The cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly evolving and presenting new and dangerous risks to IT environments. Executives and decision-makers have to be aware of existing and emerging threats so they can implement effective defensive and protective strategies. Relying on traditional legacy cybersecurity and data protection solutions may not be enough to ensure security for an IT environment.

Organizations must take the necessary measures to safeguard their IT environment and the valuable information it contains. Comprehensive protection requires a multifaceted approach that involves protecting the environment from external threat actors, ensuring data is backed up effectively, and enabling rapid recovery and business continuity in the event of a disaster.

Protecting the IT Environment From External and Internal Threats

Modern IT environments can be complex with a combination of on-premises and cloud components. This type of environment can be challenging to protect from the wide variety of external and internal threat actors intent on exploiting any cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Specific threats and issues that need to be addressed include:

  • Cloud vulnerabilities that attack misconfigured environments;
  • Attacks on mobile devices and endpoints used by the remote workforce;
  • Ransomware attacks where systems are encrypted and held for ransom;
  • Software supply chain attacks where third-party tools used by an organization are compromised;
  • Phishing and social engineering attacks that attempt to entice individuals into disclosing credentials or sensitive information;
  • Cryptojacking where system resources are diverted by cybercriminals to mine for cryptocurrency.

Addressing these threats requires various protective solutions such as:

  • Extended detection and response platforms to identify suspicious and anomalous behavior before it impacts the environment;
  • Air-gapping or isolating systems processing sensitive information from the main IT environment for additional protection;
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions to reduce the risks from insider threats.

Diverse Data Resiliency Strategies

A robust backup strategy is a crucial component of any plan to safeguard an IT environment. Backups protect an organization from a wide variety of data loss scenarios including:

  • Losing access to critical information due to a ransomware or other type of malware attack;
  • Inadvertent data loss due to employee or contractor mistakes;
  • Failed operating system or application updates;
  • Deliberate data loss from malicious insider activity.

Backup strategies have come a long way from traditional methods that involve connecting individual servers to storage media. Traditional techniques are labor intensive and require physical media to be moved offsite to provide enhanced resiliency. This media movement presents an additional attack vector where data can potentially be stolen, lost, or compromised.

Organizations should strongly consider modernizing their backup strategy to address the complexities of their IT environment and guard against sophisticated cyber attacks. The following best practices and backup methodologies should be on the table.

  • The 3-2-1 rule regarding backups should be followed to provide comprehensive data protection. This rule specifies that an organization should always have at least three copies of its data. One copy is the live production data with at least two types of backups. One of the backup copies should be stored offsite for use in a disaster recovery scenario. In many cases, companies should opt for more than one offsite copy stored in geographically diverse cloud environments.
  • Implementing backup solutions that create immutable or unchangeable backups is necessary to combat the threat actors behind ransomware attacks. Some ransomware attacks not only encrypt valuable data but also attempt to corrupt backup media so it cannot be used to recover the affected systems. Immutable backups defeat this strategy and allow companies to avoid paying a ransom to recover their data. Immutable backups are also often required for regulatory compliance when storing sensitive information.
  • Cloud backups give organizations a wide variety of options when choosing data protection solutions. New offerings such as Cloud Backup-as-a-Service (CBaaS) provide customers with a cost-effective method of backing up data to the cloud. Organizations can ensure their data is well-protected and available for recovery without the excessive capital costs associated with an on-premises backup solution.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

Disaster recovery and business continuity planning are overarching precautions that make extensive use of an organization’s backup and data resiliency strategies. While disaster recovery solutions have been part of the IT landscape for decades, new strategies are required to address the evolving threats from cybercriminals. Following are some potential solutions for enhanced disaster recovery and business continuity.

  • An isolated recovery environment (IRE) can be instrumental in recovering from a cyberattack without exposing the complete IT infrastructure to malicious software that may affect other systems. It provides a dedicated environment that admins can use to restore business-critical systems during a ransomware attack. The IRE needs to contain the necessary tools to perform the recovery and have access to immutable backup copies. Using a cloud-based IRE significantly reduces the expense of constructing an on-premises environment.
  • Geographically diverse recovery options are essential to address major outages caused by natural or manmade disasters. Large cloud providers such as AWS and Google offer customers the ability to recover their cloud backups to different regions for enhanced resiliency. Companies can recover their environments to a region that is unaffected by the current problem and run their business from the cloud.
  • Curated recovery ensures that organizations can perform a clean and complete recovery when hit with a ransomware attack. Since the attack may have remained dormant in the environment for an extended time, simply recovering all files from a single point in time may not produce the desired malware-free environment. Curated recovery leverages intelligent automation for accelerated ransomware recovery. The solution reviews multiple recovery points and restores the most recent unaffected files.

The new year will surely include new threats that pose a risk to your IT environment. Now is the time to get ahead of the threat actors and implement strategies to safeguard your organization.

We recommend that customers register for VAST’s webinar on Safeguarding Your Organization for 2024. Our panel of experts will delve into the details of data resiliency and recovery strategies. We will also present examples of real-life incidents to further your knowledge of cybersecurity defenses and better prepare your organization for threats in the new year.