Offline Backups

Chris Swagler | February 5th, 2024


In today’s digital world, ransomware is a major threat, and it may be more damaging when it targets backup data. Offline backups are one tactic that IT administrators use to defend themselves against ransomware. Offline backups are kept on separate storage infrastructures that are disconnected from production applications and infrastructure, and primary backup environments. As a result, companies employ an air-gapped backup copy for recovery if the original backup copy becomes compromised. In the past, offline backup environments would be a good fit for data that required less frequent access, including long-term retention data and less business-critical data. However, increasing cyberattacks and the implementation of data privacy regulations have resulted in an increase in offline backups for mission-critical, frequently accessed data. Even though offline backup protection is a viable alternative, it’s a time-consuming operation. Offline backups are important for ransomware protection, and there are numerous ways to get there. Companies must evaluate several criteria before deciding to use offline backups for ransomware protection. It’s vital to consider the backup method’s practicality, affordability, efficacy, and ability to achieve recovery objectives.

Shipping backup copies to an off-site, unconnected tape storage facility has long been used to provide offline backup environments. The issue with the strategy is that today’s IT operations teams are understaffed and severely time-constrained, especially in cybersecurity. Many don’t have the cycles to deploy and manage another infrastructure, particularly since the isolated infrastructure will require manual software updates to avoid security vulnerabilities. Infiltration of the isolated environment is a potential disadvantage of the alternatives. The environment must be thoroughly inspected to ensure network isolation, control over when the network connection is open, and role-based access to and control over the network and vault environment.

Additionally, IT operations staff need to look for a solution that provides data immutability and indelibility. Immutability makes the backup copy read-only, preventing unauthorized changes to the data. Indelibility prevents the backup copy from being removed before the end of a set hold time. The measures serve to prevent data exfiltration and corruption if a malicious actor gains access to the isolated environment. Administrators must consider the backup window for each implementation. They must understand how long the backups will take to complete, and any potential lags or gaps between backups tasks. It has a significant impact on companies’ ability to fulfil required recovery milestones. The required recovery time must also be considered. Both the backup window and recovery time are heavily influenced by the frequency and magnitude of backup activities, and the amount of data backed up by companies.

New possibilities for operational isolation, including hosting data offsite in the cloud or through service providers. To transfer the backup copy to the isolated environment, the methods require a network connection to the production-facing elements of the environment. Using the cloud for offline data backups has a few limitations. The cloud is more vulnerable to ransomware attacks since it’s separated but not entirely offline like tape libraries. Additionally, any cloud-hosted option may incur egress fees when data is recovered. It’s critical for IT operations professionals to be aware of this right away because it can be a costly aspect to overlook.

With ransomware groups looking to target more high-profile companies in 2024, it’s important to be vigilant of the current threat landscape and regularly keep data backups offsite. At SpearTip, our certified engineers are continuously working 24/7/365 at our Security Operations Center monitoring companies’ data networks for potential ransomware threats and ready to respond to incidents at a moment’s notice. Our IT remediation team works to restore companies’ operations, isolate malware to reclaim their networks and recover their business-critical assets. Our IR planning engages a three-phase approach, which includes pre-incident, active incident, and post-incident planning processes. In the pre-incident aspect, SpearTip identifies key stakeholders and decision-makers, critical data, and potential access points. Then it engages in a live test, after which we offer remediation guidance. To benefit companies during an incident, we assist in developing a communications plan designed to detect and isolate the precise threat with a customized strategy map. The post-incident planning process development includes root cause and investigative audit, improvement analysis, and backup recovery.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.


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