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Data Tapes May Provide the Best Protection from Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks continue to draw headlines — and cost world economies billions of dollars per year. In May 2021, the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack became the most high-profile case of ransomware penetration in recent memory. For the time being, the attackers won; the company reportedly paid nearly $5 million to restore the infected network.

Of course, the best solution to the threat of ransomware is simply to create a dependable backup strategy, but forming that strategy can be difficult. Incremental and differential backups can carry ransomware, preventing restoration. In fact, any backup system that connects to the internet could carry the ransomware infection, defeating the purpose of the backup.

Physical backups offer a solution to this problem, and many companies are turning to state-of-the-art tape technology to protect against the growing ransomware threat. Some of the benefits of this approach:

  • Data tapes aren’t as susceptible to network penetration. This is an obvious benefit shared with most other physical media; tape cartridges can be disconnected from the internet, duplicated for integrity, and stored anywhere. During a ransomware attack, the “air gap” is an effective form of protection, and tapes offer one of the most reliable methods of air gapping.

With this in mind, data tapes aren’t 100% resilient to ransomware attacks, so it’s important to use the right approach. We’ll provide more details in the next section of this article.

  • Data tapes are cost effective. With compression, LTO-8 technology can store 30 terabytes (TB) of data (12TB native) for under $75 per tape. Even accounting for the cost of hardware, storage, and third-party data migration, magnetic tape is much less expensive than cloud storage — and certainly far less expensive than onsite HDD- or SSD-based tech.

  • Data tapes can supplement other types of backup. Tape backups can act as a secondary form of defense, providing inexpensive images that can be restored when other methods have failed. This ensures protection against time-delayed ransomware attacks (discussed below). While tapes can certainly provide incremental or differential backups, they’re especially useful for keeping several mirror images of the system.

Finally — and most importantly — data tapes allow for faster restoration of mission-critical systems. Spectra’s TS1155 cartridges offer compressed data transfer rates of 700 MB/S. LTO-8 cartridges offer a transfer rate of up to 750MB/sec (compressed), which can be paired with current-gen file storage technologies for quick recovery in a disaster. For example, Fujifilm’s LTFS file system can access data across multiple tapes on a file-by-file basis, allowing for much faster image restoration than what would be possible through most cloud-based backup methods.

During a ransomware attack, seconds count. System downtime can be enormously expensive, and magnetic tapes offer enormous benefits at a relatively low cost.

Protecting Mission-Critical Systems from Ransomware Attacks with Data Tapes

The physicality of data tapes makes them uniquely robust for enterprise-level systems. However, no storage technology is totally immune from malicious attacks. Many ransomware variants delay their attacks for months after infection. The goal is to prevent the business from restoring from a backup — and organizations that keep a limited number of onsite backups can suffer catastrophic losses from this type of attack.

A resilient data restoration strategy will utilize several types of backup (including incremental, differential, and full backups) to meet established recovery time objectives. Legacy backups should be maintained offsite to allow for a faster response. Tapes should be migrated to the latest technologies, and backups should be checked regularly for consistency and usability. Needless to say, this process isn’t always easy.

Total Data Migration can help. We maintain an extensive collection of drives and systems, and by drawing on decades of expertise, we’re able to offer data tape migration, restoration, and disposal services for organizations of every size. Most importantly, we prioritize data security and privacy to help your business respond to emergencies with total peace of mind.

Whether you’re recovering from a ransomware attack or creating a future-proof malware mitigation strategy, our team is ready to answer your questions. Contact us here to get started.