Protecting business from ransomware at the edge

Issue 4 2021 Cyber Security

As businesses grow, it is typical to see remote office/branch office (ROBO) environments set up to support expansion. It is rare for companies to have data meticulously organised in one data centre. Moreover, it is challenging to keep these environments secure from ransomware because they rarely have technical staff on hand and may be far from primary data centres.

Byron Horn-Botha.

Below, I will outline a set of best practice guidelines for IT administrators to help them prevent ransomware, even at the farthest reaches of their organisation.

Focus on ransomware prevention first

Firstly, you need to ensure that basic ransomware precautions are in place, namely firewalls, spam filters, antimalware and antivirus tools. You also need to keep software patched and up to date. The purchase of ransomware insurance or increasing coverage to account for new locations must be a consideration.

Most importantly, ensure remote employees understand the threat of ransomware. Teach them how to spot suspicious emails and phishing scams that can result in ransomware attacks and ensure they know what steps to take in the event of a breach.

Develop a remote backup and recovery strategy

It might not always be possible to prevent ransomware from infecting remote networks. However, a robust backup and disaster recovery strategy can quickly get the business back on track if systems are locked down. As with any network, it is essential to start by establishing recovery objectives. Think about a particular location, understand how much data this branch can tolerate losing – this is your recovery point objective – and how much downtime is acceptable, which is your recovery time objective. The solutions deployed at these locations must meet these objectives if you are to protect data effectively.

Understand the essentials for ROBO data protection

Once you have set the goals, you must then find solutions to meet them. Outside of recovery objectives, consider these three remote/branch office essentials:

Flexible backup: The solution should back up virtual and physical machines, store those backups locally, and easily replicate them to the cloud.

Recovery options: It should be possible to recover locally at a remote office or from the cloud, depending on the severity of a disaster. It is crucial to have flexible, fast recovery options to meet critical objectives.

Remote management: There are often multiple branch offices with different environments, capabilities and recovery objectives. The solution must allow effective management of each location's unique goals, which is why it must have robust management tools that IT pros can access from anywhere. This system should permit an administrator to remotely deploy different policies in different locations and recover branch offices that might not have technical staff.

Use appliances for disaster recovery as a service

Remote and branch offices may not have the resources or technical staff to manage servers or more complex environments, which is why many IT administrators use backup appliances for remote offices, enabling them to deploy backup and disaster recovery without having to be on site. Anyone at the branch office can plug in the device and connect it to the Internet. From there, administrators can remotely protect data by setting backup schedules and retention policies.

If there is a hardware failure or minor disaster, administrators can use the device for instant failover. Moreover, because you can replicate data from an appliance to the cloud, a branch office can even spin up its entire site into the cloud if a major disaster strikes.

ROBO environments are particularly vulnerable to data loss and downtime since there is rarely technical staff on site to keep an eye on their systems. This is compounded by the growing threat of ransomware that is a constant concern for IT administrators. Luckily, backup and disaster recovery appliances make it easy for them to prevent data loss caused by failure events or ransomware, even when they cannot be physically on site.

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