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The Ransomware Gap: Going Beyond Disaster Recovery With Self-Healing Data

When ransomware hits, we tend to have two main reactions. First, we try to detect ransomware upon execution, and second, we try to mitigate its spread once it’s in a system. If the security controls fail, the mindset goes, we’ve at least got a disaster recovery process to resolve the issue.

However, in the midst of a severe attack, the consequences can far exceed disaster recovery. Critical systems are locked down, applications become unavailable, operations grind to a halt, and it may be days — plus tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity — before things are back to normal.

The reality is that almost every company with a major ransomware attack has followed this approach, and almost every single one has still ended up suffering downtime, experiencing significant damage, and making the news. Something has to change.

From healthcare and higher ed to tech and finance, no sector is immune to the threat of ransomware. Unfortunately, the cybersecurity industry remains overly focused on detection — which is never flawless — and disaster recovery, both of which are reactive approaches.

Below, we discuss the “ransomware gap” and how self-healing data technology can offer a proactive way to approach ransomware attacks.

Ransomware trends

Ransomware is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats facing organizations today. 59%

of organizations were hit with an attack during the last year, and ransom payments have quintupled in that time. 

Part of the reason for the continual rise in attacks is the sophistication of the industry. Attackers are constantly developing new techniques like encryption-less ransomware and intermittent encryption ransomware to bypass traditional detection systems. Meanwhile, new variants are being created by motivated hackers that employ different encryption methods and propagation techniques.

Other recent developments, like accessible and affordable Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) subscriptions, have made it easier than ever to purchase ready-made attack tools. Some cybercriminals are even turning to AI to carry out more convincing social engineering and phishing attacks.

Why detection is rarely 100%

While robust detection mechanisms are critical for a strong data security posture, the reality is that no single defensive technology provides 100% efficacy against all threats. Here are some of the top reasons why detection software can miss ransomware.

Evasion tactics. Some variants are specifically designed to bypass detection tools. For example, encryption-less ransomware works by skipping the process of encryption altogether and moving straight to exfiltrating sensitive data for the purpose of extortion. Meanwhile, intermittent encryption ransomware uses specialized algorithms to encrypt small and randomized portions of each file, making it more difficult for detection software to recognize the attack.

Insider threats. Not all ransomware originates from external threat actors. Malicious insiders with privileged access can introduce ransomware directly to key systems. Plus, intentionally or accidentally leaked credentials are commonly bought or stolen by cybercriminals to gain entry to networks.

Zero-day exploits. Ransomware gangs are continually finding and exploiting new zero-day vulnerabilities across common software and operating systems before vendors can patch them. Legacy apps, outdated systems, and IoT devices all provide ample entry points. Zero-day ransomware attacks often begin with low-skilled exploit attempts and are followed by more adept targeting from an organized ransomware group.

Cloud ransomware. As more data shifts to cloud environments, misconfigurations or a misunderstanding of the shared responsibility model can unwittingly leave critical data vulnerable.

Supply chain attacks. Supply chain attacks pose a particularly insidious risk. By compromising a third-party vendor, threat actors can covertly distribute malware through legitimate software updates, cloud services, or other supplier products. Since these attacks are delivered by trusted sources, they can bypass many perimeter defenses and external security controls.

The problem with relying on disaster recovery

Unfortunately, turning to your recovery process means that you already have a disaster on hand. That’s why it’s called disaster recovery in the first place.

Things like backup storage technologies, recovery time objectives (RTO), and communications protocols all have a place in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. But relying on recovery tools alone is a recipe for… well, disaster.

For example, backups can eventually restore a business’s operations — but only if the ransomware attack hasn’t already targeted those backups. One ransomware variant is known to lock cloud-based backups when systems continuously back up in real-time (i.e. during persistent synchronization).

A recent study found that 94% of ransomware victims had their backups targeted along with their primary files. What’s more, recovery was 800% more expensive when backups were compromised. Backups are also a time- and labor-intensive solution, with downtime stretching on as files are restored.

Another issue is that disaster recovery does not actually prevent the operational disruptions and downtime that occur once an attack is underway. By the time recovery processes are initiated, data has already been rendered unavailable, and both lost productivity and lost revenue are likely. Maintaining data availability and business continuity throughout an active attack is a challenge that traditional recovery tools cannot fully address.

Finally, disaster recovery can’t prevent data breaches if attackers have exfiltrated sensitive data during the attack. In double extortion ransomware — which is rising steeply — cybercriminals threaten to expose exfiltrated data on the internet by selling or publishing it on the dark web. This kind of attack can be devastating for a business’s reputation and compliance, even if the organization does manage to restore all its data from backups.

The bottom line? By the time a ransomware attack triggers your data recovery procedures, the damage is likely already done.

Bridging the ransomware gap with self-healing data

While detection and recovery are crucial, they’re not enough to fully address the growing threat of ransomware. More proactive data-centric strategies and technologies are needed to achieve robust data resilience and mitigate ransomware risks across the entire attack lifecycle.

Self-healing data technology offers one way to address the gap left by detection and recovery products. It works by automatically restoring damaged or encrypted files to a last known good state without any manual steps.

The ShardSecure platform offers a self-healing feature that protects data in real time within live file systems. The feature works transparently and without disrupting users or data flows, allowing organizations to maintain business continuity — even in the middle of a ransomware attack. The self-healing feature also works to reconstruct data that has been deleted by ransomware attackers, who will sometimes destroy data if they are unable to exfiltrate it for profit.

Additionally, ShardSecure is able to mitigate double extortion attacks by rendering data unintelligible to unauthorized users. Even if hackers are able to directly access a company’s storage locations, the data remains illegible and unexploitable. It cannot be reconstructed by unauthorized users, which means that sensitive data remains safe from unlawful publication and extortion, unlike with backup services or disaster recovery.

Finally, the ShardSecure platform’s automatic data migration feature allows customers to configure alternate storage locations to avoid a single point of failure within a certain location. Even if an attacker could completely wipe an entire solution or an entire cloud account, self-healing data will prevent any disruptions to the business.

To learn more, visit our ransomware solutions page or check out our other resources.



Hacking at UnitedHealth Unit Cripples a Swath of the US Health System: What to Know | KFF Health News

State of Ransomware 2024 | Sophos 

How ransomware is evolving to evade detection | Security Magazine 

Encryption-less ransomware: Warning issued over emerging attack method for threat actors | ITPro

Intermittent Encryption Is A Growing Ransomware Threat That Requires A Proactive Cyber Defense | Forbes

What Is an Insider Threat? Definition, Types, and Prevention | Fortinet

Over 60% of Network Security Appliance Flaws Exploited as Zero Days | Infosecurity Magazine 

What is a supply chain attack? | Crowdstrike

Sophos Study: 94% of Ransomware Victims Have Their Backups Targeted By Attackers | Tech Republic

Ransomware double-extortion attacks increased 72% | Security Magazine