Navigating Ransomware: Five Backup Best Practices for Survival

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The threat of a ransomware attack is a growing concern in today’s digital landscape. But instead of just accepting vague assertions about its severity, let’s look at concrete data from this year to understand the real scope of the ransomware threat.

  • Victims paid ransomware groups a staggering $449.1 million in just the first six months of 2023. If this trend continues, the total for the year could reach approximately $898.6 million​​.
  • There were 1,900 ransomware attacks in just four countries — the US, Germany, France, and the UK — within a single year​​.
  • The second quarter of 2023 alone saw a surge of 88.9 million ransomware attacks, marking a 74% increase from the previous quarter​​.
  • Industries most affected include industrial goods and services, technology, construction, healthcare, education, government, legal services, food and beverage, and consulting​​.

The above statistics clearly underscore the growing threat of ransomware attacks. The question is not if — but when your organizations might become a victim. Therefore, understanding and implementing backup strategies have become a key. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of ransomware attacks and give your best backup practices in such a scenario.

Understanding Ransomware Threats

Ransomware is just a script (some lines of code) designed to exploit vulnerabilities in your system’s security. Often, ransomware typically enters your organization’s network in disguise. It might masquerade as a legitimate email attachment or hide within a not-so-dangerous-looking software that you downloaded a week ago.

However, once inside, this seemingly innocuous code activates and scans for any sensitive data (customer information, their names, emails, or your financials) across the network. And this is where ransomware turns vicious and starts encrypting the sensitive information. Once the complete sensitive data is encrypted, you will see a ransom note demanding payment for the decryption of the information.

Consequences of a Ransomware Attack

Now that you understand how ransomware attacks work, and how they can invade your organization’s network to encrypt sensitive information, it’s not hard to grasp the potential consequences. However, some organizations do not focus sufficiently on this threat or lack a clear understanding of its implications. Here’s an overview of the significant impact a ransomware attack can have on your organization:

1. Data Accessibility and Loss

  • Immediate Lockout: Quick loss of access to data.
  • Permanent Loss: Risk of irretrievable data loss without a decryption key.

2. Financial Ramifications

  • Ransom Costs: High expenses of ransom payment.
  • Operational Downtime: Costs from disruptions and recovery time.

3. Reputational Damage

  • Public Trust: Erosion of customer confidence.
  • Market Position: Potential decline in market standing.

4. Legal and Compliance Risks

  • Data Breach Regulations: Legal repercussions and potential fines for data breaches.

The First Line of Defense: Backup Fundamentals

In the event of ransomware threats, prioritizing a ransomware backup is essential, as it will be your organization’s foremost and most crucial line of defense. Without a backup, you’re completely at the mercy of the attackers, who, in every recorded case, have shown no mercy whatsoever.

Implications of Not Backing Up

  • Irreversible Data Loss: Without backups, any data that is encrypted by the attackers could not be recovered. Given that encryptions have become so advanced, brute force recovery will not work at all. The decryption key, as obvious, would be unobtainable without paying the ransom.
  • Heightened Vulnerability: If you do not have a ransomware backup, you are exposing your organization to operational paralysis and financial extortion.

Limited Alternatives to Backups

  • Decryption Tools: While some tools claim to decrypt ransomware, as mentioned, the encryption tactics have become advanced. As a result, such brute-force methods do not work at all.

Additionally, even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee of data recovery.  Paying the ransom is risky and doesn’t guarantee data recovery, and it encourages future attacks.

Why Backups are the Preferred Solution

Backups ensure that you retain control over your data recovery process. Compared to the risks and costs associated with ransomware attacks, maintaining such backups is actually cost-effective. In fact, regular backups are often part of regulatory compliance and are considered a best cybersecurity practice.

Coming to the best practice, which is the main theme, the next section will discuss the best practices for a backup.

Five Backup Best Practices

1. Regular and Consistent Backups

Regular backups are like a routine health check-up of the data in your organization. However, unlike annual health check-ups, ensure to backup more frequently. Most backup services offer even daily backups, so you do not lose any bit of data when faced with such a disaster.

When it comes to scheduling the backups, you can align with your data update frequency. For instance, if your organization is updating information on a daily basis, then ensure to backup the data on a daily basis.

2. Offsite and Cloud Storage Solutions

  • Diversifying Storage: Most businesses make the mistake of storing all the backups in a single backup. However, ensure that besides having an in-house backup, an offsite backup or cloud backup can add an extra layer of security.
  • Choosing the Right Location: When selecting a cloud service, you can consider factors like encryption level. Ensure to see access controls, and the provider’s own security protocols. Remember, it is not just about storage, it is about securing that storage too, so your organization can recover the data effectively in the face of a crisis.

3. Testing and Validating Backup Integrity

  • Regular Checks: Sounded like backups are everything. Well, you also have to regularly test the integrity of the backup. Whether the data at any given point is recoverable or not. Like you have the regular fire drills, ensure to regularly test the integrity of the backup.
  • Testing Frequency: Again, depending on the criticality of the data, you can monthly or quarterly test sections of data

4. Multilayered Backup Strategy (3-2-1 Rule)

The 3-2-1 rule is very simple yet very effective too. You must at least have three total copies of your data, two of which are local — but on different mediums. And the third copy should be on an offsite or cloud platform. So, if the ransomware attack gets to one of the backups, you always have an option to recover the data.

5. Employee Education and Awareness

Often the most ignored, but the most necessary one — is educating your staff. Your employees are — in a real sense — the first line of defense. If they know how to recognize the ransomware, they will be able to significantly reduce the risk.

Additionally, make this an ongoing process. For this, you can conduct regular workshops and training sessions to keep everyone updated to the latest threats and best practices.

Conclusion

Implementing the above five best strategies is the key to safeguarding your organization against any such attacks. By backing up and protecting the backup, you do not have to worry about any such attacks — that is to say — is one less problem to worry about.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.