Ransomware attacks have caused many organizations to lose highly important or sensitive data. Most recently, it has come to light that Kia, the vehicle manufacturer has suffered a ransomware attack where the attackers are demanding $20 million in payment in order to decrypt the data.
While prevention is the best defense for ransomware, once a ransomware attack has already occurred, the best chance to recover the data is to maintain regular data backups, otherwise you’re only option left is to pay the ransom, and in some cases, even that does not guarantee your data will be decrypted. However, as critical as it is to protect your data — you must also take measures to prevent backups from getting encrypted by ransomware as well.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malware, or virus that encrypts data and files on a victim machine, which then prevents users from accessing their files. When ransomware infects a system, it starts searching for files and then begins encrypting them, oftentimes it will encrypt all of the files on the machine. Attackers hold the key that can decrypt the files, which they commonly will offer to give to the victim once a ransom payment has been made, but it is not always a guarantee.
Most ransomware will display a ransom notice/pop-up to users, usually by replacing their desktop background image or placing a text file with instructions in the folders it has encrypted. The ransom notice demands payment, which may be between hundreds and several thousand dollars, most typically to be paid in cryptocurrency to keep the transaction anonymous, and untraceable.
Backup and Recovery, aka Disaster Recovery
Data backup and recovery is the process of backing up your important data in the event of a loss and setting up secure systems that allow you to recover the data as a result. Data backup requires the storing copies and archives of computer data to make it accessible in case of data compromise, corruption, or loss due to deletion.
Data can only be recovered from an earlier time if it has been backed up. This is often referred to as operational recovery. Recovery from a backup typically involves restoring the data to the original location, or to an alternate location where it can be used in place of the lost or damaged data. A proper backup copy is stored in a separate system or medium, such as tape, from the primary data to protect against the possibility of data loss due to primary hardware or software failure.
Disaster Recovery Can Prevent Loss Due to Ransomware
Performing and maintaining regular backups and part of a Disaster Recovery plan is the best way to protect yourself against Ransomware. If you have a clean backup of your data when a ransomware attack hits, and are also able to prevent ransomware from reaching the backup and encrypting it too, then you have a safe and easy way to recover without having to pay the ransom.
Here are some best practices and tips to protect your backups against ransomware:
- Keep an offline backup — keep a copy of the backup offline. If/when ransomware hits, the malware can attack anything that the infected system has access to. Keep an offline backup, this will mitigate the risk. Another tip is to use traditional backup tapes, which are impossible for ransomware to attack.
- Make use of immutable storage — also known as WORM (Write-Once-Read-Many), immutable storage can store data and lock it to prevent further modification. Immutable storage ensures backups remain unchanged.
- Endpoint protection on servers containing backups — modern endpoint protection platforms can detect ransomware as it begins to infect a system, mostly by recognizing its strange behavior. These platforms can lock down the infected systems and isolate them from the network to prevent the ransomware from spreading. This can be extremely useful for all organizational endpoints but is especially important on the backup server itself.
- Increase backup frequency — see how often you are backing up your own data. Backup frequency will determine how much data can be lost in a ransomware assault. Even if you are backing up once a day or once every few hours, consider the cost of losing all the data since the previous backup.
The 3-2-1 Backup Method
The 3-2-1 backup method is a recommended best practice for recovery and backup, and can also help mitigate ransomware risks. No backup strategy is foolproof, but following the 3-2-1 rule is probably the most recommended way to prevent data loss.
Here is how 3-2-1 backup works:
- Keep 3 copies of your information — one main copy and two backups.
- Use 2 distinct media formats — for example, SSD drive, tape, magnetic disk or cloud storage.
- Keep 1 of those copies offsite — the most secure option is to store data to a tape and deposit it in a very secure location. Another option is to automatically take a snapshot of the data and send it to a disaster recovery location.
Tips for Testing Backups
- Test from your regular backups, in whatever media you use.
- Don’t just test a couple of files. Make sure you can restore entire directories, servers, or applications.
- Restore to a different computer or server.
- Keep a copy of the install disks for your backup software with the backups themselves.
- Be sure to document the process for restoring or reinstalling applications, especially if there are any special tips or tricks needed to perform the task. Put this into a text file in the application so that it gets backed up with everything else.
SME offers both Managed Backup solutions and Cloud Backup Storage solutions that ensure reliable backups of your data, for any IT/security related questions, please give us a call at 703-378-4110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.