Your data backups are at risk: Here’s how to protect them

One interesting aspect that I have realized during my years of experience working in tech is that cyberattacks spare no one. Individuals and enterprise IT aren’t that different from each other when it comes to falling victim to cyberattacks. We have witnessed a staggering rise worldwide in the number of cyberattacks such as ransomware. Data backups in conjunction with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan are often the only way to return to a normal state and retrieve your valuable data after a cyberattack.

In recent years, we have witnessed several cases where cybercriminals targeted both the live operational services data and backed up data to cripple organizations. Data backups are the new hot attack vector for cyberattackers. These include data destruction attacks, ransomware, and more. Here are the top measures you need to take to protect your data backups from cyberattacks.

Analyze the current state of backups and backup management

Before you start working on strengthening and protecting data backup security, you first need to understand and analyze the current state of backups. Organizations need to monitor the data that is being backed up to avoid redundancy or data duplication. Every company also needs to come up with an efficient backup management strategy to oversee the ongoing data protection operations. Generating and restoring data backups is a cost-effective process and should be planned to avoid resource overutilization and cost overhead. Organizations can also use a ready-made off-the-shelf solution to automate the regular backup tasks, manage policy-based data retention, backup verification, and integration with other applications.

Protecting data backup

Choosing the type of backup

While several data backup methodologies are available, four are most prominently used across all industries. This includes a complete or full backup, an incremental backup, a differential backup, and a mirror backup. While each of these backup methodologies has its advantages and disadvantages, it is up to the organization to decide which one suits them the best. According to several industry experts, there is no single solution that fits everyone when it comes to backup mechanisms. Therefore, it would be ideal to categorize the data based on their importance, sensitivity, and generation speeds and use different backup techniques suiting the data.

Data backups play a prominent role in disaster recovery, data auditing, and business and data analytics, apart from helping recover from cyberattacks.

Have backups on and offsite

Large organizations often have datacenters onsite where they use to store their data backups. Smaller companies, on the other hand, rely largely on cloud solutions to back up their data. However, certain companies prefer having a hybrid approach where they store their data backups on both cloud services and on-premises setup. It is an ideal practice to have more than one copy of your crucial data backups. Moreover, having the data backups isolated from your organizational network is to be considered to stay safe. Creating these siloed data back-ups will prevent cybercriminals from accessing the data. Having an offline data backup acts as a stopgap, and organizations need to regularly update these backups and isolate them from other organizational setups. Finally, having multiple copies of sensitive and important data can also prove vital.

Backup frequency

Organizations need to know what data is being backed as well as the frequency of data backups. Data backup frequency is crucial in determining how much of your data could be at a potential risk under a cyberattack. An increased frequency of data backups will reduce the impact of a cyberattack. Moreover, organizations need to categorize the data before configuring the backup cycles to have an acute awareness of your backup process.

Constantly monitor the backups for malware

Protecting data backups to ensure that they are free from malware can be a very tricky job. However, organizations need to ensure that their backups are not corrupted. Measures such as system patching, regular backup monitoring, auditing, and strict air-gap policies need to be incorporated at an organizational level. Permission management also needs to be taken seriously, and the principle of least privilege should be applied wherever possible. Another important and effective solution to safeguard your backups is to incorporate anti-malware protection.

data backup protection

Having a recovery plan

A data backup plan should be a part of your organizations’ disaster recovery plan. Most organizations follow a tiered approach where sensitive data is backed up frequently. Other organizational data such as applicational data, operation systems’ data, and logs are backed up periodically or after a significant change. Organizations need to have a recovery plan in place that adds details on the backup procedure, the order of recovering the data, being able to migrate the data backups, and more. A recovery plan is not a single solution that fits everyone. Organizations need to devise a plan that suits their business needs and requirements.

3-2-1 rule of backup

The 3-2-1 rule of backup is a tried-and-tested, industry-standard policy for protecting data backup that can help any organization minimize the effects of a cyberattack such as ransomware. The rule states that an organization should have at least three copies of all critical data, utilize at least two different types of backup media (such as disk and tape), and have at least one copy of the backup stored offsite in case of a disaster. The rule itself is self-explanatory and is a time-honored backup strategy.

Although there are no practical means of saving your data from cyberattacks completely, following these measures can help you deal with cyberattacks while adding additional security to your backups. They can also help manage and repair the damage caused by an attack.

Featured image: Designed by Macrovector / Freepik

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