Skip to main content

Avoiding Ransomware Payments: 4 Backup Fundamentals

Having access to backup copies of critical data is the only way to guarantee avoidance of costly ransomware payments, insurance claims, and extended downtime to business operations.  All too often this advice is heard only after experiencing an attack, and in hindsight these simple steps seem obvious.

During ransomware incidents technology staff are commonly not aware of techniques used by these criminals to take advantage of ineffective backup routines.   In our experience conducting incident response recent ransomware events involve the targeting of backup processes.  Reconfiguration of backup technologies, deletion of cloud storage environments, and destruction of backup data discovered in their attack are all used to prevent you from a simple recovery.

When you wake up to discover encrypted systems, there are literally no copies of your critical data left to be restored, your business operations are crippled, and the only path forward is negotiations with criminals.  This is, as terrifying as it sounds.

As dire as the situation appears, simple steps should be used to avoid it altogether.

Include critical data

It seems obvious, but many people don't realize that important data lies outside of core business systems. This can include file shares, mail box contents, and 3rd party services. Mapping out critical business processes and the data used to support them will help to create and maintain this list. For each set of data the next step is to determine how far back in time you need to maintain (recovery point) and how long it will take to restore the data (recovery time).

Apply the rule of 3

Three copies of any critical data, two different storage technologies, one copy off-site.  Although not as relevant to ransomware attacks this rule reinforces the reliability of backup data by avoiding single points of failure related to physical losses like fires and floods and also failures in backup technologies.  In most cases we recommend the off-site copy of the data be the immutable one.

Use immutable storage

The third best practice to leverage an immutable storage service for one of the copies of backup data. These write-once read-many (worm) backup solutions prevent existing backups from being deleted until a pre-determined recovery time is exceeded no matter what level of access is obtained.  This option exists in almost every modern cloud-based storage provider including Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure Storage, Google Cloud Storage, and many others.  Combining immutable storage with regular online/on-premise backups 

Test recovery

Simulation of an attack will validate your procedures. Build and hold scenario-based exercises to simulate a ransomware attack, and test your ability to recover critical data within an acceptable period of time.  These test scenarios should assume that the criminal has administrative access and the ability to access backup systems.

Through understanding data, implementing reliable backup techniques and testing them, impacts of crypto ransomware attacks can be mitigated, and provide executives piece of mind.


Popular posts from this blog

OpenSolaris, ZFS, iSCSI and OSX - Creative Storage - Part II

In part I of this post, I looked at the simple steps required to setup a relatively simple storage solution using OpenSolaris, ZFS, iSCSI and OSX. This was about a month ago, and I've made some significant changes on how this is used for me. At the end of the last post I left off on the part dealing with configuration of the iSCSI initiator side of the solution. I stopped here because there were some issues related to the installation and use of the software. The iSCSI initiator that I was using was Studio Network Solutions GlobalSAN initiator (version which is used to allow for connections to their products. This software will also allow for connections to ANY iSCSI target! After the configuration of the iSCSI target on the ZFS pool, and installation of the client it was trivial to get the connection established with the storage pool, and it showed up in OSX as a raw disk which had not been formatted. I proceeded to format the disk as HFS+ and it then mounted as a lo

Local Classified Penny Auction Scam

While there are a lot of new posts regarding the new ways to exploit people using novel techniques and 0day exploits, there continues to be a rash of tried and true methods of coercion.  I want to just walk through a simple example and reflect on how effective these methods continue to be. Many people turn toward online classified sites to buy and sell items online.  This example starts with which even I've used on occasion to find used electronics and other items.  Doing a search on the site for a " Samsung Galaxy Note 2 " returns a posting from today with someone selling one for an unreasonably priced unit. $125 for a $500 phone?, but what if it's for real?  No harm in just asking some simple questions.  Email sent with some obvious questions regarding the condition and location. About an hour passes before I get a response from what appears to be a legit seller. Notice no answer to the questions I asked, but a friendly pointer at where th

Edmonton HeartBleed Information Session - April 16th, Royal Glenora Club

Since the latest major OpenSSL vulnerability was publicly disclosed, many people and organizations are scrambling to understand, respond and prepare themselves for the future.  Twitter, vendor support channels and media outlets have been quick to cover different angles of the issue but there has been overwhelming amount  of information released. With all this information, it can be difficult to understand what's relevant.  To help clarify we holding a special ISACA sponsored 2-hour session on Wednesday, April 16th, starting at 12:00pm at the Royal Glenora Club.   Benoit and I will be attempting to explain as much of the issue as we can from a technical and non-technical perspective, discussing the vulnerability, its scope with relation to our personal and professional lives and other related concerns such as our trust in the public PKI system.  The second hour we will be an interactive discussion about how others are dealing with problem, questions about related topics,