Backup as last line of defense against HK ransomware threats

September 29, 2022 06:00
Photo: Reuters

As businesses become more distributed and the workforce permanently evolves to a more hybrid state, trends suggest that attacks and breaches will continue at a higher frequency.

According to the latest Veeam 2022 Data Protection Trends report, 76% of the 3,393 global organizations surveyed suffered at least one ransomware attack, with 24% either avoided attacks or were unaware that an attack occurred. With the majority falling victim to such attacks, it’s clear that businesses remain vulnerable and inadequately protected against malicious threats even after past incidents.

In Hong Kong, the monthly average of ransomware attacks on businesses were over 750,000 between April and June in 2021, according to cybersecurity firm Fortinet. The government’s Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre noted that due to of the pandemic and the shift in working practices, businesses were advised to be ready to respond to increasingly sophisticated and complex cyberattacks. Its latest advisory in February this year noted that “Cyberattacks will become more targeted and organised with multiple ransomware and phishing attacks targeting individual industries emerging as a norm.”

Veeam’s recent ransomware research highlighted that in 2021, the surveyed organizations including 200 leading enterprises in Asia Pacific, acknowledged that they were only able to recover 69% of their data. Further analysis showed that almost half of the impacted businesses paid the ransom and recovered their data but in the Asia Pacific region, one in four (24%) organizations who paid the ransom did not recover their data.

Look beyond the ransom solution

However, a positive trend emerging is that 19% of organizations that did not pay the ransom were able to recover their data, highlighting that paying a ransom was not a guarantee to getting their data back. More focus has to be on finding more ways to protect and recover critical business data.

Backup is now an increasingly critical component of any ransomware recovery strategy and plan. Data showed that 97% of ransomware attacks in Asia Pacific also attempted to infect backup repositories, and 73% of those attempts were successful, proving that even backups cannot fully protect and recover data.

Modern malware is known to attack the backup layer, so businesses have to have a process in place to ensure resilience. At Veeam, we advocate the 3-2-1-1-0 Rule which states there should be at least three copies of important data on at least two different types of media, with at least one of these copies stored off-site. As the threat of ransomware evolves, we recommend at least one copy of data be air-gapped, stored offline, or immutable. This is imperative for effectively defending against ransomware. We’ve also added a zero, for zero backup errors, to the rule because automated backup verification ensures that the data is valid and usable for recovery. Data that has been captured incorrectly cannot be recovered, so following the 3-2-1-1-0 Rule can be the difference between data loss and recovery.

Put data where attackers can’t reach

Immutability is the key here. While only 5% of organizations have less than one immutable tier within their data protection framework, many use multiple immutable layers for added protection. This ensures that their backup data is immutable throughout its lifecycle:

• 74% use cloud repositories that offer immutability
• 67% use on-premises disk repositories with immutability or locking
• 22% use tape that is air-gapped

After ensuring that their repositories are less likely to be disrupted, the next step is ensuring that clean data can be restored back to the production environment. For nearly half of these surveyed organizations, this is accomplished by restoring data to a sandbox or an isolated area, to test the safety.

This practice of isolation and “staged restoring” occurs in only 46% of organizations worldwide, and 41% by organizations in Asia Pacific, a gap that should be addressed by IT decision-makers.

Modern ransomware protection requires an integrated security architecture that can stretch from endpoints to network and the cloud to detect, correlate and remediate attacks. The only remediation options available are either paying a ransom or recovering from backups. The challenge is, just “restoring from backup” oversimplifies the process and causes many organizations to make assumptions about their backup and recovery capabilities, which often leads to data loss. To avoid worst-case scenarios, Veeam believes that having a plan in place that includes verified, tested and secure backups that can be restored quickly is key to surviving modern attacks like ransomware.

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Vice President, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan at Veeam