How to protect backups from ransomware

Ransomware is getting smarter, attacking backups to prevent recovery. Prevent this from happening by taking a few simple steps.

Despite a recent decline in attacks, ransomware still poses significant threats to enterprises, as the attacks against several major newspapers demonstrated this month. It is also becoming more capable. In particular, ransomware writers are aware that backups are an effective defense and are modifying their malware to track down and eliminate the backups.

Ransomware down, but not out

McAfee reports a decline in both malware and samples this past year. According to the latest report, in the third quarter of 2018, the number of ransomware samples was less than half of peak at the end of 2017, when it was reached around 2.3 million. According to Kaspersky Labs, 765,000 of its users were attacked by malware that encrypted files during the past year, compared to more than five million that were attacked by cryptominers.

Bitdefender's director of threat research Bogdan Botezatu says that the main reason for the drop in ransomware attacks is that security companies are getting better at defending against it. "There will always be new versions of ransomware, some more complex than others and some harder to catch, but we don’t expect ransomware to take on much bigger proportions," he says. "At least not bigger than in the past year."

"Ransomware was the number one big threat for a few years, but it's dropped back significantly," says Adam Kujawa, head of malware intelligence at Malwarebytes. The ransomware that is out there, however, is evolving, he says. For example, malware writers are taking advantage of the latest exploits, such as those leaked from the NSA. "We see those popping up in a lot of malware families," he says. "When you use that kind of exploit, then if you infect a single system you can move laterally by using these exploits. You create a much larger target — that's a trend that we definitely see happening."

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