Ransomware and Your Backups: Why Your School May Be At More Risk Than You Think

by | Oct 17, 2019 | Managed Services | 0 comments

Ransomware is becoming a very real threat to schools and educational organizations as hackers look for new ways to get their hands on sensitive information, including financial and student data.

When it comes to ransomware protection, cybersecurity experts repeatedly stress the need for backups. While those backups do provide the first line of protection, simply backing up your files may not fully shield you from this growing threat. The reason is simple yet often overlooked. Since ransomware infections can hide out on a school’s computers, servers, and other devices, the files that are diligently backed up day after day could also be compromised.

When that happens, restoring backed up files will not cure the infection nor restore the compromised data. You might find that the newly restored files are just as infected, and just as vulnerable, as they were before.

So, what can you do to enhance your school’s protection and fight the scourge of ransomware? Here are some best practices to follow when developing and implementing a backup strategy for your organization.

Ransomware School Security

Employ a Multi-Faceted Backup Strategy

If your school relies on a single-layer backup strategy, your data could be at risk, even if you aren’t hit with a ransomware infection. Backing up your files to an external hard drive is simple enough, but a drive failure could render those backups useless. Backing up your data to the cloud may seem like a failsafe solution, but even this is far from foolproof. If you fail to check your backups carefully, you could miss a looming problem and be left with backups that are incomplete at best.

Instead of relying on just one form of backup, schools should implement a multi-faceted solution to backing up files. That means copying files to an external hard drive or similar device, while simultaneously saving files to the cloud. This approach builds redundancy into your backup strategy, and that could prove useful in the event of an inadvertent hard drive failure or a deliberate ransomware attack.

Air Gap Your Local Backups

If your computer is infected with ransomware, anything attached to that device will be vulnerable to the same line of attack. That includes the external hard drive plugged into the PC or the thumb drive stuck in the USB slot.

That vulnerability is why it is so important to air gap any local backups. Air gapping simply means that the external backup and storage device are disconnected from the computer as soon as the current backup has been completed. It may add a few minutes to your daily backup routine, but the extra protection is well worth the effort.

Ransomware School Security

Look for Versioning

Despite your best backup efforts, it is still possible that some of your backed-up files could be infected with ransomware or viruses. To build an extra level of protection into your backups, look to versioning.

Versioning means that the backup service saves multiple versions of each backed up file. By saving files with different timestamps, versioning builds additional redundancy, further enhancing the restorative value of your backups.

Invest in Real-Time Detection

The best defense against any ransomware infection is a good offense. Preventing a ransomware attack from taking place is much easier, and far less risky, than hoping backed-up files will be free of infection.

Managed IT service providers like Peters & Associates are experts in safeguarding schools against ransomware attacks, protecting against data loss and continually optimizing your school’s IT. We can help you procure and deploy multi-layered backup tools for your school to guard against attacks and protect your school data’s health. Contact a Peters representative today to learn more.