Most managed service providers will remember 2016 as the year data protection was tightly coupled with IT security for the first time, thanks to the rise of ransomware. The idea that data protection and IT security should be linked has been around for decades. But, it wasn’t until IT organizations realized that the only effective defense against ransomware is to have access to pristine unencrypted copies of data that data protection became a real element of IT security defense strategies.
The challenge going to in 2017 is figuring out how to augment those defenses at a time when ransomware is on the cusp of becoming even more lethal. Cybercriminals have already figured out how to attach the malware they use to encrypt data to self-propagating worms that have the potential to spread ransomware across hundreds of machines in a few short hours.
The good news is that the tools for detecting these types of attacks are improving. But, those tools for the most part only detect encryption anomalies with an eye toward isolating infected systems. Unfortunately, the majority of systems currently installed don’t have access to these tools yet, which clearly creates an opportunity for MSPs to expand the scope of their services.
The growing threat of ransomware
The volume of ransomware attacks is outpacing most organizations' ability to keep up, though. A new report from Carbon Black, a provider of endpoint protection software, estimates that one in three organizations will soon encounter a ransomware attack. The report also notes that while ransomware at this point only accounts for two percent of all malware attacks, it is the fastest growing type of attack. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) expects ransomware to quickly evolve into a multibillion-dollar industry.
Sadly, the reason for this is that most businesses make a calculation between damage to their reputations and lost productivity against the cost of the ransom being demanded. For each individual business, the cost of paying the ransom quickly becomes another cost of doing business because the cybercriminals usually keep the ransom low enough to make refusing their demands more trouble than it’s worth. The problem is that all those ransom fees they collect only encourage cybercriminals to launch more attacks.
Learning a hard lesson
Most IT organizations, however, do eventually learn. Keeping copies of critical data available at an instant is now a much higher priority. This in turn has led to a sharp increase in demand for managed services that not only back up data, but can also reduce recovery time and recovery point objectives down to a few minutes versus a couple of hours or sometimes even days that many IT organizations thought to be acceptable in the past.
Many MSPs, of course, have had to significantly up their data protection game in 2016 to stay relevant to customers as they look for ways to fend off ransomware attacks. As a silver lining in what is otherwise a very dark ransomware cloud, that’s been a positive development for the IT industry in general. But as MSPs gear up for 2017, the one thing that they can count on is that the quality of their data protection is about to be more severely tested than ever before.