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Learn > Security

How decentralized storage protects against ransomware attacks

Muhammad Ahmed
Muhammad Ahmed
6 Sept 2023 · 4 min
Ransomware protection

Introduction

The past few years have been marked by relentless growth of data and the necessity to store it securely. As data storage needs have grown, so too have the threats against it. Among these, ransomware has emerged as one of the most common types of cyberattacks.

In 2022, ransomware affected 71% of companies worldwide, and among these victims, a substantial 62.9% ended up paying the ransom.

Traditional centralized storage solutions, while widely used, are extremely vulnerable to these threats and put your valuable data at risk. The recent advent of decentralized storage solutions offers a new opportunity which has the potential to mitigate the risks posed by ransomware attacks.

In this article, we will take a look at what ransomware is, how decentralized storage protects against this threat and the steps you need to take to secure your organization’s data.

Understanding ransomware and centralized storage

Ransomware is a form of malicious software designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. It typically spreads through phishing emails or malicious websites, infecting a network, encrypting files, and then demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key. Centralized cloud storage systems, where data is stored on servers managed by a single entity, can be highly susceptible to such attacks.

A successful ransomware attack on a centralized storage service could compromise vast amounts of data. Furthermore, the centralized nature of these services means that once an attacker gains access, they can navigate laterally across the network, encrypting and potentially exfiltrating data. Additionally, centralized services are attractive targets due to the sheer volume of data they hold, making them lucrative for ransomware attackers.

There are two types of ransomware attacks that are the most common when it comes to cloud storage. There are infrastructure-based attacks that aim to compromise the hardware operated by cloud storage providers. The other type of attack is credential-based where an attacker gains control of an authorized user’s credentials through which they can access the data stored by an organization.

Enter decentralized storage

When it comes to infrastructure-based attacks, decentralized networks are quite resilient to this type of attack. Let’s explore how.

Data redundancy

In centralized cloud storage, your data is typically confined to a few servers, and the replication of this data for enhanced security comes with an extra charge, discouraging the practice.

On the other hand, when you use decentralized cloud storage providers such as Arweave, your data is stored by each node across the network. Arweave has 130 nodes, spread out across the glove. This redundancy increases the resilience of the system because even if one node is compromised, the data still remains accessible from other nodes.

This also eliminates the single point of failure, as is common in centralized cloud storage services. If an attacker wanted to attack a decentralized cloud storage provider, they would have to carry out a 51% attack. This means they would have to make this change across half of the nodes in the network. Given the vast size of these well-established networks, such a feat is practically impossible to carry out.

Immutability

Decentralized cloud storage services, such as Arweave, have a unique feature: data immutability. After your information is stored in the system, it can't be altered or deleted. This feature is particularly important when considering the risk of ransomware attacks.

Ransomware operates by infiltrating a system, encrypting data, and holding it hostage. However, when it infiltrates a decentralized network, it is unable to encrypt or alter the data that’s already securely stored within the nodes. Therefore, the integrity of your data remains intact, and the potential impact of a ransomware attack is drastically minimized.

Going a step further

While data immutability is a significant advantage, it doesn't necessarily equate to data permanence.

This is where Akord differentiates itself, guaranteeing a minimum of 200 years of secure data storage. This long-term commitment makes your data not just immutable, but effectively permanent. As the sole holder of the keys to your data, you maintain complete control: no third party can manipulate or erase your data, and access is granted only to those you authorize.

Additionally, Akord stands out with its fee-free retrieval policy/ there are no retrieval charges on Akord. In a scenario where your systems fall victim to ransomware, recovering your backup from Akord is both effortless and cost-free.

Why NGOs and Nonprofits are at risk

NGOs and nonprofits, collectively raising over $30 billion annually, are inadvertently presenting a lucrative opportunity for ransomware attacks. These organizations are often viewed as low risk, high reward targets.

The 'low risk' perception stems from the fact that they are technically easier to breach due to their less stringent security measures, as they primarily focus on goal fulfillment and maximizing real-world impact. The 'high reward' comes from the substantial funds they handle, which can be accessed through ransom demands or fraudulent transfers.

The combination of substantial financial incentives and weaker security systems makes NGOs an attractive prospect for threat actors, who might find it simpler to compromise these organizations than financial institutions with robust security defenses.

Taking a layered approach

Businesses, governments, and individual users are beginning to recognize the potential of decentralized storage in mitigating cyber threats. Even though they may not prevent ransomware attacks, they provide a secure backup that ensures data remains safe and accessible in the face of such attacks.

While having an effective backup solution doesn’t stop ransomware attacks and doesn’t help with data theft, it does give victims more options so they aren’t forced to pay.

Bill Siegel, Coveware CEO

However, this is only one of the tactics they can implement. In 2020, phishing emails were the catalyst for 54% of ransomware attacks, potentially due to a lack of cybersecurity training amongst 26% of users.

This highlights the urgency for organizations to adopt a layered approach to security that includes not just advanced storage solutions, but also robust endpoint protection, regular software updates, employee education, and sound backup strategies.

Conclusion: the path to a more secure digital future

We are facing an estimated $10 trillion (eight percent of global GDP) cyber damage headache by the year 2025 if we continue to take a “business as usual” approach to cybersecurity.

Lawrence Wintermeyer, Forbes

This alarming projection is a stark wake-up call that a shift in our approach to cybersecurity is necessary.

Many businesses, in their pursuit of a layered cybersecurity approach, are reverting to older methods like tape. This "back to basics" approach undeniably offers an offline layer of protection, making it harder for cybercriminals to access. However, it also comes at the cost of accessibility and utility. Data stored on tape can't be easily accessed or queried, causing organizations to lose the real-time value and flexibility that digital data offers.

Decentralized storage provides a practical and innovative alternative to safely store your data. Its unique properties, such as data redundancy, immutability, and elimination of single points of failure, provide a robust line of defense against ransomware attacks. Moreover, it empowers users by letting them seize control of their data and break free from the confines of less secure centralized cloud storage providers.

However, while decentralized storage significantly diminishes the threat of ransomware, it is crucial to remember that the most effective defense is a layered one. Following best practices, keeping systems and software up to date, implementing robust identity and access management, and regularly backing up data are all vital components of a comprehensive security strategy.

If you are interested in learning more about how Akord can contribute to your organization's cybersecurity and data recovery strategy, reach out to us. Together, we can build a more secure digital future.

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