Resource Access Control Facility

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RACF, [pronounced Rack-Eff] short for Resource Access Control Facility, is an IBM software product. It is a security system that provides access control and auditing functionality for the z/OS and z/VM operating systems. RACF was introduced in 1976.[1]

Its main features are:[1]

  • Identification and verification of a user via user id and password check (authentication)
  • Identification, classification and protection of system resources
  • Maintenance of access rights to the protected resources (authorization)
  • Controlling the means of access to protected resources
  • Logging of accesses to a protected system and protected resources (auditing)

RACF establishes security policies rather than just permission records. It can set permissions for file patterns — that is, set the permissions even for files that do not yet exist. Those permissions are then used for the file (or other object) created at a later time .[2]

The first text book published (first printing December 2007) aimed at giving security professionals an introduction to the concepts and conventions of how RACF is designed and administered was Mainframe Basics for Security Professionals: Getting Started with RACF by Ori Pomerantz (Author), Barbara Vander Weele (Author), Mark Nelson (Author), Tim Hahn (Author).[2]

RACF has continuously evolved[3] to support such modern security features as digital certificates/public key infrastructure services, LDAP interfaces, and case sensitive IDs/passwords. The latter is a reluctant concession to promote interoperability with other systems, such as Unix and Linux. The underlying zSeries (now IBM Z) hardware works closely with RACF. For example, digital certificates are protected within tamper-proof cryptographic processors. Major mainframe subsystems, especially DB2 Version 8, use RACF to provide multi-level security (MLS).

Its primary competitors have been ACF2 and TopSecret, both now produced by CA Technologies.[4]


  1. ^ a b "IBM RACF". Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Mainframe basics for security professionals : getting started with RACF. Ori Pomerantz. Upper Saddle River, NJ: IBM Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-13-173856-0. OCLC 213380831.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ "IBM RACF - The History of RACF". Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  4. ^ Jeffrey Yost, "The Origin and Early History of the Computer Security Software Products Industry," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 37 no. 2 (2015): 46-58 doi

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