What’s the best form of data protection against ransomware?
Cyber threats are reality for all businesses, but in spite of the increased risk of ransomware or malware attacks, it appears many companies are not heeding the potential threat to their operations, brand reputation and financial health. I was really surprised (understatement!) to read an article in InfoSecurity magazine this week about a survey indicating more than 50% of businesses had not conducted a cyber-risk assessment.
Is ransomware being taken seriously enough?
The subheading is provocative but for good reason. More than 1,000 companies participated in the survey by the Travelers Indemnity Company, which found that 55% of businesses have not completed a cyber-risk assessment. To compound matters, in addition to not assessing their own risks, 63% of respondents said they had not completed a cyber threat audit of vendors who have access to their data. For European companies, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) makes this a glaring oversight. Now that data controllers have specific legal obligations to ensure other organisations processing personally identifiable information (PII) on their behalf are compliant with the GDPR, not assessing their readiness to deal with a cyber-attack does seem to be flying somewhat blind into a storm.
Data breaches are increasing
The Traveler's study also found that the number of businesses falling victim to a cyber-attack has doubled in 2018, with incidents affecting 20% of respondents. Meanwhile, in the wider world, the list of data breaches is increasing week-to-week and month-to-month. Just for August 2018, the itGovernance blog detailed a lengthy list of leaks totalling over 215,000,000 records, including Huazhu Hotels of China, T-Mobile in the US and the UK retailer Superdrug. Time will tell what the consequences of these breaches will be for the organisations affected, but just last week, the UK Information Commissioner's Office fined credit reference company, Equifax UK, £500,000 for failing to protect the PII of up to 15 million people in Britain during a 2017 cyber attack. In the new regulatory environment, losing data or suffering some kind of security breach could be a very costly event even before one factors in the impact of lost revenue, damaged brand reputation and other costs.
The information security market is surging
Against this background, it's no surprise that IDC is predicting the information security technology market will increase in size from $75.5 billion in 2016 to $120.7 billion by 2021. Ransomware attacks have company execs on edge and now there is another twist to be aware of – protection racketeering or providing protection through extortion and threats. A komando.com article explains that some cyber-criminals are now demanding payment in advance, in a ploy to convince you that they will not lock up files in the first place.
Every forty seconds....
Prevention and preparation are the keys to successfully dealing with ransomware. Obviously, if you can prevent attacks in the first place you are ahead of the game. But on the other hand, 60% of malware vehicles were ransomware in 2017 with one ransomware attack targeting a company every 40 seconds. According to the FBI, ransomware payments reached more than $1 billion in 2016, having totalled a mere $24 million the year before. So, if cybercrime is difficult to prevent, what can you do to be prepared for its inevitability? That's where LTO Ultrium tape comes in. The best way to ensure that you can recover from a ransomware attack is to keep a separate, offline, reliable and recent copy of your data that cannot be infected by the attack.
Tape and ransomware
LTO tape is a supreme last line of defence against intrusion because it creates an airgap. Data cartridges are typically kept offline and disconnected from the rest of the network. Malware cannot infect what it cannot see. As we move into a future with billions of IoT devices, tape will come into its own. The growing commercial deployment of IoT systems will mean that the value of breaching and controlling these types of systems is increasing. And artificial intelligence will lead to more sophisticated cyber-attacks and render basic protection methods obsolete. It's possible that in the future, ransomware attacks might target backups for deletion or encryption, in which case, cloud-based backup and archival systems in themselves, may not offer sufficient protection.
In summary, I think that tape technology is a strong defence against ransomware, for reasons summarised by analysts, IDC, in their recent report on optimising data protection costs and guarding against external threats.
“Tape has specific strengths that match well to specific data threats at price points far lower than comparable methods. LTO tape has become the open system standard for commercial applications, is supported by numerous vendors, has recognized industry standard technology, and has a published road map for the next four generations. Tape, specifically LTO technology, remains as the last line of defense against malicious software and still plays an important part of any comprehensive data protection strategy.”