In the Corona year 2020, cloud technologies and services’ use increased significantly. IT security was given secondary priority during the hectic transition to working from home and digital offers. This has created vulnerabilities that expose companies to an increased risk of falling victim to hacker attacks such as ransomware. Multi-cloud and hybrid environments are particularly vulnerable. Ransomware attacks have been increasing for years, as the BSI stated in its annual status report at the end of October.
However, the dangerous situation has become even more acute due to the increased digital transformation in companies and the switch to working from home since the beginning of the Corona crisis. Because to protect against threats such as ransomware, the IT infrastructure and its protection must be further developed in parallel: With each newly implemented application, the IT managers have to expand and adapt the security measures accordingly.
During the pandemic, however, companies were so busy introducing new solutions and equipping home offices that protecting the latest IT infrastructure was neglected in many places.
The resulting gaps and vulnerabilities can have fatal consequences, warn the authors of the “Veritas Vulnerability Lag Report,” for which more than 2,000 IT managers from 19 countries were surveyed. Accordingly, companies are more likely to become victims of ransomware attacks and suffer data loss in the next two years. This also makes it more challenging to comply with compliance requirements.
Increasing Complexity Makes Security Measures More Difficult
Many companies have invested in cloud solutions to switch to working from home and drive digital transformation quickly. According to the report, 64 percent of German companies implemented more new cloud functions or infrastructure elements during the pandemic than initially planned. For cost reasons, they often rely on several providers. A survey by Veritas last November found that companies use an average of 12 different cloud providers. As a result, complexity has increased to a level that IT security can often no longer keep up with.
According to the “Veritas Vulnerability Lag Report,” the security strategy in the cloud area has gaps in almost every second German company. And 45 percent of local companies say they are struggling with compliance regulations. In addition, complex cloud environments are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks. As attackers increasingly target online backups, there is a growing risk that the clients and the cloud data will be encrypted. And the more clouds are in use, the more difficult it is for the IT department to recover data after a ransomware attack. It is then likely that the company will meet the ransom demand.
Complex Management Of Hybrid IT Environments
To make matters worse, many applications still run on legacy systems that are controlled, monitored, and kept highly available with proven management processes and tools. When connecting this “old world” to the dynamic public cloud, the workloads are often not optimally coordinated. Management is usually isolated from one another and manual, which means that the IT teams monitor both worlds with scripts and processes they have developed. This increases the error rate and makes it difficult to get an overview of the workloads, their availability, memory utilization, and backups. Two worlds also collide regarding data backup: the proven backup concept of the data centers and the cloud concepts with the integrated backup services of the providers.
As a result, many different tools with their working methods, user interfaces, and restore technology are in use. The data is often distributed across many storage systems and fragmented infrastructures. It is becoming increasingly difficult to track where information is located and whether all critical data is secured according to the same SLAs and can be restored according to uniform policies – regardless of whether it is in the cloud, on-premises, or virtual server environments. The current report also confirms this. According to this, on average more than 30 percent of the information stored in companies is so-called dark data, the content and value of which is unknown. 34 percent of IT experts cannot even say how many cloud services are in use – let alone which ones are involved.
High Damage Caused By Ransomware Attacks
This further increases the risk of failures and data loss in hybrid environments. In Germany, 82 percent of companies have been affected by at least one such incident in the past twelve months. Each company experienced almost two ransomware attacks that resulted in downtime. The consequences are financial losses, dissatisfied customers, and image damage. To protect itself adequately, a German company would have to spend an average of almost two million euros more and hire 24 new IT employees, the study’s authors calculated. However, this is hardly feasible given the current shortage of skilled workers.
But there are effective solutions. A consolidated data protection platform used for the entire data inventory – both in the data center and in the public cloud – can significantly reduce the administrative burden of data protection. Data mapping tools are also helpful. They show connections between information and its storage location in real time and use this to create data maps. This not only gives those responsible an overview of where data is located. You can also see whether they are managed in a compliant manner. Data protection tools based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can also reduce the need for additional staff.