Why Data Backup May Not Be Enough

By Joe Aucott
June 26, 2023
Portable hard drive taking a data backup from a laptop

Since the time of floppy disks, data backup has been a critical practice to prevent loss due to issues such as viruses, system crashes, or other unexpected mishaps. However, as we navigate through the technological 21st century, it has become increasingly apparent that simple data backup is no longer sufficient.

We are witnessing an evolution from data backup to data protection, propelled by an escalating array of cyber threats that modern businesses face. This article aims to delve into the profound significance of data protection, highlighting its necessity alongside traditional data backup strategies. We will also explore the various threats that necessitate this shift towards a more comprehensive data security approach.

The fundamental goal of this discussion is to emphasise that while data backup is integral to avoiding data loss, the incorporation of data protection is equally vital to secure it from a rising number of cyber threats.

Understanding Modern Threats to Data Backups

The digital world, while filled with opportunities, is also riddled with threats that can compromise the safety of your data. To effectively protect your data, it is important to first understand the nature of these threats. Here, we will discuss some of the key threats that modern data backups face:

  1. Data Center Outage: The "cloud" that we often speak of is essentially a network of servers that are internet-accessible. Despite the robustness of modern data centers, they are not immune to crashes or outages, which can lead to substantial data loss.
  2. Sleeper Ransomware: Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts data, rendering it inaccessible until a ransom is paid to the attacker. "Sleeper" ransomware is particularly insidious as it remains dormant after infecting a system, with the goal of infiltrating all backups. When activated, this leaves the victim without a clean backup to restore.
  3. Supply Chain Attacks: These attacks have seen a steady rise in recent years. They involve targeting a vendor in a company's supply chain, using it as a springboard to spread the attack to all its clients. Even a secure system can be compromised if it's linked to a vendor who has fallen victim to such an attack.
  4. Misconfiguration: Sometimes, the threat comes not from an external source, but from within. A misconfiguration in security settings can inadvertently provide attackers access to cloud storage, allowing them to download or delete files at will.

By understanding these threats, you are better equipped to implement measures that can protect your data backups against them. This leads us to the concept of data protection, which goes a step further than simple backups to safeguard against these potential pitfalls. In the next section, we will delve into the need for data protection and how it adds an extra layer of security to your data backup strategy.

Beyond Backup: The Need for Data Protection

Data protection is an evolution from the concept of simple data backup, incorporating more comprehensive security measures to counteract the growing cyber threats of today's digital landscape.

While data backup focuses on creating copies of data to restore in the event of loss, data protection broadens this scope. It incorporates cybersecurity protection measures to ensure that not only is the data recoverable, but it is also shielded against various threats that can compromise its integrity or accessibility.

The shift towards data protection acknowledges that threats to data don't only come in the form of loss or deletion but also in forms such as ransomware, supply chain attacks, misconfigurations, and data center outages. These threats do not just erase data—they can also alter it, steal it, or hold it hostage. Data protection, therefore, not only seeks to preserve data but also to protect its authenticity and confidentiality.

In today's world, the effectiveness of a backup and recovery strategy is not solely measured by its ability to restore lost data. It is also evaluated based on its ability to resist attacks and ensure the continued availability and integrity of data.

The next section will present key features to consider when evaluating a backup solution for data protection, enabling businesses to not just back up their data, but also to protect it from the increasingly complex and sophisticated cyber threats that exist today.

Key Features to Look for in a Data Protection Backup System

When it comes to choosing a data protection backup system, several key features can significantly enhance the security of your data. Each of these features addresses specific threats and helps to ensure that your backup data remains safe and accessible when you need it most. Let's explore these features in detail:

  1. Ransomware Prevention: A quality data backup solution should offer robust protection against ransomware. It should be capable of restricting automated file changes, a common method used by ransomware to encrypt or alter data, thereby ensuring that your backups remain unaffected even in the face of an attack.
  2. Continuous Data Protection: This feature ensures that your files are backed up as changes are made, as opposed to only at scheduled intervals. This mitigates the risk of losing recent changes if a system crash or other disruption occurs before the next scheduled backup.
  3. Threat Identification: Proactive measures are an integral part of data protection. Backup services that incorporate threat identification can detect malware in new and existing backups, helping to prevent the spread of threats like sleeper ransomware.
  4. Zero-Trust Tactics: Adopting a zero-trust approach means assuming that all users and applications need ongoing authentication, regardless of their past activity. Features to look for include multi-factor authentication, distinct file and folder permissions, contextual authentication, and verification of permissions for file changes.
  5. Backup Redundancy: Backup redundancy involves creating multiple copies of your data across different servers. This approach ensures that if one server is compromised due to a crash, natural disaster, or cyberattack, your data remains safe and accessible on another server.
  6. Air Gapping for More Sensitive Data: For highly sensitive data, air gapping provides an additional layer of protection by keeping a copy of your data offline or otherwise separated from external access. This method makes your data more resilient against internet-based attacks.

Incorporating these features into your backup and recovery strategy can greatly enhance the security of your data. However, the implementation and effectiveness of these features will largely depend on the specifics of your organisation and its data needs. It is therefore important to thoroughly assess any data protection backup system to ensure it aligns with your particular requirements and risk profile.

Case Study: Implementing a Data Protection Backup System

To illustrate the importance and effectiveness of a data protection backup system, let's consider a real-world example of a medium-sized healthcare company, "HealthPro."

HealthPro handles a large volume of sensitive patient data daily. This information is not only vital for their operations but is also subject to strict data protection regulations. They had a traditional data backup system in place, but with the increasing number of cyber threats, they realised the need for a more comprehensive data protection strategy.

Identifying the Need

Following an internal audit, HealthPro identified potential vulnerabilities in their data backup strategy. They realised that while their backups were regular, they were not adequately protected against modern threats such as ransomware, supply chain attacks, and potential misconfigurations.

Choosing a Solution

After assessing several solutions, HealthPro decided on a backup system that offered robust data protection features. This included ransomware prevention, continuous data protection, threat identification, zero-trust tactics, backup redundancy, and air gapping for the most sensitive data.

Implementation and Results

The implementation process was thorough, involving several stages of testing and staff training. HealthPro's IT team worked closely with the solution provider to ensure a seamless transition and minimal disruption to their operations.

Since implementing the data protection backup system, HealthPro has experienced a significant improvement in their data security. The new system has not only made their data more resilient against potential threats but has also enhanced their ability to quickly recover and restore data when needed.

Moreover, the zero-trust measures and robust ransomware prevention have drastically reduced the likelihood of a successful cyberattack, making HealthPro's sensitive patient data more secure than ever.

Lessons Learned

This case study demonstrates the significance of adopting a data protection backup system. It is a prime example of how a shift from traditional data backup to a more comprehensive data protection strategy can significantly enhance the security and resilience of an organisation's data.

Furthermore, it underscores the fact that a proper data protection strategy should not only focus on preventing data loss but also on protecting against and mitigating the effects of various modern cyber threats.

The experience of HealthPro serves as a reminder for all organisations, irrespective of their size or industry, to review their current data backup strategies and consider the need for a more comprehensive data protection approach.

Conclusion: Embracing the Shift from Data Backup to Data Protection

The never-ending cyber threats in 2023 have necessitated a shift in our approach to data security. It is clear that simple data backup, while still crucial, is no longer enough to shield our data from the various threats that exist today. Enter the concept of data protection, which transcends the traditional realm of data backup to offer a more comprehensive solution for safeguarding our data.

Data protection is about more than just preventing data loss—it's about ensuring that our data remains secure, authentic, and accessible in the face of an array of potential threats. From ransomware and supply chain attacks to misconfigurations and data centre outages, the threats to our data are varied and complex. As such, a robust data protection strategy should be versatile and encompass a range of security measures to counter these threats.

In adopting a data protection backup system, it is important to consider key features such as ransomware prevention, continuous data protection, threat identification, zero-trust tactics, backup redundancy, and air gapping. These features contribute to a holistic approach to data protection, ensuring that our data is not only backed up but also securely protected.

The digital world we inhabit today is filled with opportunities, but it also presents numerous challenges to the safety of our data. In this environment, data backup and data protection must go hand in hand. By embracing this shift, we can ensure that our data remains a valuable asset rather than a potential liability.

Joe Aucott