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Does Cloud Storage Protect Your Data Against Ransomware? Featured

Does Cloud Storage Protect Your Data Against Ransomware? Michael Geiger

 In recent years, ransomware has become mainstream and is now one of the topics cybersecurity professionals often talk about. Over the past few years, we have watched many organizations such as businesses, hospitals, government agencies, and city municipalities fall victim to ransomware attacks. Most of them are forced to part with thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies for their files to be released. New as they may sound, ransomware attacks have been here for long, only that they have become rampant in recent years with the rise in cryptocurrencies. These attacks are characterized by systemic encryption of critical files. Once encrypted, the hacker demands a ransom to be paid by the victim before a decryption key is given.

Does cloud storage protect your data against ransomware attacks? The simple answer to this question is that cloud storage is not entirely immune to ransomware attacks. However, it can somehow reduce the chances of losing your data due to the investment that cloud service providers have put in place to counter such attacks. Companies offering cloud storage services have highly flexible data recovery options, which would mean that you can easily get a copy of your data in case of an attack.

With the rising cyber-attacks, the easiest way to protect yourself is to backup data. Cloud computing can be your most straightforward insurance plan to guarding against such attacks. However, don’t make the mistake of looking at it as a silver bullet to all your problems. You will still need additional data protection strategies.  To understand whether cloud storage can be affected by the virus or not, you need to analyze how cloud storage works and how most organizations use it. The main issue that makes cloud storage vulnerable to ransomware is the cloud synchronization processes used by most cloud storages to keep files in sync. For instance, when changes are made locally, the changes are synchronized to cloud storage. Therefore, when ransomware has infected the local copy, and local files are encrypted, this action is seen as a genuine user action. This triggers synchronization. Synchronization means that a single user infected with ransomware can synchronize files to the cloud storage that everyone within the company can access. As a result, all files within the computer systems in the organization can be encrypted.

Is data versioning a solution?

Data versioning, an idea where the existing data versions are immutable, can solve the synchronization issue. With data versioning, any modification of data will result in a new version of data. This is crucial in a ransomware attack because the attack will result in a new version of the infected files. However, the challenge here is that not all cloud solutions have versioning, or versioning may not be turned on. Businesses should therefore verify this with their cloud storage service providers.

What recovery options do you have?

If you have cloud versioning and it is enabled, then that is good for you in rescuing you during your hour of need. With versioning enabled, you can quickly recover your local data or the last normal version. In the cloud storage also, identify the ransomware infected version and recover it. Businesses should consider a data-aware hybrid cloud storage solution as the best alternative to fight ransomware attacks. This solution can detect abnormal file access or modification activities. This option can also identify the user account with an issue and block them from taking further action by notifying the administrator. With this method, infected versions of files can be identified, and effective quarantine and recovery procedures instituted.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for Big Data & Analytics Tech Brief

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