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Ransomware: how hyperconverged systems can help reduce the attack surface

Ransomware has never been far from the headlines during 2019, and the threat is unlikely to reduce in 2020. Alan Conboy explains how hyperconverged systems can assist in the fight against ransomware by helping reduce the attack surface.

The recent news cycle has been flooded with organizations from airlines to banks and hospitals, even entire local governments, falling victim to ransomware attacks. Threats such as these are evolving at a horrific pace, and they will continue to become smarter, more lucrative and increasingly devious. So, to the organizations that think they can’t afford to modernise their infrastructure defences, well, the truth is that they can’t afford to not do so. 

Unfortunately, general awareness is often missing when it comes to understanding the threat of ransomware attacks. The fact is that these are planned acts that threaten to raid the property that businesses need to protect most, such as valuable customer data. Because of this, ransomware attacks are a very real threat - so much so that big ransoms are being paid. These attacks are not going to go away any time soon, so businesses need to take charge and do something about them.

The real cost of ransomware

Many businesses are unaware of the real threat that ransomware attacks pose to their business. This is likely because they think it is something reserved for the big players, when, in reality, cyber crime is indiscriminate and can happen to anyone, at any time. It comes with serious repercussions that will ripple across the company’s reputation, customer satisfaction and capital.

It may only take one employee clicking a phishing link in their emails to successfully compromise the entire organizational system. Municipalities have been hit hard, with over 40 being attacked in the last year alone. Some, like Lake City, Florida have paid a hefty ransom because they estimated that having to reconstruct the compromised systems would have cost even more than the $460,000 ransom amount.

Match the criminal’s sophistication 

The question might not be if you get hit, but when you get hit, and whether your systems can handle the attack and recover from it quickly. One way to help protect your systems is by choosing a system that is less vulnerable. Big, popular operating systems and virtualization stacks that have been around for decades are likely the most vulnerable because hackers have had plenty of time to study and exploit their weaknesses. These systems also tend to be integrated with many other types of computing and storage systems out there, increasing their surface area for attack.

Utilising the latest in IT infrastructure development solutions, such as hyperconverged systems, can reduce the attack surface by eliminating a lot of the complexity that comes from integrating a number of different vendor solutions to achieve virtualization. But, even reducing the attack surface only gets you so far, which is why the best hyperconverged systems available are those that can protect every virtual workload with snapshots to quickly recover in case of an attack. It works like this: get hit by ransomware, recover to a previous snapshot, carry on.

Plus, you can take ransomware protection to a whole new level with sophisticated backup solutions that offer active protection against ransomware, and work in conjunction with your hyperconverged systems. The latest backup technology can actively detect if your system is being attacked by ransomware and literally ‘undo’ the damage caused by the attack as it is happening.

Work smarter, not harder

The truth is that protecting your business from a ransomware attack starts with first developing a real awareness of the threat that these cyber crimes pose to some of your most valuable assets. The next step, after understanding the urgency, is to put real and practical solutions to use, such as hyperconvergence and cutting-edge backup technology. These are not only easier and more cost-effective to use, but protect businesses far better than traditional systems and ensure that your cyber defences are working smarter, not harder. 

Ransomware’s malicious momentum will only continue to snowball, and businesses must realise that traditional legacy tools are not only slowing their digital journey down, but leaving them vulnerable to tactical and well-organized criminals. As this threat worsens and promises to make the overall cost of doing business increase, every business should be bracing themselves for the impact.

The author

Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing

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