The dangers of direct ransomware attacks on data centers

Data centers are essential to the big data-driven world of e-commerce and online marketing. Storing and protecting company and consumer data requires safe and efficient data centers. This is why we spend billions of dollars per year on cybersecurity solutions to fight data center attacks.

And yet, the threat to data centers posed by cyber attack remains. Malicious activity accounts for approximately 39% of all data breaches, with the average instance costing a company $5.5 million. For data centers and the businesses whose data they host, the threat can have real and dire consequences.

Of the types of cyberattacks, ransomware tends to be one of the most common. Data centers are often targets of cybercriminals using ransomware, and the dangers these attacks pose can be highly damaging. The first step in a comprehensive safety approach comes from understanding the threat.

Why are data centres under threat?

Data centers present a big target for cybercriminals. As the physical location that includes the servers, routers, switches, and firewalls that make communication between cloud networks and other physical data centers possible, data centers are both vital and vulnerable. They make possible business processes including but not limited to:

  • Big data technology like AI
  • Collaboration services
  • Customer Relationship Management systems
  • File sharing
  • Remotely connected desktops, and much more

These services are understandably more important than ever with the increase in remote work, as mobile and home devices need to sign in to secure networks hosted by data centers. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a shift in employees working from home. Now, the various devices workers use to access private company data all represent access points for cybercriminals to attempt to break into a data center network.

Luckily, data centers are using technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning to combat the threat of ransomware. With software that can instantly scan and analyze endpoints to track suspicious activity, ransomware can be caught and prevented at an enhanced rate. However, no AI or human process is capable of catching every attack.

The dangers of ransomware

Ransomware is emerging as one of the most nefarious threats posed to businesses of the future. The risk of this malware entering and corrupting a data center can have rippling adverse consequences across industries. This makes preventing a direct ransomware attack on data centers worth the $13 billion and more per year spent on defense.

Ransomware is a type of malware that enters a computer system with the intention of locking users out. It works by encrypting data files so that users cannot access them without paying a ransom to the attacker— hence the name. There are many varieties of ransomware. All have done significant damage to the business and individuals they attack.

Three well-known examples of ransomware are the Ryuk, WannaCry, and WYSIWYE malware systems infamous for high profile attacks. With each variety of ransomware, millions of dollars were extorted across countries all over the world.

With individual users, ransomware attacks are not quite as costly. The average person doesn’t have thousands of dollars to shell out for an attack, so returns for hackers aren’t as high as they are with high-profile targets like data centers. There, they can use gradual database encryption to worm their way into a system and lock down the database to extort up to millions of dollars.

This puts data centers especially at risk since they store vast amounts of data, often owned by high-profile clients that have the resources to pay. Hackers know this and plan accordingly. When data is seized from a data center that houses information for multiple businesses, the effects can be catastrophic and rippling.

Historically companies that experience a catastrophic data loss will be forced to close within two years. This leaves data centers with little choice if they become subject to a ransomware attack. Their options are to pay up or potentially have the majority of their clients lose their businesses.

The damage caused by ransomware makes these threats a serious concern for every data center. Proper damage responses can mitigate the damage, but the threat of ransomware is never truly gone.

How data centres are responding to attack

Every data center, no matter how small, should have an effective data disaster recovery plan in place. With a team of IT professionals and efficient antivirus and cybersecurity software, the damage done by any attack can be kept to a minimum.

Modern data centers integrate these measures from the beginning, staving off attacks as best they can, then initiating disaster protocol when an attack occurs. By planning for an attack at the setup of a data center and implementing the disaster recovery plan from the start, the damage will not be as widespread.

First, data centers build a team of experts to protect against and recover from an attack. This includes a suite of professionals from IT to HR, along with efficient software tools like AI machine learning systems that can catch and prevent attacks with greater agility.

Second, backup systems are planned out. In many cases, a simple backup may not be enough to serve as a workaround for ransomware attacks. Hackers understand data backup procedures and will target servers and systems to cripple a database at its foundation, forcing a ransom to be paid. However, the hybridization of some data centers to cloud networks is enabling them to better protect against the complete disruption of services at a physical location.

Decentralization of data is a commonly offered solution to issues of data insecurity. By ensuring that all copies of data are not stored in one place, data centers can protect against attacks and keep information secure.

This is why blockchains are increasingly being touted as a cybersecurity solution. This technology allows for decentralized data storage in cryptographic links that protect data from interference and theft. In the future, data centers may advance and adopt this technology as it grows to suit their needs.

Final thoughts

The dangers posed by ransomware to data centers are real. The effects can cause severe financial harm to potentially thousands of people and businesses in the wake of a single attack.

By integrating disaster recovery plans and employing a team of antivirus software and personnel, some data centers are mitigating the damage. Unfortunately, there is no way to fully ensure the safety of a data center, but emerging technologies like blockchain may help us get to a more secure future.

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