How to keep gremlins out of your data

Issue 8 2021 IT infrastructure

Halloween has just passed and for another year the costumes, horror stories and gremlins will be shelved only to be retrieved next year. Unfortunately, when it comes to cybersecurity, the gremlins and the horror stories prevail throughout the year. They are getting more gruesome by the day, with reports of gremlin invasions bent on stealing valuable data from businesses continuously wreaking havoc. This situation is compounded in Covid times due to the number of employees working remotely, making backup and security measures more complex.


Byron Horn-Botha.

On the global front, one of the most frightening data horror stories in recent memory surrounds Pixar – the makers of the Toy Story franchise movies. It occurred during the production of Toy Story 2. One of the film’s animators accidentally entered the wrong command and instantly deleted about 90% of the film’s files. Even worse, the data backup system malfunctioned due to inadequate disk space. For a brief, blood-curdling moment, it looked like almost the entire production would be lost. Thankfully, after much blood, sweat and tears, the crew recovered the data and restored the film files.

I have encountered businesses backing up on tape drives to store them – for safekeeping - in a separate location, only to lose them and thereby lose the data. Sadly, data-loss horror stories are now a more common occurrence as millions of people around the globe continue to work remotely. Moving employees, computers and data from a secure office setting to a less secure remote environment introduces a hair-raising number of data-loss risks, from human error to technical glitches and cyber-attacks.

Here are four ways to ensure your corporate data stays safe and secure all year round.

1. Make data protection a priority

You can begin by implementing a data storage solution that can protect your data from human error wherever it lives – on-premises, offsite or in the cloud. The most effective solutions can quickly recover individual files and systems – or a whole data centre – in minutes while ensuring the data is always available, no matter what happens.

This sounds almost too good to be true, but with next-generation solutions, this scenario can be achieved. These solutions provide immutable object storage, which safeguards data from human error by taking snapshots of that data every few seconds. Because the object store is immutable, it can be quickly restored even if someone tampers with the data.

Your business data experience does not have to be fraught with worries at any time of year. With the right strategies and systems in place, you can prevent data loss.

2. Embrace multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the most critical security features for protecting your corporate data. With millions of passwords constantly being stolen and becoming available to attackers, many businesses are now implementing MFA to provide an extra layer of security. Adding a second factor of authentication is vital for protecting your accounts and locking down data. According to the latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, MFA is especially crucial given that 61% of all breaches involve stolen or compromised credentials.

By requiring employees to enter more than just a password to gain access to their data, you make it harder for criminals to impersonate that employee. With MFA, a stolen password alone is not enough to gain access, so you’re putting a big hurdle in the path of cybercriminals. And cybercriminals don’t like hurdles. They want the low-hanging fruit.

3. Encourage employees to back up their data

When employees work remotely, they tend not to be as vigilant as they would be in the office. They’re using their home PCs and clicking on links that perhaps they should not be clicking on, which puts their data at greater risk. But worse, that increased risk directly puts your corporate data at risk as well. Therefore, it’s important to encourage employees to be responsible and back up their data regularly.

You should also adopt the 3-2-1-1 data-protection strategy, which directs that you have three backup copies of your data on two different media, such as disk and tape, with 1 of those copies located offsite for disaster recovery. The final one in this equation is immutable object storage – as defined above.

4. Never stop testing

A global survey of IT decision-makers conducted by Dimensional Research found that nearly a quarter of all organisations don’t test their data-recovery plan or don’t have a data recovery plan in the first place. It’s vital to regularly test your backups and your ability to recover in the case of data loss. The last thing you want is to rely on a backup that ends up not working and then lose your data in an emergency, whether it’s a cyber-attack, a natural disaster or a system failure.

While having a backup is essential, recovering all data completely and quickly is just as crucial for business continuity. Testing your data recovery plan and your ability to restore from existing backups is the only way to ensure that you can recover the data you depend on if it’s lost. Organisations should make it a habit to periodically test their backup copies to ensure they can reliably restore their data.




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