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The Cloud Is the Perfect Vehicle for Data…and Data Protection

Brian Heckert

Principal Content Editor, Dell EMC
My first long-term exposure to technology was the typewriter. I still love that invention, which really sparked my interest in writing. For the past 20 years, I have worked in high tech as a content development specialist, marketing writer, and documentation editor. Prior to working in the software industry, I was a journalist, photographer, photo editor, and military fire fighter. After hours, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, and hiking in the mountains.

The end of cloud computing? Don’t hold your breath!

Recently I watched a video about how cloud computing has run its course. The headline—The End of Cloud Computing—grabbed my attention (that was the point, of course). But there’s just one thing: it’s not true!

The premise is that many of the future devices both large and small that we will depend on daily will need to collect real-world data in real time. That means lots of data real fast. For example, to operate safely, self-driving cars need information—and lots of it. While they’re maneuvering, self-driving cars gather incredible amounts on information—more than 1 GB per second—and use it quickly to ensure maximum safety for everyone on the road. The process requires sensors in the car to collect data about road conditions, make inferences about those conditions, and then act with extreme agility.

cloud data protection

The process of sensing, inferring, and then acting quickly and accurately makes a lot of sense for a self-driving vehicle when we consider that a wrong “decision” by the vehicle could cause an accident, resulting in damaged property, or worse, bodily injury to vehicle occupants or pedestrians. That means data needs to be onboard the vehicle, which becomes a “moving” data center.

But here’s the thing: not all data centers need to be moving. While an “onboard” data center makes sense for a self-driving car, there are vast amounts of information that reside comfortably in the cloud. And that isn’t going to change. These days most of our devices and how we use them depend on a data-gathering process that occurs centrally in the cloud. The device in use pings the cloud and then information in the cloud is returned. For example, when you do a Google search or use your favorite app, the cloud is the perfect vehicle from which to grab the necessary data.

And what about business-critical data? The cloud is the perfect vehicle for enterprise IT. In fact, today many organizations are given mandates to store a certain percentage of the business’s data in the cloud. Why? It’s economical and it’s safe—practical reasons that reduce TCO. These days, who doesn’t want to reduce TCO? (more…)

2016: Year of the Cybercriminal

Brian Heckert

Principal Content Editor, Dell EMC
My first long-term exposure to technology was the typewriter. I still love that invention, which really sparked my interest in writing. For the past 20 years, I have worked in high tech as a content development specialist, marketing writer, and documentation editor. Prior to working in the software industry, I was a journalist, photographer, photo editor, and military fire fighter. After hours, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, and hiking in the mountains.

cyberattackUS$1,000,000,000. That’s the estimated cost of ransomware to individuals and businesses in 2016. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, ransomware cost organizations US$209 million. Keep in mind that ransomware is just one type of cybercriminal activity. Although final numbers for 2016 are not yet known, based on the frequency and sophistication of the attacks so far, it’s likely that 2016 will end up as the most lucrative year on record for cybercriminals. The latest numbers show that there were more than 2 billion records leaked in 2016.

Here are just a few of the biggest cyberattacks in 2016:

Government
Even the U.S. government is not immune to cyberattacks. In February, the Department of Justice was attacked by hackers who published contact information of 20,000 FBI employees. That was just a day after the same hackers posted contact information of 10,000 Department of Homeland Security employees. Shortly after these attacks, the cybercriminals taunted the Feds, stating that they did what they said they would do.

High tech
Data from at least 500 million user accounts was stolen from Yahoo! users. The cybersecurity breach actually occurred in 2014 but was only confirmed by Yahoo! this past September. According to Yahoo!, “The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.”

Healthcare
Hospitals operated by the $5 billion healthcare provider MedStar Health were attacked by ransomware in March. Thousands of patient records could not be updated and in some cases could not even be accessed by healthcare staff. As a result, patients were turned away or were treated without important computer records.

Education
A data breach at the University of California, Berkeley, affected the institution earlier in the year, compromising the financial data of 80,000 students, alumni, employees and former employees. The hackers exposed Social Security and bank account numbers. The breach occurred when software was being patched.

No organization is immune
The attacks just mentioned are just a few of the thousands of cybercrimes that occur worldwide each day. Government, high tech, healthcare, education, etc.—no one is immune from a cyberattack. Cleary, if you’re connected, you’re vulnerable. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to prevent a cybersecurity disaster. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (which is the lead federal agency for investigating cyberattacks), you can protect yourself and your organization from cyberattacks by: (more…)

Ransomware Hits Light-rail System, Resulting in Lost Revenue

Brian Heckert

Principal Content Editor, Dell EMC
My first long-term exposure to technology was the typewriter. I still love that invention, which really sparked my interest in writing. For the past 20 years, I have worked in high tech as a content development specialist, marketing writer, and documentation editor. Prior to working in the software industry, I was a journalist, photographer, photo editor, and military fire fighter. After hours, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, and hiking in the mountains.

Ransomware really gets around, faster than even the best form of mass transportation can move busy commuters to work.

ransomware-on-the-rail

Recently, ransomware caused the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) light-rail system to lose revenue when the organization shut down ticket machines and fare gates as a precaution to the malware attack. According to the SFMTA site, ransomware infected mainly 900 office computers. However, another source claimed that more than 2,000 computers were infected, including office admin desktops, CAD workstations, email and print servers, employee laptops, payroll systems, SQL databases, lost and found property terminals and station kiosk PCs.

The ransomware scrambled the data on infected hard drives, posted a message on corresponding computers (“You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted, Contact For Key (cryptom27@yandex.com) ID:601.”), then demanded a 100 Bitcoin ransom (approximately US$75,000) before the cybercriminals would agree to hand over a master decryption key that would allow the SFMTA to decipher the data ransomed on the infected hard drives.

Ransomware is a threat to businesses that already costs millions of dollars each year, and unfortunately is prevalent and grows more sophisticated. There are literally millions of new malware variants each year. In 2015 there were 431 million variants added, according to the Internet Security Threat Report.

Using a variety of attacks, criminals can inject malware into your network, which then holds your data or other systems hostage until you pay a ransom. Ransomware gains access to a computer system through a network’s weakest link, which is typically a user’s email or social networking site. Once a user clicks on a malicious link or opens an infected attachment, the malware spreads quickly throughout the system.

When a file or other data is held for ransom, the affected organization must meet the financial demands of the cybercriminal in exchange for a decryption key to “unlock” the ransomed data. If you don’t pay the ransom, you forfeit access to your computer and the data that’s on it. You also forfeit access for others to shared documents and data, compounding the impact exponentially. You might think that’s the worst case. Not so. (more…)

Losing Data Is No Treat

Brian Heckert

Principal Content Editor, Dell EMC
My first long-term exposure to technology was the typewriter. I still love that invention, which really sparked my interest in writing. For the past 20 years, I have worked in high tech as a content development specialist, marketing writer, and documentation editor. Prior to working in the software industry, I was a journalist, photographer, photo editor, and military fire fighter. After hours, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, and hiking in the mountains.

The truth is, when it comes to Halloween, we all like the treats (the best), but none of us want the tricks (the worst). That’s an easy choice when it’s October 31. But when we’re facing life as it really is, we don’t always get to choose. For example, sometimes disasters happen, and no amount of wishing is going to change the inevitable.

Grinning pumpkin lantern or jack-o'-lantern.

I am reminded of a neighbor friend of mine who really enjoys Halloween. On that day he can dress up to look like just about anything frightening. During all other days of the year he works for a commercial and home restoration service company (that is, his business cleans up damage and makes repairs after disasters such as a flood, fire, or earthquake). He once said something to me that I’ve never forgotten: Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Although my neighbor was referring to structural damage, recently it got me thinking about the likelihood of “data damage.”

Fortunately, there are proven methods that allow you to be proactive about safeguarding your data from potential disasters—whether human-made (including ransomware!) or natural—and ensuring that you always have 24×7 access to your important files. For a moment, let’s consider the current threat landscape to your business’s data.

As emphasized in the recent Global Data Protection Index (GDPI), there are a number of reasons why data protection—which includes data backup—is so critical. The GDPI found that of those organizations surveyed, 52% of them suffered unplanned system downtime in the last 12 months, and 29% suffered data loss. Whether it’s ransomware (36% of organizations reported internal or external security breaches, according to index) or hardware failure (hardware failure is still the number one cause of data loss and/or system downtime, according to the GDPI), a massive data breach can happen faster than you think. In fact, once cyber criminals gain access to a system, it takes just six minutes for these law breakers to compromise an organization, and they can do that successfully 60% of the time.

If you’re unsure about whether or not your data is sufficiently protected, consider the following questions:

  • If a natural disaster (such as a flood, fire, or earthquake) were to occur right now, would your business-critical data be protected?
  • Let’s assume you’re already backing up your data. If a disaster were to occur right now, how quickly could you access your important files?
  • If your business were to be compromised by ransomware, would you be able to restore your data to a point in time when you know that your data is free from the malicious effects of that cyberattack? And how long would it take for you to perform that restore?

In the event of “data damage,” Dell EMC Mozy Enterprise protects files on desktops, laptops, and other devices both inside and outside the corporate network. This automated cloud backup solution also allows users to securely synchronize files across their computers, smartphones, and tablets. Your data is backed up, protected, and always accessible. That’s a 24×7 treat!

Not long ago I saw a quote that was similar to the one my neighbor shared with me: Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised. Funny, to be sure, but you don’t ever want to be surprised about losing your data. That’s a surprise you can never really be prepared for, especially if it jeopardizes business continuity and/or strains or even permanently damages customer relationships.

Even ghouls and goblins don’t want to encounter data loss. It’s just too frightening. The GDPI makes no surprises about data being at risk due to theft, loss, or damage; however, if your data is properly backed up and protected, data loss is one surprise you can avoid altogether. Now that’s a treat you can enjoy all year long.

Backing Up Your Data Should Be Obvious

Brian Heckert

Principal Content Editor, Dell EMC
My first long-term exposure to technology was the typewriter. I still love that invention, which really sparked my interest in writing. For the past 20 years, I have worked in high tech as a content development specialist, marketing writer, and documentation editor. Prior to working in the software industry, I was a journalist, photographer, photo editor, and military fire fighter. After hours, I enjoy spending time with family, reading, and hiking in the mountains.

Keeping a safe distance from large mammals with large canines should be obvious, especially when they can weigh more than a couple of tons. But what’s obvious to one person may not be so obvious to another.

On a recent excursion to the Central California coast I had the opportunity to observe elephant seals, mammals so massive they can grow to more than 16 feet and weigh more than 5,000 pounds. Elephant seals are fascinating animals, but there are some critical facts to keep in mind when you’re watching them in close proximity. According to the clearly visible signs posted nearby where the seals congregate, here’s what observers need to know:

beware-sealsElephant seals…

  • are large
  • have teeth and bite
  • are faster than you think
  • are wild

Seems obvious, right? And in case that information isn’t convincing enough, here’s the last bit of advice on the sign to anyone who might think elephant seals are cuddly critters: For your safety and theirs, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. It’s the law.

When I returned to work the following week, I was thinking about my adventure at the elephant seal rookery and what I learned. It really was a treat to observe them and see them thriving, especially when you consider that at the end of the 19th century they were nearly extinct. That got me thinking about data protection. You may be asking, “What? Elephant seals and data protection?!” But when you consider the information on the signs that warns rookery visitors, and the importance of protecting your data, it’s not such a stretch, especially when you realize that many businesses don’t do the obvious by adequately protecting one of their most important assets—their data.

Why do you need data protection? The EMC Global Data Protection Index (GDPI) discovered some critical facts. The GDPI found that of the organizations surveyed, 52% of them suffered unplanned system downtime in the last 12 months, and 29% suffered data loss. Whether it’s a cyberthreat (36% of organizations reported internal or external security breaches, according to index) or hardware failure (hardware failure is still the number one cause of data loss and/or system downtime, according to Index), a massive data breach can happen faster than you think. In fact, once they gain access to a system, it takes just six minutes for cybercriminals to compromise an organization, and they can do that successfully 60% of the time. Those numbers have a lot of bite (think very large canines)!

When you consider that many industry and government entities require that businesses conform to standards for safeguarding and retaining data, it’s not much of a stretch to say that protecting your data is the law. And backing it up is an important aspect of your data protection strategy. Don’t ignore the obvious! Data is always at risk of being lost, stolen, damaged, or corrupted. The signs are all around. Your data is critical to your success and everyday operations, and business continuity depends on the availability of your data. Don’t let your data—or your business—become extinct! One way to ensure it doesn’t is by implementing the right solution. Check out how Dell EMC Mozy’s enterprise-grade cloud backup solutions can give you that peace of mind.

beware-hackers

So if I were to revise the elephant seal signs to instead caution business owners who are not yet confident in their data protection readiness, here’s how I would do it:

Your data…

  • is important
  • is valuable
  • must be accessible
  • must be safeguarded

And just to underscore that: For the safety of your business, BACK UP YOUR DATA. It’s essential!

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