The Rise of Ransomware and its Impact on Digital Preservation

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Our digital world is growing at an astounding pace. While society’s collective knowledge and understanding depends on the ongoing aggregation, analysis, and distribution of vast amounts of data, the preservation of these digital assets is at constant risk from cyber-attacks that evolve and threaten it. Recent reports total the number of new malware in 2016 alone at 127 million specimen, with other sources currently registering over 250,000 new malicious programs every day for 2018. While the growth in new types of the vast majority of malware is no longer expected to significantly increase year-over-year, most predict a sharp rise in ransomware.

What is Ransomware and Digital preservation using air gap ImageWhat is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software from crypto-virology that breaches an individual’s or organization’s data and threatens to publish the victim’s digital content or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks cause downtime, data loss and potential intellectual property theft. One of the first cases of ransomware was reported in 1989, but its widespread use dates back to 2005, with newer versions being especially virulent in their propagation and depth of infection.

Who Are Ransomware’s Prime Targets?

Any person or organization with business-critical data that can’t afford to lose access to it during the time it would take to respond to an attack should be concerned about ransomware. Banks, hospitals, Congress, police departments, airlines, airports, and other institutions or corporations that depend on daily access to their data should all be on guard.

“In working with a single medium for Tier-1 and Tier-2 storage, even backups are easily compromised, and this is especially true when malware targets disk firmware and easily reinstalls or propagates,” said Nathan Thompson, CEO of Spectra Logic, in his book, “Society’s Genome: Genetic Diversity’s Role in Digital Preservation.”

Without a doubt, one of the best lines of defense to protect data from cybercrime is to store copies on an electronically disconnected device. The role of tape-based offline storage offers unique advantages in this scenario due to something called ‘Tape Air Gap’. The air gap prevents cyber-attacks since the data stored offline cannot be hacked. “The only way to create a physical air gap is to copy something to removable media and send that media offsite. This means tape for most all data centers,” says Fred Moore, founder and President of Horizon Information Strategies.

Many security experts and tape users praise tape over other forms of storage for its higher reliability rate and lifespan in excess of 30 years. The total cost of ownership per terabyte is also the lowest of any storage medium. The newest generation of tape technology has the ability to hold up to 30TB of data on a single tape, and can be archived in offsite locations at a fraction of the cost of the cheapest cloud storage.  As tape technology advances, the LTO tape roadmap shows that users will be able to store up to 192TB of data on a single piece of media, ensuring that tape remains a very economical way to mitigate cyberattacks.

Cybercrime is a major threat to organizations around the world. Digital tape is the ideal solution for ransomware prevention and protection. The federal government, financial services firms, research institutions, health insurers and other regulated industries continue to use tape to protect their digital records.

For more information about what ransomware is and how it is affecting organizations today, download a free chapter on cyber threats from Society’s Genome by filling out the form below.