Ransomware-Proofing Your Business With Immutable Cloud Backups

Published on November 4th, 2021

SimpleBackups founder

Islam Essam

Co-founder, SimpleBackups

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Ransomware attacks are becoming more common and pose a severe threat to all businesses. One scary statistic states that a new organization will fall victim to ransomware every 11 seconds in 2021 at the cost of $20 Billion.

Table of Contents

Recently, ransomware attacks have increased by more than 235% within some industries during the Coronavirus pandemic. Over 25% of the attacks this year targeted the healthcare or financial industries.

It is easy to establish baseline safeguards and policies, such as anti-spam solutions, macro disabling, keeping all systems up-to-date, and restricting and monitoring internet access. Cybercriminals are highly skilled and persistent today. They are increasingly finding new ways to hack into IT systems. All it takes to get the hook is one mistake or an unsavvy person. It doesn't matter if your organization will be attacked or not; it's just a matter of when.

A ransomware attack doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be avoided.

An effective backup strategy and ransomware plan are essential in case of disaster. If designed correctly, an effective backup strategy will help you recover from any locker or crypto-ransomware attack.

And that's when Immutable Cloud Backups come into play. We will talk about it later in the article, so make sure you stick till the end to get all your doubts cleared about ransomware attacks and how to protect your business from them.

What is Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware ( malicious software ) is a form of malware that threatens to publish data or block access to computer systems. It usually encrypts the victim's computer until they pay a ransom to the attacker. Ransomware is often accompanied by a deadline, and the ransom increases if the victim fails to pay the ransom within the deadline.

Ransomware attacks have become all too common. It has affected large companies across North America and Europe. Cybercriminals can attack any consumer or business, and victims come from all industries.

Many government agencies, including the FBI, recommend against paying ransom to stop the ransomware cycle. Half of the ransomware victims who pay the ransom get affected by repeated ransomware attacks if the system is not cleaned correctly.

Ransomware can quickly paralyze entire organizations and is often spread through a network, target database, and file server. Ransomware is a growing threat that can cause havoc in organizations. It's generating Billions of dollars, Inflicting substantial damage and expense for businesses and government organizations by making payments to cybercriminals.

How Does Ransomware Attack Work?

Ransomware uses asymmetric encryption. This cryptography employs a pair of keys that encrypt and decrypt files. The attacker creates the public-private pair of keys for the victim. The private key is used by the attacker to decrypt files on his server. The attacker may only give the victim the private key after they have paid the ransom. However, this is not always the case as we've seen with ransomware attacks. Without the private key, it is nearly impossible to decrypt files held hostage by ransomware.

Ransomware comes in many forms. Ransomware and other malware can be distributed via targeted attacks or email spam campaigns. To establish its presence at an endpoint, the malware needs an attack vector. Once the malware is detected, it remains on the system until it's removed.

After exploiting the vulnerability, ransomware drops malware and executes it on infected computers. Ransomware then seeks out and encrypts critical files, such as Microsoft Word documents, images and databases. Ransomware can also spread via system and network vulnerabilities, potentially affecting whole companies.

Ransomware asks users to pay ransom within 24 to 48 hour after files are encrypted. Files will be permanently deleted if they are not paid. If a backup is unavailable or encrypted, the ransom will be payable to retrieve your personal files.

Who is the Target For Ransomware Attacks?

Every device that is connected to the internet could become the next ransomware victim. Ransomware scans any device connected to the internet and any network-connected storage. This means that vulnerable devices can also make the local network a victim. Ransomware can encrypt sensitive documents and files in the local network that are owned by a business. This could cause disruptions to productivity and services.

Any device connected to the internet must have the most recent software security patches installed. Additionally, anti-malware should be installed as this will detect and stop ransomware. Organizations operating with older operating systems, such as Windows XP, are more at risk.

Furthermore, there are many ways that attackers choose which organizations to target with ransomware. Sometimes, it's just a matter of opportunity. For example, attackers may target universities due to their smaller security teams and diverse user base, who share more files. This makes it pretty easy for them to penetrate their defenses.

On the other hand, some organizations are more attractive targets as they will pay a ransom in a short time. Government agencies and medical facilities, for instance, often require immediate access to files. So they will be willing to pay soon to get all the essential and critical data back.

The Impact of Ransomware Attacks to the Businesses*

Ransomware can cause data loss and productivity losses of thousands of dollars for businesses. Blackmailers who have access to ransomware will threaten victims by releasing data and exposing the breach. Organizations that don't pay quickly could suffer brand damage or litigation.

Ransomware can stop productivity, so containment is the first step. The organization has two options after containment: restore from backups, or pay the ransom. While law enforcement investigates ransomware, tracking down, ransomware authors take time and research that delays recovery. The root-cause analysis determines the vulnerability; however, any recovery delay can harm productivity and business revenue.

Why are Ransomware Attacks Spreading So Fast?

Threat actors have increased their use of phishing as more people work from home nowadays. Ransomware infection starts with phishing. Phishing emails are targeted at employees of both low-privileged and high-privileged users. Email is easy and inexpensive, making it a convenient tool for attackers to spread ransomware.

Ransomware attacks are evolving quite fast, and also their variants.

● It is easy to locate malware kits that can create new malware samples upon demand.

● Use well-known generic interpreters to create cross-platform ransomware

● New techniques such as encryption of the complete disk rather than selected files are present.

Today's thieves don't need to be technical savvy. Cybercriminals can find malware strains on the internet via ransomware marketplaces. These ransomware marketplaces also provide additional income for malware authors, who often ask for a portion of the ransom proceeds.

Why You Shouldn't Pay Ransomware?

Ransomware encrypts files and displays a screen telling the user that files have been encrypted and the amount to be paid. The ransomware usually gives victims a time limit or increases the ransom. The attackers may also threaten to expose businesses, revealing that they have been ransomware victims.

It might seem tempting to agree to a ransom request, but there are many reasons why this is not a good idea.

  1. You might never get the decryption key: You are supposed to receive a decryption code in return for paying a ransomware demand. You are relying on criminals' integrity. Many ransom-paying individuals and organizations have received nothing in return.

  2. You might receive another ransom demand: Once you pay a ransom, there is quite a possibility that you might receive another demand from ransomware because they know you are at their mercy. They might ask a little more or a lot to give you the key.

  3. You might become the target for the ransomware community: Criminals will know that you are a good investment once you have paid a ransom. A ransom-paying organization with a track record of paying ransoms is more appealing than one that might pay. How will you stop the same group of criminals from attacking again within a year? or logging onto a forum to announce to other cybercriminals that you are an easy target?

Examples of Ransomware Attacks

There are many varieties of ransomware Malware. We have listed a few malware types that significantly impacted the world and caused extensive damage.

  1. WannaCry: WannaCry is a ransomware encrypting program that exploits vulnerabilities in Windows SMB protocol and allows it to infect other computers. WannaCry was a rapidly spreading ransomware that affected 230,000 computers in 150 countries and caused an estimated $4 billion damage.
  1. Locky: Locky can encrypt 160 file types. These are primarily files used for designers, engineers, and testers. It was released for the first time in 2016. It is mainly distributed by exploit kits Or phishing--attackers email users encouraging them to open Microsoft Office Word or Excel files with malicious macros or a ZIP file that extracts the malware.
  1. Cerber: It is ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) accessible for cyber criminals who carry out ransomware attacks and share their loot with malware developers. Cerber was pretty successful when it first came out in 2016, earning attackers $200,000 in July 2016. To infect networks, it took advantage of a Microsoft security flaw.
  1. Cryptolocker: Cryptolocker was first discovered in 2017 and has since affected more than 500,000 computers. It is most commonly transmitted via email, file sharing sites, and unprotected downloading.
  1. NotPetya: Petya is ransomware that infects a computer and encrypts the entire drive. It does this by accessing the Master File Table. The whole drive is rendered inaccessible, although the files themselves are not encrypted. Petya was first discovered in 2016. It was spread via a fake job application that linked to a Dropbox-infected file.
  1. Ryuk: It first appeared in 2018 and was used to attack hospitals and other vulnerable organizations. It is often combined with malware such as TrickBot.
  1. GrandCrab: GrandCrab was first released in 2018. This ransomware-based extortion attack is used by threatening victims' porn-watching habits. Many versions target Windows computers. This ransomware is perhaps the most lucrative ever. The program's developers sold it to cybercriminals and claimed more than $2 billion in victim payouts by July 2019.
  1. WysiWye: It was discovered in 2017 and scanned the internet for open Remote Desktop Protocol servers. The malware then attempts to steal RDP credentials and spread the virus throughout the network.
  1. Thanos: Unlike the MCU villain, who has been ruling the Marvel Universe for eternities, this is the new one. This ransomware was discovered in January 2020. This ransomware is the first to use the RIPlace technique, bypassing most anti-ransomware techniques.

4 Emerging Ransomware Threat Groups to Know

Palo Alto Networks Unit 42's new research has revealed four ransomware groups with the potential to grow into more significant problems. These include AvosLocker, Hive Ransomware, HelloKitty, and LockBit 2.0.

  1. AvosLocker: AvosLocker was discovered first in July 2021. AvosLocker operates under the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model and is controlled by avos. It advertises its services on the dark web forum Dread. The ransom note contains information and an ID that are used to identify victims. It instructs those infected to visit AvosLocker Tor for data recovery and restoration.
  1. Hello Kitty: In 2020, the HelloKitty family was observed. It primarily targets Windows systems, and Its name derives from the use of HelloKittyMutex. Palo Alto discovered a Linux (ELF) sample named funny_linux.elf in 2021 that had a ransom note containing verbiage identical to ransom notes found in later HelloKitty for Windows samples. Additional samples were found, and they started targeting ESXi in March, a popular target for ransomware.
  1. Hive Ransomware: According to the report, Hive Ransomware began operations in June 2021 and was detected attacking healthcare organizations and other businesses that are ill-equipped for cyberattacks. Hive Leaks published the first victim of Hive Ransomware and then posted details about 28 more victims. Researchers wrote that "When this ransomware executes, it drops two batches of scripts."

The first script, called "hive.bat," tries to delete itself and "Shadow.bat," which is responsible for deleting all shadow copies of the system. Hive ransomware adds [randomized characters].hive to encrypted files and drops a ransom note entitled HOW_TO_DECRYPT.txt with instructions and guidelines to prevent data losses.

  1. LockBit 2.0: LockBit 2.0, formerly known as ABCD ransomware, is another RaaS group. It's been in operation since 2019, but Palo Alto discovered recent changes in the group's tactics. The actors claim that their current version is the most secure encryption software available. The group has compromised 52 organizations worldwide since June.

Once executed, LockBit 2.0 begins file encryption and also appends the .lockbit extension. When the encryption is done, a ransom note appears titled "Restore-My-Files.txt notifying the victims of the compromise and advises how to proceed further.

How To Protect Your Business With Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware has affected many businesses. Many of these companies had backup files encrypted as well as the live version. When backup data gets compromised (encrypted), the companies are forced to pay the ransom or risk losing all their data. One successful phishing email can compromise your whole network.

So What is the solution?

Answer: Offsite backups on Cloud Storage supporting Immutable and Air-Gapped technology.

Rely on a secure backup system that uses immutable backups and Air-gap technology to protect your archived data.

Automate off-site backups on Cloud Storage supporting Immutable and Air-Gapped technology

Try SimpleBackups →

What is Immutable Data BackUp?

An immutable backup or storage is a way to ensure that your data is safe, secure, and cannot be deleted.

Any company that needs to have an immutable backup of their data is advised to do so. This will ensure that the data is always available and safe from unplanned or unexpected events.

These characteristics are, by definition, an offline, separate copy of your data, and Immutability goes one step further. This adds a layer of security to protect data from any changes. You can even enable immutability in your backups to effectively block any changes for a specified period.

Why is Immutable Data Backup Critical?

Why is immutability important? It is impossible to alter, modify or remove immutable data. This approach is used by law enforcement for digital video and audio surveillance footage because the authenticity of the data is so important. EHRs for healthcare providers must be immutable in both their primary and archival systems. Organizations of all types are now adopting immutability to avoid paying the ransom, securing critical information, enforcing retention policies, streamlining compliance, and preventing them from having to pay the ransom.

Immutable backups are a defense against ransomware attacks. An immutable backup cannot be encrypted, modified, or deleted, which are all common cybercrimes tactics. A company can use an immutable backup to recover from a ransomware attack immediately.

How to Implement Immutable Backup Strategy in Your Business?

Companies mostly fight ransomware with a resilient and robust defense system. Being prepared is one thing that every company should adopt to tackle the worst scenario when a company's defense system fails.

An immutable backup strategy can be the best way to secure your data and provide a quick response to cyber attacks without needing to pay a hefty ransom.

Ransomware attacks can be repelled by many best practices in data backup and recovery.

For instance, Ransomware protection is not provided by data replication to remote data centers because continuous backups can cause files to be overwritten with encrypted versions. It is therefore difficult to pinpoint the exact source of the infection.

The 3-2-1 backup strategy requires at least three copies of data. Two copies of the data are on local media, but they are on different media. One copy is off-site, such as an immutable, air-gapped backup on the cloud.

Best Practices for Implementing Immutable Backup

  1. Multi-Level Resiliency: A solid defense strategy includes immutable data backups, the most recent cybersecurity technology, and employee training.

Platforms with soft delete or excess deletion prevention options ensure that there is always a copy of your data, even if ransomware infects the system.

  1. Data Integrity: Platforms with soft delete or excess deletion prevention options ensure that there is always a copy of your data, even if ransomware infects the system.
  1. Automate Response: Ransomware attacks mostly happen months after a system is infected. Ransomware spreads quietly, so attackers wait that long to locate backups. It then steals your data from you when you are not at work.

To quarantine infected systems, even if nobody is present at the time of an attack, you can implement an automated reaction system as part of your backup solution.

  1. Zero Trust Model: The Zero trust model requires strict identity verification to allow anyone to access your data backups over a private network. This holistic approach is based on several technologies and principles that provide advanced backup security and safety.
  1. Clean Restore Point: To prevent infection, make sure that your backups are free of malware. Before restoring data, scan the backups for malware and indicators of compromise (IOC). To protect your immutable data backups and to ensure a quick recovery, you can store them in the WORM (Write Once Read Many) formats.

What is Air-Gapping Technique & Why is it necessary with Immutability Backup?

IT professionals often think of backups when considering data security. But, the truth is that it is not enough. Even if you have a backup, data can still be accessed. Protecting your data ultimately against theft is possible by using backups and air-gapping.

Air-gapping stops hackers from remotely accessing your data. However, immutability means that no one can modify or delete your files once they're uploaded to the cloud.

What is Air-Gapping Technique?

It's pretty simple. As part of your backup strategy and recovery plan, an air-gapped copy is a backup of your organization's offline and inaccessible data. It's impossible to hack or corrupt your backup device remotely without an internet connection. This leaves you with only one option: a physical attack to access your data.

Air gapping was traditionally referred to as tape backups. However, today's options for backing up to the Cloud offer a virtual version of an air-gapped cassette. However, the cloud's object-based storage defenses can be extremely powerful. A physically air-gapped backup will still be your last line of defense.

How Does Air-Gapping Work?

Air-gapped backups use air-gapped target storage volume to store backups and replicas and redundant copies of business-critical volumes. Air-gapped volumes are automatically turned off and made inaccessible by default. This ensures that the data is safe from any potential disaster that could affect the primary production environment.

Air-gapped volumes can easily be turned on in the event of a disaster, and data can be used quickly and seamlessly to restore operations - without fail.

Why is Air-Gapping Important?

If you have backups on your network in the event of a ransomware infection, it is already too late.

Air-Gapped Backups air gap the rest of the world from your data: A backup server that doesn't have any links to your production servers and storage systems can't be infected via file shares or network connections. Air-Gapping prevents ransomware infections from spreading to your backups by default. So this makes Air-Gapping quite essential to adopt in your ransomware-proofing strategy.

Why Do You Need Air-Gapping with Immutable Storage?

Backups are no longer the best way to protect your data in case of a cyber-attack. While tapes may be convenient and cost-effective, I would agree that they are more affordable than SSDs or HDDs these days. However, they don't offer enough protection. This means that you must have multiple layers of security to protect your data from ransomware.

Cybercrime protection is the future, not backup-centric recovery strategies. Forget about the past and update your protection strategy accordingly. Concentrate on preventing ransomware infection from ever happening, such as by using immutable and air-gapped storage volumes.

Summary

Your organization is protected against data corruption, accidental deletions, malicious malware attacks, and ransomware with immutable backups and Air-Gap technology. You can rest assured knowing that your data is safe and sound on an air-gapped server in case of any of these unfortunate events.

Ransomware is now able to get into your backup servers. Your IT teams are diligent in blocking these attacks. However, immutable backups ensure that you remain protected if ransomware attempts to evade these security measures.

So implementing Immutable backups and Air-Gap technology will keep your data safe and secure.



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