Cry Me a River…Really?

Cry Me a River…Really?

Yep. That’s one headline I saw this weekend about the WannaCry attack. And I guess we can understand that sentiment, maybe. Our view at Global Data Vault, is our job is to be ready to help any of our customers hit by this outrageous attack. Our customers use our services to recover from Ransomware attacks quite regularly and this one is far from over, and I suspect we’ll help our customers perform more than a handful of recoveries. We may all know this by now, but here is some background on the subject.

Ransomware is malware that encrypts and sometimes later deletes files from computers, smartphones, and other intelligent devices – now even including TVs. Ransomware is operated by organized crime gangs, many of whom are based in Russia. The proceeds of these attacks are being used to fund terrorism, human trafficking, drug operations and other nefarious activities.

The first known Ransomware attack occurred at a World Health Organization AIDS conference in 1989. At the time, the intent was to extort small amounts of money. Another early implementation posed itself as antivirus software which the victims were encouraged to purchase in order to eradicate malware that was planted by the same code.

Today, with attacks from so many sources, and with the advent of untraceable virtual currencies like Bitcoin, and through the existence of sophisticated encryption algorithms, ransomware has become a billion-dollar industry.

There is even a market that supplies tools to build ransomware and tech support for implementing attacks. The encryption is often now 256 bit RSA grade and is too sophisticated for even large technical organizations to solve. Citrix reports that many large companies are keeping Bitcoin available as a last-resort.

Even further frightening are cases where remote access trojans have been used to monitor a potential victim to determine the scope of the organization and assess its ability to pay a given ransom.

History

CryptoLocker was the first wideapread attack and first appeared in 2013. It was supported by a large network of malware bots (together called a botnet) which is used to distribute the actual attack. Cryptolocker extorted over $3 million before being shut down by the Department of Justice who took control of the botnet and issued a warrant and a bounty for Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev for his involvement.

New threats exist; Cryptowall is believed to have extorted over $350 million; Locky operated in 30 languages; Petya encrypts entire hard drives. As bad as these are Cerber is the most prevalent, accounting for 90% of Windows ransomware.

Cyber attacks through email attachments. Word, Excel and PDF files containing dangerous macros are sent as bait – usually calling themselves invoices, etc. If the user opens the file and allows the macro to run, the attack will generally succeed. Your inbox has become your most vulnerable point.

Avoidance and Prevention

  1. Patch Everything – as often as possible – patch every application.
  2. Do not allow local admin rights on user desktops.
  3. Desktop antivirus is helpful but not enough because the attackers are continually recompiling their code to escape detection. Secure email gateways also help but are also limited for the same reason.
  4. BACKUP – is the only real protection!
  5. Follow the 3-2-1 rule: Always have 3 backups, on 2 media types and 1 offsite. More on the 3-2-1 rule later.

Backup Strategy

As a service provider working in this area, we see attacks on a weekly basis. We have performed hundreds of recoveries. The following points are the lessons learned from our own experience and the well-organized thoughts on this subject from Rick Vanover Director of Technical Product Marketing at Veeam Software.

  1. Use different credentials for backup jobs! An attack or attacker with credentials to access your system might also attack your backups.
  2. At some point commit data to offline media such at tape. If it’s offline, it cannot be attacked.
  3. Use Veeam Cloud Connect (we do). It uses a different method of authentication and a different backup API.
  4. Store backups in a different file system.
  5. Take SAN snapshots of your local backup repository.
  6. Expand and master the 3-2-1 rule – use the 3-2-1-1 rule: have 3 copies of your data, on 2 types of media, have least 1 offsite and at least 1 offline.
  7. Test – have 0 errors after recovery is tested! Veeam’s Sure Backup verification is one great way to test.

While this is a good start, there are other many other technical strategies we implement for our customers. GDV employs as many as possible for each of our customers. We’re always happy to discuss how you can leverage these ideas.

We hope this is helpful. Good luck and stay ready.

How to Destroy a Hard Drive

How to Destroy a Hard Drive

How to Destroy a Hard Drive

When replacing an older desktop, you may have reservations about just chucking it into the bin. You’ll need to be certain that you’ve erased all the information contained on your computer’s hard drive. This task can be tougher than you think, but we’ve collected a number of methods that can do the trick.

Step 1: Wipe the drive.

This step typically involves getting some type of wipe CD, inserting it into your computer’s CD drive, and then following instructions to prompt it to do its thing. While specialized forensic teams could still somehow retrieve your stuff, at least on TV, the wipe is an essential first step for Type A personalities. Type B folks can head straight to step 2.

Step 2: Choose your weapon.

Wiping the drive is never enough, so your second step for surefire hard drive obliteration is to remove the hard drive platter from your computer and subject it to any of the below methods, or combination thereof. Make sure you choose a method that: a.) won’t hurt your family, pets or friends; b.) won’t get you arrested; and c.) sounds like a heck of a lot of fun.

Blast with a hammer.

Fast, direct and awesome for alleviating aggression, taking a hammer to your platter comes with deep benefits. Wear safety goggles, choose a firm surface and start smashing away. Note that platters made of ceramic or glass will shatter readily, while those made of metal may be more fun to destroy using an alternate method.

Melt in the microwave.

Unless you never want to hear the end of it, don’t use your family’s kitchen microwave for this stunt. Get an old crummy used one; plug it into an extension cord outside, far, far away from any living being. The radiation is not strong enough to destroy the drive, so you have to keep zapping the platter until it either melts or explodes. Try 10-minute intervals and see what happens – by opening the door with a broom handle and remaining far, far away and out of its potentially explosive path.

Burn, baby, burn.

Again, the heat alone won’t destroy the drive. But transforming it into melted goop will. Choose an outdoor fire pit or barrel and toss your drive on the fire, checking periodically for melting progress. Another option is to go for protective gear, a heat-resistant set of tongs and a blow torch.

Break out the hacksaw.

In all honesty, a hacksaw won’t do much for hard drive destruction. But “hacksaw” is more fun to say than “angle cutter.” Choose a powered, handheld angle cutter, insert a dramatic-looking blade, grab your safety goggles and go for it. Oh yeah, clamp down your platter on a durable surface to keep it from flying all over and hitting you in the face once you start cutting.

Regardless of the weapon of destruction you choose, it’s imperative to note one ironic twist: how much easier it is to accidentally lose data than it is to try to intentionally destroy it. That’s where we can help with our cloud backup solutions. Enjoy!

Ready for the Windows Server 2003 Deadline?

Ready for the Windows Server 2003 Deadline?

July 14 marks the end of an era, and your business could face disaster if you’re not properly prepared. The era to which we’re referring is the end of service and support for Windows Server 2003, a server platform heading out to pasture in 2015. Proper preparation consists of upgrading your server platform to Windows Server 2012.

What Happens if You Don’t Upgrade

Despite the quickly approaching deadline, The Register reports about 8 million instances of Windows Server 2003 OS are still in operation. An estimated 1.6 million of those, or 20 percent, are expected to continue business as usual past the July 14 deadline.

Ignoring the deadline means ignoring the fact that Microsoft will no longer be issuing any security fixes or extended support for Windows Server 2003. This leaves any business still using the system totally on its own when it comes to hacks, attacks and other vulnerabilities. Most at risk is any data on your server system, which could end up easily accessed from the Internet.

Top Tips for Making the Migration

These projects require lead time and appropriate scheduling, and that could take months. Yes, that means you should get started pronto. A handful of tips can help.

Make a game plan. Your plan begins by getting a good handle on your existing environment. Figure out what applications, data and other components need to be moved to the new environment. Do your research on Windows Server 2012 so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Do your testing. Double check applications and other components you need to move are compatible with the new server. If they’re not, make the necessary changes to ensure they will be.

Back up your data. No further explanation necessary on this one, as you want to ensure nothing gets lost during the transition.

Don’t forget the downtime. Every migration comes with downtime when resource-intensive tasks are going to slow down or altogether halt your system. Schedule those tasks for off-peak hours, such as evenings and weekends, or whenever your business is at its slowest. Do your best to ensure your business remains up and running as regularly as possible.

Make a transition plan. Here you want to make sure people can easily access and use the information required while you’re moving between the two environments. Ensure information is properly synchronized and all permissions remain intact.

Fine-tune your management. You want your new environment to be as compliant, secure and efficient as your previous one. Achieve this by ensuring your have the proper management team at the helm to get a firm grasp on intricacies, streamline the workflow and truly make the most of your new system.

Even if you’re not fully entrenched in Windows Server 2012 by July 14, you should be well on your way. The sooner you can make the switch, the sooner you can once again enjoy continuous security and support.

The History of Data Vaults

The History of Data Vaults

Vaults through the Ages

history-of-data-vault

The Evolution of Vaults

Vaults are lockable enclosures that protect valuables against damage, theft or intrusion. In the history of data vaults, the first two thousand years saw vaults that were more intimidating than protective. They were mostly highly decorated boxes secured by an easily defeated lock. In ancient Egypt, locks were made of wood and vulnerable to forceful entry and the effects of age. With the advent of iron, locks became smaller and more reliable but were still easily picked. In the Middle Ages, the wooden box was reinforced by iron bands but still used ineffective locks. By the seventeen hundreds, locks were made more complicated in an effort to make them more effective; featuring elaborate keys, multiple locks, fake and hidden locks and other techniques — but vaults were still vulnerable to fire.

The introduction of steel ushered in a revolution in vault security and vaults became much more effective. Fire and chemical resistant, modern vaults often feature walls more than 15 inches thick encased in reinforced concrete and secured by the most complicated locking mechanisms ever devised. Some are designed to take 20 hours or more to break into. One vault in Hiroshima even survived a nuclear blast.

The Importance of Data Vaults

Today, information is often as valuable – sometimes more so — than the precious metals, currency and paper securities vaults were originally built to protect. Keeping information, or data, safe requires a much different sort of vault. Instead of thick walls of steel and concrete, data vaults require effective firewalls to keep intruders out. Instead of complicated mechanical locks, they require impenetrable encryption technologies to keep their contents from being stolen. Protecting information from destruction by fire or natural disaster lies in remote backup storage systems, not in concrete and steel.

Although data vaults look and work very differently than traditional vaults, they still serve the same function — keeping valuables secure against theft or damage – and nobody does it better than Global Data Vault. We can capture and secure information as it is generated anywhere in the world and protect it in multiple sites with state of the art encryption and firewall technologies in real time. That’s along way from a wooden box with a wooden lock.

 

Heartbleed’s impact at GDV

Heartbleed’s impact at GDV

The OpenSSL Heartbleed bug threatened the security of data across the internet. This vulnerability affected anyone who visited a compromised website and put them at an increased risk for identity theft, credit card theft, and hacking. While this security threat was found in over half a million webservers, we have concluded that our production environment and webservers are not at risk.

The Heartbleed bug allows encryption keys to be bypassed, giving unauthorized user access to unsecure data like passwords and account numbers. The concerning issue is that the bug has been in existence for 2 years already, but only been made public. We can only assume the prolific hacker community has been aware and exploiting this for some time, and now even the amateurs can get in on the game.

The GDV production systems that provide your backup and disaster recovery services were never exposed to the Heartbleed vulnerability.

Our website does use OpenSSL but we have completed our remediation. We see no evidence of any data loss or theft and the site has always functioned as it is intended.

If you have any concerns about your backup account or your disaster recovery services, please contact us directly. More information about Heartbleed can be found at http://heartbleed.com. A comprehensive list of companies who were exposed can be found here: http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/

 

 

Internet Pirates

Internet Pirates

Internet Pirates

There are two new nasty computer malware and ransomware strains currently terrorizing both PC’s and Mac’s. They have gained momentum since their first reports early this year. Both are prolific, becoming more sophisticated in their delivery, and demand a ransom from their victims. We think they’re the new age version of pirates searching for prey on the Cyber Sea.

Internet Pirate #1: Crypto Locker

Crypto Locker is a sneaky ransomware that makes its way onto a user’s computer via an email suggesting a free trial for something desirable, or simply posing as an email from a trusted service provider. The user clicks on the link and that begins the download to install the “freebie” or survey on their device. Crypto Locker then uses an RSA-cyber-pirate-20015422_mbased encryption to lock files on the user’s computer, rendering them useless without a decryption key. Crypto Locker also creates a registry entry so even restarting the computer presents the same message and blocks the user from their files.

Users discover the Crypto Locker attack via a warning message boasting of the encryption and offering a decryption key for $300 dollars.

Experts say that the encryption is at a level that only the NSA could break it, (and you know they aren’t going to help you). That leaves infected users with two choices: pay up or wipe the system clean and restore the files from a backup.

Two of our customers just this week were held hostage by the Crypto Locker. Because we maintain regular backups for them, we were able to get their systems back in business in short order. Others are not so lucky.

Some people attacked by the Crypto Locker actually choose to pay the ransom. Surprisingly the decryption key does work after funds are delivered – although experts warn of future activations of the malware.

 

Internet Pirate #2: Reveton

Reveton behaves a little bit differently than Crypto Locker but like its nasty cousin, Reveton also demands ransom payment to undo the damage. However, Reveton doesn’t require someone to open a file or download anything. Reveton is labeled “drive-by” malware because it will install itself when you simply click on a compromised website. User’s computers are locked down, and they are given a message saying that their Internet address has been recorded by the FBI or the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been involved in child pornography or other illegal activity. In order to remove the lock, victims must pay a fine via a prepaid money service.

Because the Reveton ransomware is a JavaScript Snippet loop that locks up the browsers, it can affect all browsers — even Chrome. And while Mac users generally are not affected by some of the more popular malware strains running rampant on the Internet, even they can fall prey to this scam. Mac users have been able to remove the snippet by clicking “Leave the page” 150 times, or ‘force quit Safari and restart’ while holding down the shift key. Windows users have to reboot in safe mode and remove the ctfmon.lnk file. It’s always smart computing to run a security scan after a malware attack – and know that the next generation of ransomware will come quickly enough. It’s a safe bet that these relatively easy fixes may not last long.

According to Symantec, (producers of Norton Security Software), incidents of ransomware have increased over the past year. While cybercrime victims are fewer, the loss per victim has increased. The best way to protect your data from Internet Pirates is to have a secure backup in place so you can restore your business after they strike.