|Create Date||July 13, 2017|
|Last Updated||July 10, 2017|
By Richard Massey, regional sales director for EMEA North, South Africa and Israel, at Arcserve.
Ransomware is never far from the headlines, and no wonder. Cyber security experts have revealed that the recent WannaCry attack affected more than 150 countries and 230,000 computers in just a matter of hours. And enterprises across the globe are still reeling from malicious Petya software. Although it’s rare for an attack to be on such a large scale, the impact of any ransomware strike can be devastating. Educational institutions are not immune. In fact, over the past few years UK universities, schools and colleges have also been hit hard; in fact one university has reported that it’s been targeted 21 times in 12 months.
Up against it
IT teams in educational organisations are already up against it, often working across multiple campuses with diverse data centres and responsible for vast amounts of critical data from students’ work and records to teaching material and staff payroll. The threat of ransomware adds to an already difficult job.
It’s crucial to implement a robust security strategy to protect vital systems and applications from an attack. But there’s still a chance rogue malware could slip through, giving cyber criminals access to critical data. If that happens, it might seem that handing over a ransom is the only option, but there is an alternative.
Backing up. Most educational organisations already deploy data protection and recovery solutions, and they can be a key line of defence against ransomware. Used correctly, they can restore data within minutes. Hackers can’t hold data to ransom if another copy can be easily recovered: their payment demands can be undermined.
For backups to provide a strong line of defence against ransomware, IT teams need to get to know their data. Which data is critical for the smooth running of the organisation? Which data must be backed up in real time and which can be backed up less regularly? Understanding this, and how quickly each data set needs to be restored helps to set effective so-called “recovery point objectives” and “recovery time objectives”.
The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great way to protect against ransomware. Keeping three separate backup copies, one physical, one off-site and one in the cloud, means that if one data set is seized, two further copies can be restored quickly and easily – so hijacked data is never truly lost.
Also, does everyone in the team know what to do if ransomware hits? A team strategy that includes deputies if someone is out of the office and what to do in the evening or at the weekend is vital. And educating the rest of the organisation, including students, about ransomware and the dangers of clicking on links in unsolicited emails, as well as who to contact if they’re suspicious is also essential.
Testing data protection strategies and solutions before a ransomware attack gives time to iron out glitches, so that if there is a strike IT teams can be confident they’ll get the organisation up and running as swiftly as possible.
Ransomware attacks are devastating: in education, lost coursework could affect students’ overall grades and doctoral work, and missing teaching plans affect the quality of lectures and lessons. But a strong backup and recovery strategy puts the IT team back in the driving seat, and leaves the hackers without their ransom.
Drawing on its proven backup and recovery software, Arcserve built a unified data protection solution that offers enterprise-class features, yet is simple to use.
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