A few weeks ago, the head of the intelligence agency GCHQ’s cyber security arm warned that ransomware was without question the biggest threat that Britons faced online, says David Friend, CEO at Wasabi.
Despite this, many enterprises still underestimate the risks and fail to take ample security precautions. Such a cavalier attitude towards the risks is widespread among businesses, with a 2019 YouGov survey showing that two thirds of companies with fewer than 500 employees didn’t believe they would fall victim to a cyber attack, and that just 9% of businesses surveyed ranked cyber security as their top business priority. All this shows that both the public and industry suffer from a systemic education gap when it comes to the risks of ransomware.
For businesses, the ransomware threat represents more than just a prospective loss of data or a ransom payment which, in Q4 2019, stood at an average of $84,116 (€71,304.71). It also can mean a notable loss of productivity and customer confidence, with a business plunged into limbo especially if business-critical data is permanently lost. In 2020, IBM estimated that downtime caused by ransomware or data breaches cost the average company $1.52m (€1.29m) worth of lost business.
There are many crucial preventative measures that teams can take to offset the risk of ransomware keeping systems patched, replacing obsolete systems, deploying and scaling analytics, and developing white lists for processes and apps.
However, hackers and defendants are in a constant arms race to out-do each other, and the stark truth is this: if you’re confronted by a determined hacker who’s willing to expend enough time and energy to do so, they will be able to install a ransomware package somewhere in your organisation.
Coupled with the fact that humans are humans, prone to making mistakes like falling for phishing scams a losing battle because the vulnerabilities are not just technical, and that’s not likely to ever be the case then ransomware is likely not an if, but when.
That means you can spend an infinite amount of money trying to make your setup impenetrable. On the other hand, you can achieve the same level of effective protection by simply investing in insurance in the form of backups. If done right, backups can mean an attack can quickly be circumvented by recovering backed up data, allowing you to restore business operations while avoiding having to pay a ransom or find a convoluted workaround.
I like to use the analogy of building a house in a flood zone: you can spend an infinite amount of money trying to build an indestructible house, but sometimes it’s better just to buy insurance.
However, it’s true that hackers have also gotten good at seeing how instrumental backups can be at circumventing a ransomware attack, with many now prioritising accessing and destroying said backups before deploying their ransomware packages. That’s why a good backup strategy will see a business ensure they have multiple redundant backups at hand to reduce the risk of them being compromised.
A common rule to help guarantee you have adequate redundant backups is the “3-2-1” rule: you should keep three copies of your data, with two on different media formats, and one of those should be off-site. It’s also essential for teams to practise the restoration process and frequently test it to further prepare before ransomware hits.
When it comes to the off-site backup, cloud storage providers are often a great way to go. In particular, an excellent way to boost the security of your backup is through working with a vendor that provides an immutability option for your data. Data immutability guarantees that data you store with a cloud provider cannot be altered or deleted during a preset retention lifetime, which helps to prevent attackers deleting or rewriting your backup.
Through the relatively inexpensive option of backing up your data and ensuring that you have multiple redundant backups at hand, you’ll have a robust insurance policy against any ransomware attackers. Through backups, you can turn a ransomware attack that may cost you millions of pounds of ransom and lost revenue into just a minor inconvenience.
The author is David Friend, CEO at Wasabi.
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