Stop Assuming Your Cloud Backups Are Safe
Data is the lifeblood of every modern organization. From customer details, to code, APIs, and databases, each team presides over a wealth of information. This data is not only lucrative for your business, but also a shiny target for unscrupulous cybercriminals. The growing threat of data theft, leakage, and ransomware, dictates that up to date data backups are now a necessity. Traditional, on-premises storage is not suitable for many organizations, recently becoming outpaced by cloud-based repositories.
There are overwhelming assumptions, however, that data security in cloud infrastructure is simply superior – this is not necessarily the case. Here’s how to juggle security and convenience.
Importance of Data Backups
Put simply, a backup is an archived copy of important information. It forms the backbone of your organization’s data protection policy, acting as a restorative mechanism in the case of data loss or cyberattack.
Data losses take many different forms, and as the owner and guardian of customer data, it is the company’s responsibility to adequately protect such material. Dossiers of illegally gained data are lucrative business for cybercriminals, with large quantities of personally identifiable information (PII) fetching sizable sums on dark web markets. In fact, there’s so much PII – from the non-stop roster of this year’s data breaches, leaks, and attacks – that individual email addresses and usernames go for only a few cents each. Data losses are a risk of doing business and must be recognized as such. Backups are typically stored in a secure location, separate from the organization’s main premises.
It may be impossible to control when you’re targeted by cyber criminals, but a reliable backup is one of the most important controls that will prevent long-term post-breach damage. Ransomware attacks are one particularly potent concern – the reality of which continues to hit more companies each year. In 2021 alone, approximately 37% of global organizations claimed they had fallen victim to some form of ransomware attack, according to the IDC Report. When ransomware encrypts its victim’s files, that data is fundamentally irretrievable – even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee the extortion gang will return the decryption key. If this occurs, and your backup is less than a week old, then you are saved from the stress of negotiating with cybercriminals, and your company faces the total loss of only a week’s worth of work. This is far more manageable than the loss of 6 months’ worth of data. This can cripple even an established organization.
Types of Data Backups
The type of backups your organization makes depends on a number of factors. The size of your organization, and the industry regulations surrounding the data you handle, are the two key influencing components to this choice. Full backups are the most thorough form: here, an exact copy of all data in the immediate environment is replicated and stored in the backup. A company that chooses to build a foundation of full backups will be the fastest to recover from data loss but will have to handle the increased cost of storage space. Differential backups recognize the unwieldy nature of repeated full backups, and instead make new copies of all the files that were changed since the last full backup. This saves time and money and prevents a database becoming a mess of replicated files.
However, differential backups do delay the restoration process: you’ll not only need the differential backups, but also the previous full backup that came before it. The final type is the incremental backup – similar to incremental, this is not dependent upon a full backup beforehand. It covers and logs any data that has been changed since the last backup of any type and represents the best interests of both security and cost-effectiveness.
The final choice faced by modern organizations is where precisely to store this data. On-premises was once considered the most secure solution – after all, locks can’t be hacked in the same way software can. However, the process of consolidating and shipping the sensitive data to a secure storage facility remains exceedingly risky. This is why today’s regulation for offsite data protection is strict: consider how, in healthcare, patient information must remain confidential.
If an office worker places any form of backup media in their car before driving home, the potential possibilities for theft or damage drastically get out of hand. Similarly, some financial organizations are required to hold onto some records for years – and guarantee that such data is recoverable at will. If your backup solution cannot cater to every specific component of your industry’s regulation, you could be held personally accountable. This shows the difficulties of local backup storage.
Cloud-based backups, on the other hand, offer secure storage at an offsite location. The backups remain malleable enough to reflect today’s rapidly shifting databases, but also prioritize safety over all else. High-quality cloud backups also encrypt your data before moving it through secure networks, helping guarantee protection from data leakage.
Security Issues of Cloud Backups
For budget-friendly cloud service providers, one method of cost-cutting is to allow two or more clients to store their data in the same hardware infrastructure. This is called multi-tenancy architecture and requires clients to look closely at their provider’s isolation measures. If the provider lacks strong enough isolation measures, it becomes possible to launch attacks against other ‘tenants.’ These side-channel attacks are often a direct result of a lack of authorization controls across physical resources, allowing malicious actors to glean confidential information from techniques such as bandwidth monitoring.
Alongside the basis of your backup, a close eye needs to be kept on the access controls surrounding the cloud storage. Many storage providers are proud of how easy they make collaboration: though fantastic for documents still being worked on, a backup should be as separated as possible from the active databases you use day to day. Simple access links, built to grant access to anyone who clicks them, represent a potential security issue if there’s no further verification. Access is notoriously difficult to revoke, complicating things further if an authorized user mistakenly lends access to someone who shouldn’t.
Managing the Security Risks
The cloud may streamline and secure your backups, but do not make the mistake of walking away and assuming it will run like clockwork. A proactive data protection strategy means that every backup component is ready to go, should a breach occur. Monitoring for potential problems is vital, as is semi-regularly testing your backups. Alongside this, employees and affected individuals must be suitably informed post-breach. Have a clear plan for what mechanisms kick in following a crisis. The biggest indicator of whether data loss will become a company-killer is how prepared the organization is. The more confusion there is, the longer the post-breach downtime becomes.