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Could immutable data infrastructure offer a solution to ransomware?

Immutable data architecture changes your posture against ransomware.

China passes tough new online privacy law
China's new privacy law will see state-run and private companies handling personal information be required to minimise data collection and obtain prior consent - Copyright AFP/File GREG BAKER
China's new privacy law will see state-run and private companies handling personal information be required to minimise data collection and obtain prior consent - Copyright AFP/File GREG BAKER

According to Glen Shok, VP, Strategic Alliances at Panzura the immutable data infrastructure offered by hybrid cloud solutions, such as Panzura, offer a solution to the types of ransomware attacks that are bombarding many businesses. Shok expects this segment to grow as the threat from ransomware increases.

Shok tells Digital Journal about the key challenge that business face. This is with legacy file systems, where ransomware presents a serious problem.

According to Shok: “By storing data that needs to be editable, legacy file systems are inherently vulnerable. When attacked, they do exactly what they are designed to do, allow files to be changed. That means recovering “clean” files after an attack is exceptionally difficult and time consuming. Backup processes also tend to run on a scheduled basis, so restoring from a backup almost always involves considerable data loss.”

In terms of the optimal solution, Shok explains: “Immutable data architecture changes your posture against ransomware and malware because it’s fundamentally resistant to attack.”

He adds: “Rather than being a solution to help defend or protect, it reduces the impact and spread of an attack by being unaffected by it. To a user, a smart hybrid cloud file system, such as Panzura CloudFS, looks and feels like any other file system. Files can be opened, edited and saved, copied or deleted – by any authorized user, at any location an organization has – in real time. Behind the scenes is a radically different, much simpler, and infinitely more robust storage structure.”

Building on the case history, Shok describes the functionality of CloudFS. This option for example, stores file data as blocks in cloud object storage, as a single authoritative data set that every user in the organization works from.

Shock expands on this: “User location, and the number of locations the organization has, make no difference to this scalable system; every user gets what feels like a local file experience, though the data itself is stored hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Those data blocks are immutable – stored in a Write Once, Read Many form, so that once stored, they cannot be changed, edited, or overwritten.”

In terms of the significance of this, Shok highlights that these systems are now “Impervious to all forms of malware. Metadata pointers are used to record which blocks comprise a file at any given time. As users create or edit files, changed data chunks are moved to object storage every 60 seconds, and are stored as new data blocks. At the same time, the metadata pointers are updated to reflect any new blocks that form the file.”

Toi illustrate this, Shok provides Digital Journal with an example:

For example, if a 4-page saved document called fileone.docx is comprised of blocks A, B, C and D, and the document is edited today, it might now be comprised of blocks A, B, C and E. The new block E is moved to the object store, and the pointers record that A, B, C and E are required to open the current version of that file.

The significance of this, says Shok is that :These immutable data blocks are further protected by file system-wide read-only snapshots that are taken at configurable intervals, with the default being 60 minutes. Additionally, read-only snapshots are taken at the local filer level every 60 seconds, and these are used to transfer changed data to the object store. Being read-only, these snapshots are also impervious to ransomware, and they effectively provide a granular way to restore data back to any previous version.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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