Don’t Drown in a Sea of Cyberthreats

Security teams can be overwhelmed by a sea of vulnerabilities–without the contextual data to help them focus their efforts on the weaknesses that are most likely to be exploited. Cyberthreats need to be stopped before they cause significant financial and reputational damages to an organization. You need a security system that can detect an attack, prioritise risks and respond within minutes to shut down an attack or vulnerability that could compromise your endpoints and data.

Businessman in crisis

The integration of IBM BigFix with IBM Qradar provide accelerated risk prioritisation and incident response to mitigate potential attacks giving you an integrated threat protection system to keep your corporate and customer data secure.

My colleague Roshan Royan and I provided an overview of both solutions and how they are seamlessly integrated on the following Webinar (recording).

Thanks to everyone who attended the Webinar!



Setting up BigFix Inventory 9.2

IBM BigFix (Endpoint Manager) has released a new Software Usage Analysis (SUA) module. This release includes a number of new capabilities, specifically SQL support.  BigFix Inventory (or SUA) also provides IBM sub-capacity measurement capability. IBM has provided a number of installation and administration guides here.   In the following article, I’ll step you through the key elements to setup SUA 9.2: Prerequisites

  • I’d created a new Windows 2008 R2 server to run SUA 9.2.  My virtual machine had at least 8GB of memory and 2 vCPU
  • On the SUA server I had installed Microsoft SQL 2012 and updates
  • I had installed an IEM Agent and it was reporting back to the IEM server successfully.

Install and Configure the SUA 9.2 Server

  1. From the IEM console, select BigFix ManagementLicense Overview and find the Software Usage Analysis section.   Next to IBM Endpoint Manager for Software use Analysis v9, select Enable
  2. Click on IBM Endpoint Manager for Software use Analysis v9, under the  Computer Subscriptions tab, change the value from No computers to All computers and select Save Changes
  3. Select System Lifecycle – Software Use Analysis – Server Setup and Software Use Analytics.
  4. From the SUA install screen you’ll want to choose a server which will run SUA.  For small environments, SUA could run on the same server as IEM.  However as you grow beyond several thousand endpoints, you’ll want to dedicate a separate server for SUA 9.2.   Select that server and click Deploy Installer.SUA9 install
  5. SUA 9.2 will then show you the following screen as it downloads the SUA 9.2 software and then mirrors it to that server.   In my lab environment this took about 10 minutes.  You can check the progress of the download by looking at the running Actions too:Deployment Status Pending download completed successfully sua installer next steps
  6. On the SUA 9.2 server (my server was called SFTSGSUA9 – as it’s on Softlayer) I ran the installer setup-server-windows-x86_64.bat (as an Administrator).
  7. During the SUA 9.2 installation, select the default including accepting the license agreement. Change the default installation path if required:sua 9 path
  8. I select the default https port 9081 in my environment (you could choose another port if required)
  9. I selected System Account and finally reviewed the settings before clicking Installfinal SUA installer review
  10. When SUA was completed I was shown the following screen: sua 9 installer complete
  11. Click on Done and a web browser is then launched to complete the SUA 9.2 configuration.  You might need to click the certificate warning in your web browser. I entered the following information below to configure SUA.sua config 1 sua config 2 sua config 3sua config 4
  12. After the import was completed (which did take a few hours in my lab), the SUA 9.2 application was then launched:SUA login
  13. Back in the IEM console I could click Finish and configure it with the URL of my IEM9TSUA2 server:SUA Finish launch url
  14. Now SUA 9.2 is up and running,  we’ll now setup the endpoints for SUA scanning.

Setup your Endpoints for SUA scanning

  1. From the IEM console,  select System Lifecycle.  Then select Software Use Analysis, select Setup – Activate Analysis.  You should see seven Analysis as shown in the example below.  Activate each of these.activate analysis
  2. Next select Setup – Deploy Scanner to Endpoints and select Install Scanner,  select Take Action.   Select Target and select Dynamic target by property and select All Computers, if you want the scanner applied to every computer with an IEM Agent installed.  Otherwise you might create a manual group (called SUA 9 clients) and select it instead.  Click OK to run the Action.  The scanner will then be deployed to the endpoint.
  3. Select Setup – Schedule Scans on Endpoints.  Select Initiate Software Scan.  Select Target and select Dynamic target by property and select All Computers.  Select the Execution tab.  By default the scanning process will run every 7 days as shown below.  You can change this value if you like.  Select OK when scan - default
  4. Finally, select Setup – Schedule Uploads on Endpoints.  Select the Upload Software Scan Results fixlet.  Click OK to run the Action.   Select Target and select Dynamic target by property and select All Computers.  Select the Execution tab.  You’ll see below the Fixlet will run anytime new scan results are available and retry this 3 times if there is an error.  Select OK when complete.upload scan results

Note:  As mentioned above, it’s probably a good idea to do each of the three items above on a group basis, so that as you deploy additional endpoints they’ll automatically be setup for SUA processing. Software Catalog Update You’ll want to use the latest software catalog from IBM, which we see has been automatically detected within the console.  You’ll need to perform a similar task roughly every month as IBM releases new SUA catalogs.  The update process is documented within the Fixlet, so check there on what you need to do, especially if you customise the catalog.

  1. From the IEM console,  select Systems Lifecycle – Software Use Analysis – Software Catalog Update – Software Catalog Update.  Select Take Action and select your SUA 9.2 server.  The action will download the latest catalog and install this on your SUA 9.2 server.sua 9 catalog update
  2. Login to the SUA 9.2 server console.
  3. Go to Management – Catalog Update
  4. Click Browse and locate the downloaded catalog file  (I expanded the ZIP file first)
  5. Click Upload.   Then select Import Now within the SUA console and browse to the file (D:\Program Files\ibm\SUA\sua_catalog)   and select the ZIP file.
  6. Click Upload 

    Note:  There is a Fixlet 1002 – Upgrade to the newest Software Usage Analysis 9.x catalog that can be run.  This will automatically download the latest catalog to the SUA 9.2 server.  The above task of applying this catalog via the SUA console is still required (thank’s David Kosenko for this information).

That’s it!   SUA is now up and running and you can easily see what software is installed and being utilised in your company.   If you have any problems,  please post your query to the new Bigfix forum. Are you benefiting from IBM Endpoint Manager SUA?    If so we’d love to hear from you. Darryl

IBM BigFix (Endpoint Manager) Windows 7 Migration Cookbook

IBM BigFix can not only provide software distribution but also Operating System Deployment (or OSD).  OSD includes the ability to upgrade operating systems (such as Windows XP to Windows 10) but also perform bare metal installations.  I’ve recorded two edited video’s of OSD in action for an upgrade and bare-metal installation.


OSD is a feature of IEM’s Lifecycle Management service and a lot of detailed documentation is available here.   My colleagues have now produced an excellent step-by-step guide of the setup and use of OSD.

Topics include:

  • Setup of OSD
  • Deploying the Windows 7 Image to a Windows XP system
  • Bare Metal Imaging
  • Quick Reference Guides

This guide can be downloaded from IBM developerWorks from here.   If you have any questions on OSD, you can post them to the IEM forum.



IBM Closes Acquisition of Fiberlink Communications

Today IBM announced the aquisition closure of Fiberlink Communications.  Fiberlink have developed an amazingly simple to use Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) service.  MaaS360 is one of the few MDM products, where you can literally use their MDM product in minutes.  A customer can register their details at for a 30 day trial, and take it for a test drive within minutes.  No waiting for sales contacts to contact you first,  no migration to other services if you like to use the product after the trial.


I’ve found MaaS360 extremely easy to use.  Which is feedback I’ve also heard from clients evaluating other MDM solutions.  The MDM in minutes video provides a great overview:

The team at Fiberlink also provide PC and Mac management, which is based on IBM Endpoint Manager (BigFix) technology.  So I look forward sharing with you how IBM Endpoint Manager technology will integrate with MaaS360 in the future.  I’ll also post my experiences and insights into MaaS360 on this blog too.


IBM BigFix for Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

IBM BigFix is popular with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for it’s ability to manage hundreds of thousands of endpoints via a single multi-tennant architecture.  BigFix provides MSP’s the flexibility for either centralised or delegated administration models.

Overall Architecture
Bigfix is typically installed in a centralised architecture as show below.  A single Bigfix server is installed at the MSP to manage several clients from one platform.   The BigFix server may be installed with Distributed Server Architecture (DSA) for larger environments.  Some MSP’s prefer to leverage virtualisation technologies for disaster recovery such as VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM).

BigFix can manage thousands of separate customer networks (each with thousands of endpoints), without requiring a VPN connection to each client. This is achieved via BigFix relays.  A relay is essentially any endpoint but performing some additional responsibilities.  BigFix can also manage roaming endpoints which may have left those clients and are working at other remote locations (home, hotels etc).

MSP IEM Architecture

Top Level Relays (MSP Relays)
To manage these endpoints, the MSP will need to separate the BigFix server from the public internet via one or more relays.  These relays can be designated relay1, relay2, relay3 etc. as extra capacity is required.  The suggested guideline is approximately one of these MSP’s will support  1000 child relays, which you can think of is approximately 1000 MSP managed customers.

Including another relay for redundancy is good practice.  So for most MSP’s with two top level relays, this could support around 2000 child relays (or managed customers).  For the purposes of this.. example, I have called this top level relay

IEM MSP Relay1

Client Relays
At each customer office that will be managed by the MSP, it’s recommended to install a relay.  If you don’t, each endpoint will communicate back directly to the top level relays.  So there is additional bandwidth requirements.  Each endpoint will most likely need to have command polling enabled.  So each endpoint ‘phones home’ on a regular basis.

If you deploy a relay, this can be an existing server already in the DMZ (running a range of Windows, Linux or Unix operating systems).  The BigFix agent is installed which communicates back to the top level relay called  The server is promoted as a relay using Fixlet ID 1642 Install IBM Endpoint Manager Relay (Version 9.0.787.0).  Check of course for later versions.

Network and DNS Requirements
Ensure you have TCP ports 52311 open at both the MSP and client firewalls.  You can check this by performing the following telnet commands:

telnet 52311
telnet 52311

You can also also use a web browser and browsing to the relay’s address and append  :52311/relaydiagnostics  as shown below:


The MSP should designate the DNS name of the top level relays for client registration purposes (see below).  The MSP doesn’t need to define DNS entries for the client relays (such as the name, although you might simple do this to assist with future network diagnosis.

Client Registration
Endpoints at each of the remote offices need to register back to the MSP’s BigFix server.  This is not possible via direct communication.  It’s achieved by configuring the remote client to register via a nearby relay.  In our example above, this is to as detailed in this article. The client then registers all the way back to the MSP’s BigFix server via the relay servers.

Client Identification
Most MSP’s allocate each client a unique Client Identification (CID) as outlined in this wiki article.   They do this so all the endpoints can be easily classified and grouped together.  Select Computers, ToolsManage Properties and create the following cid property:

Client ID

The cid value can be defined at endpoint registration time via a clientsettings.cfg setting.  This number can be allocated from the BigFix console, by selecting the server, clicking the right mouse button,  then selecting Edit Computer Settings…   Then select Add, and enter a setting name of cid and the appropriate number you’ve designated.  ie. 0001.  Once you’ve clicked ok, it can take a few minutes for this new value to be applied to the endpoint and the results sent back to the BigFix console.

You can define separate administrator accounts to only manage those clients endpoints.  To do this, create a local account or LDAP role.  Then as shown below, only assign computers that match the appropriate cid value.  When the user logs back into the BigFix console, they will only be able to administer computers with the cid of 0001.

Operator to cid0001 computers

Custom Sites
As outlined in this article,  circumstances may arise whereby the MSP is required to manage and/or deploy custom content for a specific customer. To avoid all customers BigFix Clients downloading and evaluating this custom content, the MSP must create “Custom Sites” and subscribe only the specific customers BigFix Clients to that site.  Create custom sites for each client and assign computers to them using the following example:

Custom Site

Also note that by default, the BigFix Operator accounts you create for each customer cid will have no access to the IBM External sites, such as Patches for Windows, Asset Discovery, Inventory & License, etc, so you will need to give “Reader” access for any of these sites that are required by these customer specific BigFix Console Operator accounts.

Running Actions to remote endpoints
With the above BigFix architecture in place, the administrator can deploy a patch to a remote endpoint and see it’s progress in realtime.  Here is a short five minute video showing a small Microsoft hotfix being applied to a remote server.  Remember that this server is isolated at the remote clients network, and has no direct communication to the Internet or central MSP BigFix server.  All communication is performed via the BigFix relays.

You can see how BigFix provides a flexible multi-tenant service for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) without complex networking or server requirements.


Keep calm with IBM BigFix

It was recently reported that a Microsoft Windows and Office vulnerability was already being targeted by criminals.  If you search on Google for keywords such a Windows and zero day exploit, it’s interesting to summarise the respective web pages mentions:

  • Windows – Approximately 7 Million web pages
  • Mac – Approximately 500K web pages
  • Linux – Approximately 500K web pages

IBM’s X-Force team publish all new threats via their X-Force Alerts  and you’ll see the usual suspects. As outlined in this CRN Article, IBM’s X-Force Team advised that attackers “use a path of least resistance to gain a maximum return on exploits”.

It’s one thing to be notified of these threats, but how do you confidently address them easily within your organisation?  This is a particular challenge with thousands of PCs and Macs and a mobile workforce.  Some of whom may be travelling for days and not regularly connecting to a corporate network.


The good news is, there are tools that can help.  Within hours of vulnerability being identified, IBM’s BigFix team will package and re-test a published hotfix (or suggested alternative).  For example for the Windows and Office vulnerability outlined above, this in in the form of a temporary hot fix.   This is then published by IBM in the form of a Fixlet,  making this critical fix immediately available for all IBM Endpoint Manager servers and their clients.  Each IEM agent then reports to it’s vulnerability status back to the customers BigFix console, so you have a realtime view of the number of endpoints effected.

The BigFix administrator can “Action this Fixlet” (ie. go ahead and fix those PCs and Servers thanks!), which will dynamically download the hotfix and apply it to tens or hundreds of thousands of endpoints.  The administrator can once again view in realtime the remediation status.   So at anytime, the BigFix administrator report this information to their organisation or security auditors.

In addition to the range of operating system vulnerabilities/patches addressed by BigFix, the following is a list of applications managed by the IBM Content Delivery Team include the following  (thanks to Peter Tuton for putting together this list):


  • Acrobat
  • Flash Player (including browser plug-ins) 
  • Reader
  • Shockwave Player


  • iPhoto
  • iTunes 
  • Keynote
  • QuickTime
  • Remote Desktop
  • Safari
  • Xcode


  • Internet Explorer
  • Lync
  • Office
  • Project
  • SQL Server
  • Visio


  • Chrome


  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Nullsoft WinAmp
  • Oracle Java Runtime Environment
  • RealPlayer
  • Skype
  • WinZip

How is your organisation addressing the Zero Day threat?


Manage Amazon (AWS), Azure or IBM Cloud instances with IBM BigFix

IBM BigFix provides clients with the ability to manage hundreds of thousands of endpoints from a single console.  These can be a range of operating system types such as Windows, Linux, Apple Mac OSX and Unix.  Oh, don’t forget mobile devices too!

You can install your BigFix environment with an relay running in your DMZ,  you can also manage your mobile workforce and public cloud resources too.  A BigFix relay is simply any existing BigFix agent thats been given a few more additional tasks.  They provide bandwidth and server scaling benefits and a proxy between externally managed devices and your internal network.

Your public instances will typically be Windows or Linux operating systems running on your public cloud of choice such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure or IBM Cloud.


Configuring the BigFix Client for Public Internet Instances
Each operating system you wish to manage needs to have the BigFix agent installed.  IBM offers a range of agents for Windows, Mac OSX, IBM AIX, HP-UX and  Solaris.  The BigFix agent when it’s started, will attempt to register itself back to your BigFix server.  This will be via details stored within the actionsite.afxm  (renamed from the masthead.afxm file).  This file is unique to your BigFix server and is stored on your BigFix server in the Program Files (x86)\BigFix Enterprise\BES Installers\Client  directory.

Of course, if you have a public cloud instance the BigFx client won’t be able to reach your privately hosted BigFix server.  You need to provide the client a few additional details so it can ‘phone home’.   This will be your relay in the DMZ and it’s DNS name or IP address.  These details are stored in the clientsettings.cfg file.  The following article provides details on how to configure this, but all it requires is just one or two lines as shown in this example:


Of course, use your DNS server names. The clientsettings.cfg file is used when the BigFix client is installed.

Deploying your BigFix Clients
You may wish to deploy your BigFix clients using the client deployment tool, Active Directory or login script as I detailed here. However for a public cloud environment, some platforms provide image deployment capabilities. Much like VMware’s powerful image template feature, with your cloud provider you will create a ‘gold image’ with your desired operating system, fixes, software and BigFix agent installed. You need to follow the instructions in this article so the BigFix agent ready to work correctly as new instances are deployed from this image.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
With AWS, you can create your gold image by creating an instance, shutting it down and selecting Actions – Create Image. You then have an AMI from which you can deploy new Instances as shown below. AWS provide the EC2Config service to also provide Sysprep and other image configuration features. 


With Softlayer, you can use the same approach with their Flex Image. Softlayer also provide the ability to execute a script which will be executed on a newly provisioned SoftLayer device, which is another approach to configure client settings if required.

Console Management
When your instances start for the first time, they will automatically register to the BigFix server and be visible in the console. You’ll then be able to provide the following services from your console. This is possible for your private AND public instances !

  • Patch Management – Operating System Patches, plus a number of 3rd party applications such as Java, Adobe etc.
  • Core Protection – Anti-virus/Anti-malware
  • Security and Compliance – security checklists such as CISDISA STIGFDCC and USGCB.
  • Software Usage
  • Remote Control

If you have BigFix baselines enabled, you can then be assured that those endpoints are automatically patched to a minimum level and an appropriate security posture is applied. IBM BigFix provides per server licensing, so you pay as those instances need to be managed. It would be great to hear from you if you’re managing Windows or Linux instances on AWS or Softlayer.