The scourge of ransomware seems to be gaining traction. Businesses are attacked by ransomware every 40 seconds[1]. The rise in “ransomware-as-a-service” makes it easy for anyone to become a malware practitioner. How is object storage affected by ransomware tactics and what can you do to better protect your business? Here’s what you need to know about data protection, object storage and ransomware.

How Ransomware Attacks Storage Systems

There are several variants of ransomware. Commonly ransomware code will encrypt files, but not all files. Cyber criminals typically leave the system files alone so your computer will display the ransom instructions for payment, to leave no doubt that you’ve been infected. They will often even include instructions on how to pay with Bitcoin, and suggested vendors.

Ransomware preys on traditional block and file structures that can be converted into encrypted files, locking you out of your data.

Ransomware preys on traditional block and file structures that can be converted into encrypted files, locking you out of your data. Many versions will also encrypt your Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) so you can’t recover previous versions of the data. Encryption works very well for this malicious application on traditional data structures. But object storage with versioning is a different matter.

Object Storage and Ransomware – A Different Story

Since an object is immutable (unchangeable), if ransomware encrypts an object, it becomes a new version. A new object is stored while the previous object remains intact, if you have a backup of it.

Our new versioning capabilities for the ActiveScale™ system support applications that want to restore a previous, uninfected, version of the object. The most current version of the object is encrypted, it can be deleted, and the previous version established as the current version- once the system has been cleared of the virus, of course.

Version control is available in the ActiveScale OS 5.1 on both the ActiveScale P100 and X100, and your backup/recovery/archive application may be able to take advantage of this capability. You’ll want to chat with your software vendor to see how you are positioned to take advantage of this.

When it comes to object storage and ransomware, object storage will not stop ransomware from attacking, even if it is seldom the target of a ransomware attack. However, what object storage can do is to help speed recovery from a ransomware attack.

Additional Data Protection Advantages with Object Storage

Traditional architectures are coming under continual pressure as HDD sizes continue to increase. RAID recovery times are growing, creating vulnerability windows for subsequent failures that can lead to permanent data loss.

If you are looking at storage systems that use HDDs that are 6TB or larger, you ought to be thinking about moving to object storage.

Object storage uses erasure coding to protect data. This is a data protection scheme that breaks data into shards (fragments or symbols) that are encoded with parity (redundant data), and then stored across multiple storage media. Only a subset of the shards is needed to rehydrate the data and make it available so that in case of a failure, there is no rebuild involved, and no down time.

IDC recently noted that user groups have reported that once NAS systems grow to 7 or 8 racks and beyond, management becomes a significant challenge, another reason to be thinking about object storage. [2]

Future Proofing Your Data

Most object storage has static data placement that is inherently fragile, which may need rebalancing to accommodate hardware problems or new capacity and which may cause HDD “hotspots” and unbalanced performance. Something unique to our ActiveScale system is our patented BitSpread® technology with dynamic data placement.

Dynamic data placement is the foundation of robust object storage because how and where the data placement occurs changes in order to accommodate events like new capacity or hardware problems without rebalancing nor the performance degradation that can result. Furthermore, dynamic data placement facilitates a Data Forever architecture by automatically using newly added capacity so your system can continue to grow with a minimum of fuss even with next generation hardware.

Not all object storage is created equal. ActiveScale represents the next generation of object storage.

Big Data insights enable Fast Data applications. We live for long-term data preservation, and we’re changing the economics of data. This week we announced several new features including our versioning capabilities and data forever architecture:


[2] IDC TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT: The Economic and Operational Benefits of Moving File Data to Object-Based Storage, June 2017

Erik is the Senior Director, Product Marketing of Western Digital's Data Center Systems, with 25+ years of experience in high tech storage.