Another important piece regarding the security of an ID is the password. The Security Settings document as part of Policy architecture provides a multitude of ways to enforce password rules. First, you can configure password expiration, meaning that the password has to be changed on a regular basis. Note: this does require that password checking be configured on the user’s mail server via its server document For the Notes ID file you can set many requirements for the password by selecting the Use Custom Password Policy for Notes Clients. Once this box is checked a Custom Password Policy tab appears. Here, you can define rules for the password, i.e. the number of letters, numbers, special characters, etc. Just remember the reality of users being able to actually remember and type their passwords when selecting options.

“Key” Concepts…

IBM Domino Notes ID Security

The Security Settings document also contains a tab called Keys and Certificates. As Domino has matured as a product, so has the strength of the Notes ID. When a value is defined in the Minimum allowable key strength field, any user ID that has a weaker strength will be rolled over. And by using adminp, this becomes seamless to the user community. The native IBM Domino Administration help database provides the details for how to do the roll over in your environment.

Going back to the server document, the Security tab contains the Compare public keys field, which verifies public keys on ID files. For example, Jim Engle dropped his laptop in his swimming pool and nothing could be retrieved from the hard drive. Because there was no back up of his ID file, the admin created a new ID for him. However, the admin did not know that the public key in the ID file needed to be exported and copied to Jim’s person document. While this is a relatively harmless case of how public keys become mismatched, a malicious example would be if someone created an ID file of the HR director to review confidential information stored in Domino databases. Hence, blocking ID files with mismatched public keys is a way of preventing rogue IDs from accessing your Domino servers.

Don’t Forget About Server IDs….

ibm domino notes ID security

And last, a public service announcement regarding Server IDs. As probably most of us have done, the Domino server ID has had its password cleared in order to allow for the Domino server to start automatically – because who really wants to log in at 2 AM and enter a password. Trust me – I completely get it and admit servers under my control do not have ID passwords. And while this is another necessary convenience, it does create a security hole. Consider using BCC’s DominoProtect product to allow auto reboots with a password protected server ID.

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RPR Wyatt Product Portfolio

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