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Preventing ransomware attacks in the data center

March 25, 2019

Ransomware attacks continue to take their toll. This year alone, experts predict that they’ll cost businesses about $11 billion, compared to just $325 million in 2015. And the biggest targets remain small and midsize businesses.

The key to preventing such attacks is to have a tested data backup and recovery process in place—and to implement it consistently. This should include the following best practices:

•    Back up all files, devices and images and keep updated copies offline
•    Disable macros in Microsoft Office documents
•    Keep patches up to date on all applications and operating systems
•    Enable the ‘Show file extensions’ options in computer’s Windows settings
•    Don’t give users higher credentials and greater access privileges than they need
•    Enable VLANs and segment traffic
•    Train and educate employees on how to avoid becoming ransomware victims

Even backups can be at risk
Centralized backup systems no longer offer sufficient protection. Sophisticated ransomware like CryptoFortress can encrypt files on any unmapped network drives, and this can leave many network-accessible resources, including the backup system itself, vulnerable. 

That’s why it’s now important for data centers to maintain a secure and isolated area for their backup systems—restricted only to authorized personnel—where all equipment is off the network and only accessible with special passwords. It only stands to reason that if data can’t be reached, it can’t be ransomed.

Backing up virtual servers can be challenging, too
With a physical server, you only have to worry about backing up the server’s contents. With a virtual machine, you have to be concerned with backing up the server’s configuration as well as its contents.

Another challenge stems from the fact that virtual machines are rapidly deployed and can be deleted just as quickly. As a result, the collection of virtual machines that need to be backed up today might be different from what needs to be backed up tomorrow or the next day.

Today’s leading vendors like Dell EMC, IBM, Symantec and Veeam offer backup products that are capable of performing host-level backups rather than requiring a separate backup agent for each virtual server. While host-level backups are certainly more convenient, they aren’t foolproof. This stems from the fact that not all virtual machines are the same. For the host-level backup to work properly, the virtual machine must be running a supported operating system and the backup application must be compatible with all applications that are running on the virtual machine. 

Still, virtual server backups are a critical part of every data center’s backup and recovery plan. With ransomware and other cybersecurity threats a constant concern, today’s data centers need to take safeguarding their assets very seriously.

To learn more, contact Ingram Micro’s data center expert, Nicholas Vermiglio.