What “Storm Area 51” taught us about ransomware


September 20th was the greatly-anticipated date of the “Storm Area 51” event in Nevada. The occasion had over 2,000,000 people signed up to attend on Facebook. However, predictably, it actually ended up in a much smaller gathering. Reportedly, there were about 3,000 attendees.

There was no actual raiding of Area 51 on Friday. Still, some of the people were dressed up in their Naruto costumes. This anti-climax is likely what most of us were expecting.

The size of the social media following was enough to get the attention of the military. Despite this, many will be grateful that this extra-terrestrial event ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

Unfortunately, a similar hype and awareness is often missing when it comes to understanding the threat of ransomware attacks.

Like “Storm Area 51”, these are planned acts that threaten to raid the property businesses need to protect most. For instance, valuable customer data.

Unlike the comical threat of Naruto runners dodging bullets to discover alien secrets, ransomware attacks are a very real threat.

Even big ransoms are being paid. These attacks are not going to go away any time soon. Therefore, businesses need to take charge and do something about them.

The cost of ransomware is no mystery

Some business leaders are likely to be more aware of the planned Area 51 raid than the real threat that ransomware attacks pose to their business. This is likely because they think it is something reserved for the big players.

In reality though, cybercrime can happen to anyone, at any time. It comes with serious repercussions that will ripple across the company’s reputation, customer satisfaction and capital.

Similar to the initial idea behind “Storm Area 51”, it may only take one attempt of an attacker getting through a single employee that clicked a phishing link in their emails to successfully compromise the entire 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.

There’s no need to call in the military to protect your data

The question might not be if you get hit, but when you get hit. Plus, 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 virtualisation stacks that have been around for decades are likely the most vulnerable.

This is 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. This increases their surface area for attack.

Utilising the latest in IT infrastructure development, solutions such as hyperconverged systems can reduce the attack surface. This is by eliminating a lot of the complexity that comes from integrating a number of different vendor solutions to achieve virtualisation.

However, even reducing the attack surface only gets you so far. That 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. You can also 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.

Your quest for the truth ends here

The truth is that protecting your business from a ransomware attack starts with developing a real awareness of the threat that these cybercrimes 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 better than traditional systems.

To conclude, my advice for our post-”Storm Area 51” era: don’t actually storm high-security military installations because of social media, and definitely don’t let your systems be a victim of ransomware.



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