Three Ways SaaS Backup Solutions Can Minimize Damage from a Ransomware Attack

Today, any company without a plan to quickly and fully recover from a ransomware attack is whistling past the graveyard. In February, the New York Times reported that ransomware attacks in 2019 increased “41 percent” from the year before, with the average payment to release files increasing to “$84,116 in the last quarter of 2019, more than double what it was the previous quarter.”

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be making the threat of ransomware worse. According to European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), “Criminal organisations, states and state-backed actors seek to exploit the public health crisis to make a profit or advance geopolitical interests,” and, following the pandemic, “some [cybercriminals] are believed to have intensified their activities and are actively recruiting collaborators to maximise the impact of their attacks or schemes.”

Strong IT security strategies that incorporate firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware tools, and other advanced perimeter security technologies can foil most ransomware attacks – but even a single successful attack can lead to costly downtime or lost data. Increasingly, the question facing companies is not if any of their data will be locked and held for ransom, but when.

As more companies of all sizes recognize the growing importance of mitigating the risk associated with a successful ransomware attack, many of them are also considering how a Software as a Service (SaaS) backup and recovery solution can support their cybersecurity strategy. SaaS backup and recovery solutions can serve as a last line of protection against ransomware.

Cloud-delivered backup solutions promise to deliver data protection capabilities that are as powerful, reliable, and secure as their on-premises counterparts, while also offering the ease of use, cost savings, and agility benefits of SaaS. In addition, by virtue of having infrastructure and storage that lives in the cloud, SaaS backup and recovery solutions create an “air-gap” that can prevent a ransomware attack on primary data from infecting secondary backup data in the cloud. However, before adopting a new SaaS backup and recovery solution, companies should be sure that the solution will fully prepare them to deal with the challenges posed by a successful ransomware attack.

In particular, when evaluating SaaS backup and recovery, companies should be asking the following questions:

1) Can the solution protect different types of data, as well as data stored in different locations -- on-premises infrastructure, the cloud, and laptops or other user endpoints?

2) Does it index data in a granular way that allows companies to find and restore particular data, shortening recover times for critical data after a ransomware attack?

3) Does it use machine learning technologies to alert companies of anomalous behavior indicating a ransomware attack?

Backup and recover different types of data from different data sources

Most companies that are considering SaaS backup and recovery solutions today are likely using a number of applications to run their business. In addition, many of these companies have hybrid environments, with data on various types of on-premises infrastructure and multiple clouds, as well as on user laptops and other endpoints. Ransomware does not discriminate when it comes to data types or sources – it can lock up practically any type of data on a variety of different infrastructure, clouds, and endpoints. Given this, companies need to look for SaaS backup and recovery solutions that can protect various types on data (VMs, SQL databases, and Office 365 data) on various types of data sources (including on-premises infrastructure, major cloud services, and endpoints) if they want to protect all their critical data from a ransomware attack.

Support for endpoint protection is particularly important, as it can be the soft underbelly for ransomware attacks. Users can be lax in security, and even high-level executives often have valuable data on their endpoints that may not be saved to on-premises infrastructure or the cloud. If a company thinks any critical data might be stored on its users’ endpoints, it should look for SaaS backup and recovery solutions that can protect this endpoint data.

Recover data at a granular level, ensuring critical data is restored quickly

If a company is hit by a ransomware attack, it will want to first quickly restore the critical files it needs to resume operations, and not have to wait for a full restoration of all the data locked up by the ransomware first. SaaS backup and recovery solutions that provide the ability to index data by type, date, name, and other criteria enable companies to recover their files in a granular fashion, finding and restoring the data they need to resume operations first, and then recovering less critical data later on.

For example, if a Virtual Machine (VM) was locked by a ransomware attack, a SaaS backup and recovery solution with granular indexing capabilities would allow the company to find a specific file within the VM and then restore it before restoring the rest of the VM’s data.

In today’s economy, even a few minutes of downtime for a company’s digital services can result in customer dissatisfaction and lost business. SaaS backup and recovery solutions that allow companies to recover data in a granular fashion can cut the time it takes to bring these services back online exponentially – transforming a ransomware attack from a business catastrophe into a minor inconvenience.

Use machine learning for anomaly detection that can identify ransomware attacks

Good SaaS backup and recovery solutions don’t just help companies recover data locked by a ransomware attack – they can also use machine learning and similar technologies to monitor for and detect anomalous behavior that indicates a ransomware attack.

By providing a company with an early warning of an attack, these solutions enable companies to quickly isolate the malware and immediately begin remediation, minimizing disruption to their business. In addition, early warnings enable companies to restore a backup of the data locked by the attack before it has reached retention time limits and deleted according to policy.

Ransomware attacks can stop a company in its tracks, locking up the critical data it needs for ongoing operations and long-term success. New SaaS backup and recovery solutions with the ability to protect a wide variety of data from different data sources, recover data at a granular level, and provide early warnings of ransomware attacks using anomaly detection enable companies to minimize the risk that a ransomware attack will cause significant damage their to company – all while delivering companies the simplicity, lower costs, and agility of SaaS.

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