Future-proof yourself against Ransomware and Malware Attacks

Breaking News – One more Ransomware attack unleashed on unsuspecting IT Administrators. This kind of headline has become so commonplace it carries little shock value anymore.

The world barely recovered from WannaCry before getting hit with Petya. At the time of writing this Petya has impacted 60+ countries and over 12,000 systems – many of them belonging to large corporations.

Will there be more attacks? You bet there will be. Malware authors have demonstrated over and over how ridiculously easy it is for them to get around traditional OS and anti-malware defenses.

Petya’s stats, although not as staggering as WannaCry, are still damaging. But more than the stats, what I find incredible, is how all the chatter in the media is all around the MS Windows vulnerability, instructions on getting the latest Windows updates, and updating your anti-malware software; especially when we know that these steps are only a reactive defense at this point and don’t necessary do much to prevent the next attack from another ransomware variant.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. What if I were to tell you that you already had at your disposal, a way to immunize yourself from ransomware attacks, no matter which variant hits you and when? What if I told you that you didn’t have to place your fate completely in the hands of Microsoft’s or your anti-malware vendor’s capabilities and diligence?

The solution, as it turns out has been staring us all in the face all along. Say Hello to Endpoint Backups – the most overlooked solution against ransomware. A secure endpoint backup, which ensures that you can bring back any lost data with a few clicks of the mouse, is arguably the best insurance you can get against ransomware attacks. Once you have a backup, the faceless, nameless ransomware attacker simply has no leverage against you.

Statistics prove that 99% of employees store sensitive data on their endpoint systems. And a large majority of organizations have no endpoint backup strategy. Secure endpoint backups not only protect against ransomware, they protect you against data loss (either accidental or malicious), and could help you stay compliant with regulations such as GDPR.

The premise is simple. In the real world, when you think about securing your home, you not only rely on burglar alarm systems, you most likely also invest in homeowner’s insurance. It is common sense – if your defenses get breached, you still want to stay protected. Apply the same logic in the digital world and you’ll see why endpoint backups being to make so much sense.

I am not suggesting that you should stop applying Windows updates and get rid of anti-malware solutions you have purchased. They are your burglar alarms system – and it is important that you keep them running and updated. But please consider getting insurance in the form of an endpoint backup strategy.
Here are a few suggestions from a previous blog post of mine (The Scourge of Ransomware) on what to look for in a good endpoint backup solution:

  1. Invest in reliable backup software that can back up all your endpoints. Look for something that can handle both Windows and Mac computers.
  2. To make the solution more bullet proof, consider putting your backups on the cloud. This builds in more separation between the potential ransomware attack and your data copy.  Make sure the solution can utilize cloud storage as a backup target.
  3. Look for software that is cloud agnostic and doesn’t tie you down to their own cloud. You should be able to shop around for the best cloud storage prices and have the software work with the cloud of your choice.
  4. Make sure that the backup payload that is being sent to the cloud is encrypted – using encryption keys you control. After all, this is valuable data that you’re spending good money protecting.  Make sure it is safe from prying eyes.
  5. If you’re managing many endpoints, you’ll want to be sure to look for a solution that:
    1. Can be centrally managed via policies
    2. Can scale over tens of thousands of endpoints.
    3. Allows users to do their own restores.
    4. You’ll also want to look for some type of integration with the user namespace you’ve implemented – like Active Directory.
  6. Since your outbound network bandwidth can be at a premium, look for software that can minimally do the following:
    1. Perform incremental backups – i.e. identify files that have been modified and move only those to the cloud. Or even better, maybe even move only portions of the files that have changed – this could be especially useful for very large files like PSTs that change very little every day.
    2. Can resume a failed backup from the point of failure.
    3. Be resource sensitive and use techniques like compression and de-duplication to save network bandwidth and storage space.
    4. Allows you to manage data retentions by file versions – so you can get back data from a previous day or even a previous week.

Consider Endpoint Backups seriously. Don’t think of them as an expense. Think of them as an insurance policy -perhaps one of the best investments you’ll ever make!