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Protecting Government Data in the Age of Ransomware

Emmett Kaczmarek, Field CTO, Dell EMC’s Global Technology Office

August 8, 2018  |  Cyber Security


According to a February report by Dell Technologies and Secureworks, cyber security researchers saw 200 new ransomware variants in 2016—a 122 percent increase from the previous year.

Ransomware sent out by a malicious actor infects a user’s device and encrypts their data. The attacker then threatens to block access to the data unless a ransom is paid. This can devastate a large organization that has to decide whether to pay the ransom or try to decrypt and recover the data on its own. For a federal agency that requires access to national security information and other resources to serve its mission, the consequences are especially higher.

Attacks have dramatically increased around the world because cyber criminals recognize the high return on investment. The approach is relatively easy to initiate and difficult to investigate. For example, a ransomware kit can be bought underground for around $389. Bad actors holding the data hostage often request around $1,000 to get it back. That’s a handsome return after only one use, especially since it’s nearly impossible to identify the perpetrator.

While most incidents tend to be low-stakes, some of the biggest breaches in the last few years have come as a result of ransomware. One of the most famous examples hit in May 2017 and was named WannaCry. Ultimately, it infected around 200,000 computers across 150 countries.

But the scariest part of WannaCry was the attack on government systems in the United Kingdom. Nearly 70,000 devices including computers and MRI scanners at the UK’s National Health Service in England and Scotland were infected. This paralyzed hospitals, forcing them to turn away non-critical patients.

Thankfully, security experts halted WannaCry before patient data was stolen. Still, it crippled national hospital systems for days. The fact that a relatively unsophisticated attack could encrypt the data of patients across the UK is enough to scare any government IT manager.

The lesson learned from this situation and the general rise in ransomware is the federal government needs to figure out a better way to secure its assets. At Dell EMC, that’s something we think about a lot. For the federal government, the quickest way to come back up after an incident is by having strong protection in place. So we developed an approach that is powerful and easy to use.

Agency IT teams are often made up of generalists who have to tackle myriad projects, leaving little time to become an expert in something as complex and evolving as data protection. That’s where Dell’s Data Protection Suite (DPS) comes in.

DPS provides a host of benefits for IT managers who want to move into next-generation protection without having to sacrifice countless hours staying up-to-date on the newest threats. The suite offers several layers of security, including continuous replication, snapshot, traditional backup and archiving. DPS gives you the ability to know your information is safe and recoverable, even in the event of a ransomware attack.

Beyond that, DPS can scale to fit any agency’s needs. Those with at least 1 TB of protected capacity can choose to deploy DPS components in any combination, and modify the mix over time as data grows and requirements evolve.

DPS also provides agencies the freedom to purchase based on consumption and deployment models, allowing the migration of data protection infrastructures to stay in line with evolving backup, recovery, archiving and compliance requirements.

DPS is managed through a centralized system that contains a full overview of data, as well as detailed analysis and reporting functions. This gives IT managers the ability to see the system holistically and understand what’s happening at any given moment. If something suspicious is beginning to occur, IT managers will know. DPS can be easily integrated into native applications already running within federal agencies, so there’s no need to buy new utilities when deploying the solution.

The federal government holds some of the largest stores of data in the world and it’s a top priority to make sure information is safe and systems stay running. With DPS, agencies can be those data stores are available and secure.

For more about how Dell DPS can help protect your agency, visit the Iron Bow website.


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