How to Protect Backups from Ransomware Attacks

  • November 21, 2022
  • By Cyberarch Admin

Ransomware without a doubt is one of the chief cybersecurity concerns today. The number of sophisticated and advanced ransomware attacks has increased exponentially and so has the monetary demand by the attackers.Backups are one of the ways known to protect data from ransomware attacks. But what if the backups too get infected by the ransomware? Thus, it is crucial that business organizations have enough awareness of the mounting cyber threats. 

In addition, security professionals need to have powerful strategies to mitigate the risk. Fortunately, there are various ways by which backup infrastructure can be secured against ransomware. Before we jump into the expert tips, find out more details about ransomware attacks and common myths related to it as well as backups and best practices. Read on.

Data and Ransomware Attacks 

Today, data is considered the most powerful currency or gold in the digital world. This is precisely the reason why cyber threat actors constantly lurk around to carry out data breaches and steal them. 

With the boom of information technology and the rise of the digital economy, cyber crimes have also grown at an alarming rate. From large multinational corporations to small and medium enterprises, from governments to individuals, all are at risk. Ransomware is potent enough to disrupt business operations. Every year, countless cases of ransomware attacks affecting government institutions, hospitals, and educational institutions are reported leading to billions of dollars of losses. 

How Ransomware Attack Works?

Ransomware gets access to computer systems and networks most commonly through emails. Another means involve malicious websites and downloadable files like PDFs, ZIP, RAR, EXE, IMG and others infecting the system. Advanced ransomware can reach the network and cause damage. This is where your backup data can get infected, leading to irreversible consequences and damage. Generally, ransomware attacks steal or encrypt data and make them inaccessible. Thereafter, the threat actor usually demands a ransom to decrypt them. Others sell the data on the dark web.

Some Ransomware Myths

At the outset, it is important to bust many myths regarding ransomware backups online as wrong advice can cause more damage. 

  • Ransomware gets activated immediately and thus backups are safe – It is false because some ransomware has the capability to remain inactive until it is activated.
  • Ransomware does not affect encrypted backup data – If the code of an executable file is altered through encryption, it won’t work. However, in the event of unbundling the backup for recovery of data, the infection can become active and will be executable.
  • Ransomware is used against large business organizations only – This is false. More and more cases of ransomware infecting small businesses are coming to the fore. Even individual users are impacted.


Tips to Protect Backups from Ransomware

  • 3-2-1 Backup Strategy

The 3-2-1 is a popular, powerful and widely-accepted best practice and approach for the recovery and backup of data. It can also help mitigate the risks posed by ransomware. It basically says to do the following:

To maintain a minimum of 3 copies of your data,Use 2 different types of storage to store the data,Keep 1 copy of data in an offsite location

It is common knowledge that having more backup copies of your data in different storage mediums drastically reduces the chances of damage from ransomware. This approach specifies how many copies you need to keep the data safe. 

  • Immutable Storage

Immutable storage, also referred to as Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM), primarily stores data and essentially locks it from any modification. Immutable storage uses object locking to lock the data for days, months and even years. It, therefore, prevents cyber threat actors or insider threats from tampering with the data until the time lock expires. 

  •  Offline Backup 

When cybercriminals successfully carry out a ransomware attack, infected system gains access to all the data files present. Moreover, the backups get infected due to the indirect pathways and will be encrypted till the ransom is paid. Keeping an offline backup or offsite at a different location can prevent the data from being affected by ransomware.

  • Zero Trust Model

Offline backup is indeed a good choice for protecting backup data. However, attackers can still use compromised credentials to get access to data stored in the backups. One of the ways to mitigate this risk is using the zero trust model, where you can stress on the security using multifactor authentication. 

  • Limiting Access to Backup Storage

One of the most potent ways to protect backup data from ransomware attacks is to limit access to backup storage or the backup application used by the business. This is only possible by developing a comprehensive access policy which clearly underlines who can access the backup storage, in what circumstances and who is the person responsible for securing the backup. Less access to backup would also mean fewer chances of human error, better accountability and peace of mind.

  • Endpoint Security Implementation

Depending on the risk levels of the business organization and infrastructure, security solutions decisions should be made. Cybersecurity experts can help you with auditing, penetration testing and the best advice as per your security requirement.

It is essential to know that modern endpoint protection solutions can detect ransomware even if it is new and unknown to the security community. It can further help by shutting down systems infected thus containing the spread of ransomware. 

  • Multi-level Resiliency

Backup solutions with deletion protection can help the business in multiple ways. The excess deletion and soft deletion possibilities can help in the recovery of data even after deletion. It can act as a strong line of defence to thwart the goal of ransomware attacks. This can be added to the immutable storage options discussed before. 

  • Backup Frequency

Backup frequency can vary due to several factors like data storage capacity, systems and processes to create backups and the data generated every day by the organization. Small businesses can backup data every day whereas large companies should aim to backup data every few hours. Ideally, mission-critical data should be stored every hour so that it can help in business continuity in the event of an attack. 

  • Education

The end-users are perhaps the last line of defence against ransomware attacks. Often threat actors gain access to networks and systems when a user innocently clicks a link and opens an email attachment. Therefore, educating the end-users about the threat of ransomware is essential. Recognizing threats is the first step and users need to know the steps to be taken immediately if they notice suspicious links. 

Additionally, security policies must be developed and implemented. Training and awareness programs regularly can play a vital role in combating ransomware attacks. 

Backup Best Practices to Mitigate Risks

It is also helpful to follow the best backup practices at all times. Some of the major ones are discussed below.

  • Business continuity is one of the focal points when a cyber attack occurs. Therefore, the ultimate aim of backups is to use the data stored and run the business without suffering too much loss. The best practice thus would be to backup data which is critical to the business operations.
  • Another best practice is to backup data as if the ransomware attack is inevitable. Countless cyberattacks are happening worldwide which leads to downtime of up to 2 weeks. Thus, backups using the different methods discussed should be a priority always. Plus, choosing professionals for data backup can help you beat the attackers. 
  • A multi-pronged strategy should be implemented to protect the backups from ransomware. It means you should use software for scanning every possible medium through which ransomware can infect the network, including emails, attachments, website links etc. 
  • As discussed before, security awareness programs for end-users and using endpoint security solutions come under best practices as well. 

Now that you know about securing backup infrastructure against ransomware attacks, start implementing the tips to protect your data.


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