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Ransomware Roundup – 6 articles looking at recent ransomware activity

By 2020

2020-04-15 As if hospitals around the world didn’t have enough to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic, in early April Interpol warned healthcare institutions about an increased ransomware threat. It said it had “detected a significant increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organizations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response.”

The pandemic is something of a perfect storm for cyber criminals. Targeting tired, overworked healthcare professionals with emails purporting to contain important updates about coronavirus is a particularly nasty and cynical piece of social engineering. And if a ransomware attack takes place, hospitals are put in a situation where lack of access to their data and systems could very literally result in people dying. Not to mention a lack of trust in a time when people need to rely on medical care.

In recent years ransomware attacks have shifted from individuals to public organisations and enterprises. We are seeing the same trend in South Africa, with the high profile attacks on City Power, Johannesburg’s electrical utility, and the City of Johannesburg in 2019, and more recently an attack on the stolen vehicle recovery company, Tracker.

Most recently, Acronis alerted us to new ransomware that has emerged in Europe, called CoronaVirus. Attackers distribute the ransomware through a fake website pretending to promote WiseCleaner, system optimisation software.

Acronis’s existing AI-powered Acronis Active Protection defence, which is included in all its cyber protection solutions, successfully stopped more than 400,000 ransomware attacks last year, preventing an estimated $200 million in damages. And with the launch of Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud this month, combined traditional data protection and classic cyber security services are going to address all five pillars of cyber protection: Safety, Accessibility, Privacy, Authenticity, and Security. This results in a two-pronged approach: use AI to knock down ransomware and other attacks before they have a chance to take root, and if something somehow gets past those defences, recover any compromised data from a recent backup.

Written for publication on the Synapsys website on 15 April 2020

Acronis Cyber Protect – beta users weigh in

By 2020

2020-04-08 Synapsys Presales Engineer Nick Keene, together with two representatives from a USA-based MSP and Czech-based Distributor respectively, recently shared their beta-experience feedback on the upcoming Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud product.

Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud recently moved out of private beta and into public beta, making it available to any service provider or cloud distributor who is interested. This is the final step before the general availability (GA) of the product, scheduled for Q2 of 2020.

As with any new product launch, feedback from beta customers is tremendously important. The participants featured in these case studies each have a unique approach to the IT channel in their respective markets.

About Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud

This unique AI-enhanced solution is designed for service providers and integrates data protection with cybersecurity. This synergy empowers service providers with prevention, detection, response, recovery, and forensic capabilities in an easy and efficient way.

Enriched with next-generation, full-stack anti-malware protection and comprehensive, yet simple, endpoint management tools, it enables service providers to easily make cybersecurity a focal point of their offering.

And because it’s built on top of Acronis’ industry-leading backup and disaster recovery platform, Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud simplifies onboarding, daily operations, and reporting, and combats advanced attacks with new use cases enabled by integration.

Relevance to customers

All three case study participants concluded that Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud will be relevant to their customers and, not surprisingly, each had a unique take on what would resonate with their customers and why.

Synapsys Presales Engineer Nick Keene noted, “A lot of our MSP partners are only doing backup with Acronis, they use other vendors for cybersecurity… we are excited to be able to give them another revenue stream that can make their lives easier when it comes to security management.”

Dennis McKernan, Director of Security at Union Technology Cooperative (UTC) in Middleton, Wisconsin, observed that “If our clients are using the remote access functionality (in Acronis Cyber Protect), they will be signed into the dashboard regularly and can see status updates and alerts about their machines that need a backup or applications that need patching.”

According to Štěpán Bínek, Product & Sales Manager at Zebra Systems in the Czech Republic, “Our MSP partners see a great opportunity for their own growth with Acronis Cyber Protect. They like a single solution the combines backup, anti-malware, and patch management – they can save time and money using one solution in one console. Other features that are resonating include continuous data protection and hard drive health monitoring.”

Market opportunity

All three see a compelling market opportunity for Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud.

For UTC, McKernan said, “There’s a real opportunity to introduce an integrated security product, especially one that offers remote access. Our goal with Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud is to provide this industry-leading protection for existing customers.” Additionally, he noted, “It would be great if we could combine our separate systems (Symantec, Cisco, Panorama 9) into an integrated solution, which is the direction Acronis is heading.”

Zebra Systems’ Binek noted, “We are very aligned to the vision Acronis has for one solution that will cover most parts of cybersecurity, and it makes sense to have one agent to cover all the necessary things that our MSPs and their end customers need to cover. For Zebra and our MSPs, we see Acronis Cyber Protect as a huge opportunity to grow – there is triple-digit growth potential in the next few years here.”

For Synapsys, Keene concluded, “It’s a great product. Having a unified product with a single agent and interface will make a big difference and a big splash in our market. It should be a game-changer.”

Adapted from an  Acronis Blog article published on 30 March 2020

Traditional backup is dead – You need cyber protection

By 2020

2020-03-27 Having basic data backup procedures or even cloud storage is simply not good enough anymore. The spread of ransomware and other data security threats means that a more comprehensive approach is needed.

Acronis calls this Cyber Protection.

“Cyber protection tools should address all five pillars of cyber protection: Safety, Accessibility, Privacy, Authenticity, and Security,” said the Vice President of Cyber Protect Research at Acronis, Candid Wüest.

Wüest explained that any cyber protection solution should have a comprehensive approach, correlating information across multiple domains.

“Acronis believes that the best approach to this fast-changing threat environment is two-pronged: use AI to knock down ransomware and other attacks before they have a chance to take root, and if something somehow gets past those defences, recover any compromised data from a recent backup,” said Wüest.

“This combination of traditional data protection (backup) and classic cybersecurity is called cyber protection, and many tech security analysts believe that the convergence of the two disciplines is inevitable.”

Wüest said that Acronis will be launching a product in March called Cyber Protect which is specifically designed to address this need.

Acronis cyber protection solutions and services are distributed in Africa by Synapsys. Synapsys is an award-winning distributor founded in 1997. It became one of the world’s first Acronis distributors in 2003.

Synapsys is completely focussed on supporting managed service providers who sell Acronis cyber protection solutions and services to their customers, helping them to maximise the benefits of this pioneering technology and way of working.

Ransomware a bigger problem than hard drive crashes

Before cloud storage and backup services became widespread for enterprise and home use, hard drive crashes were a major cause of data loss.

While the risk of losing data due to a hard drive crash is still present, Wüest stated that ransomware attacks are the main reason for data loss today.

Datto, in its State of the Channel Ransomware Report, found that 79% of managed service providers (MSPs) reported ransomware attacks against customers from Q2 2016 to Q2 2018. In the first half of 2018, 35% of MSPs stated that clients suffered multiple attacks in a single day.

The report confirmed that attacks don’t just target local machines, but cloud services as well. Datto found that 28% of MSPs reported seeing ransomware attacks in software-as-a-service applications.

It also found that fewer than 1 in 4 ransomware attacks are reported to authorities, meaning that the problem is bigger than we know.

More recently, the FBI said the incidence of broad, indiscriminate ransomware campaigns in the United States sharply declined since early 2018. However, losses from ransomware attacks have increased significantly.

“Although state and local governments have been particularly visible targets for ransomware attacks, ransomware actors have also targeted health care organizations, industrial companies, and the transportation sector,” the FBI stated.

Wüest said that Acronis sees an increasing number of cases of malware such as ransomware being responsible for irreversible data loss in organisations. The rise of ransomware attacks is one of the reasons you can’t just rely on cloud backup systems to keep your data safe anymore.

“Cloud backups are often easy to be hacked due to lack of self-protection,” Wüest warned.

“Sophisticated ransomware threats often try to disable backup solutions and then delete existing backups. It is therefore crucial that a backup solution can protect itself and all the created backups.”

This can be done by preventing write access from other processes.

“Preventing write access to backup files directly or copying them to read-only locations can sometimes also help against cyber-attacks,” said Wüest, though he added that for this to work the cloud connection and the cloud platform itself must also be secure.

Data backup challenges

Some of the biggest challenges organisations face with their data backups is frequency, recovery speed, efficiency, self-protection and regulatory compliance.

For a backup to be useful, it must be recent. A continuous data backup is ideal to minimise data loss in case of an incident.

The recovery process also needs to be fast and simple to minimise downtime after a data loss incident.

In addition to this, a backup process needs to be efficient. Wüest explained that a good backup system should deduplicate data to save space and time.

“Data backup should have self-protection with embedded defence against ransomware,” said Wüest.

“In addition to this, backup storage locations need to be compliant to various regulations, like for example GDPR.” It is expected that South Africa’s version of such data privacy regulations, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) will soon come fully into force.

AI-powered cyber protection

Wüest explained that it is necessary for cyber protection systems to not only respond to known threats, but to also anticipate attacks it may have never seen before.

“That’s why behavioural anti-malware like the one found in Acronis Backup with Active Protection has emerged as an important defence against hackers,” Wüest stated.

Active Protection uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify malware by how it behaves, looking for suspicious activities instead of only matching it against a known threat database.

This makes it much better at detecting previously unknown threats.

“It automatically identifies common malware attacks like ransomware and crypto-jacking and immediately shuts them down,” said Wüest.

New challenges, new opportunity

“While the market segment that we’re entering is very well established, this integrated and intelligent approach offers a new opportunity,” said Peter French, the Managing Director of Synapsys.

“The huge increase in cloud uptake means far greater complexity when it comes to managing these multiple and separate environments. There are new security challenges at play.”

One example is when companies have more mobile users and users working from home.

“Especially in a time like this where we’re seeing big tech companies, and I think soon even smaller companies, start to encourage that – even if it’s for a short period,” said French.

“The essential need is to have a solution or solutions that will cater to your cyber protection strategies and offer you maximum protection.”

Legislation such as POPIA is also a factor.

“We need to know what is happening in our network, on our endpoints, which users are potential risks on our network, and we need to be able to deal with that swiftly and centrally from a single pane of glass,” French said.

Cyber fitness

In addition to adopting a solid cyber protection solution, organisations should ensure that employees are trained thoroughly to be prepared for modern IT needs and threats.

Acronis refers to this is becoming CyberFit.

Being CyberFit comes from the organisation’s leaders, whether the CEO, CFO, CTO, or CIO. From there it extends to third-party vendors and all the way to the employees that only use a single IT tool – an email mailbox.

“Being CyberFit requires that the entire chain of IT needs to be ready: f­­rom the in-house team to managed service provider,” Wüest explained.

Everyone involved in an organisation’s IT systems needs to have easy, efficient, and secure tools and comprehensive training to ensure a strong security posture.

“Your organisation should select a security framework like the NIST Cybersecurity framework: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover,” Wüest said.

“From there align your tools, tasks, and processes to decrease risk and ensure compliance obligations are met.”

This article was first published on MyBroadband on 27 March 2020 in partnership with Synapsys and Acronis.

Synapsys, Acronis empower local MSPs with technical certification training

By 2020

2020-03-27 At the end of February, Synapsys, the leading distributor of Acronis cyber protection in Africa, facilitated in-person Acronis Cyber Cloud training for its managed service provider (MSP) partners from Ghana, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. Markus Bauer, Acronis partner technology evangelist, delivered the training, and was joined in South Africa by Maria Alexandrova, Acronis partner account manager.

The training covered Acronis Cyber Cloud functionality, an introduction to configuring Acronis Cyber Cloud and offering multi-tier, multi-tenant backup services, as well as tips, workarounds and best practice. The 85 MSP training attendees are now fully qualified Acronis Certified Engineers (ACE) Cyber Cloud, enabling them to set up, configure and troubleshoot backup using Acronis Cyber Cloud for their clients.

“Learning about a solution is great, but seeing it demonstrated brings the value much closer to home,” said Delali Tetteh, CEO of ITRUS in Ghana. “Having Markus, who clearly has had hundreds of hours of experience working with the platform, share his experiences was priceless.”

“Acronis Certified Engineer training is an absolute must. My understanding of the product, its capabilities and the roadmap for the future are abundantly clearer,” said Matthew Collison, senior technical manager at iStore Business in South Africa. “This is not only good for engineers, but a great source of valuable information for sales staff.”

“It is extremely valuable to have Acronis’ thought leaders visit and engage with the local ecosystem through training and other events. With Africa being a key growth area for Acronis and Synapsys, this heralds the start of regular ongoing partner enablement sessions in 2020,” said Peter French, managing director of Synapsys. “We anticipate more events throughout the continent, including The Acronis Cyber Foundation opening a school in South Africa.”

Introducing Acronis Cyber Protect

As well as running the ACE training, Bauer gave guests at Synapsys partner dinners in Cape Town and Johannesburg a preview of the game-changing Acronis Cyber Protect product. First announced at the Acronis Global Cyber Summit in October 2019, this is a revolutionary new approach to backup and cyber security, which acknowledges that these domains can no longer be considered separate if businesses truly want to protect their valuable data. Built around the five vectors of safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity and security (SAPAS), Acronis’ Cyber Protect works across all environments: virtual, physical, cloud and mobile.

MSPs can now easily protect customers’ infrastructure and data beyond backup, improving their SLAs, increasing revenue per customer, controlling costs and decreasing customer churn.

“While patch management and malware protection were big attraction points of Acronis Cyber Protect, the highlight was the integrated approach. A single cost for a complete solution is an MSP’s dream,” said French.

Acronis Cyber Protect is currently in beta, and all the Synapsys MSPs who attended the training have been invited to test it. Commercial launch is expected at the end of March 2020.

Other comments from attendees of the training and partner dinners:

“The training was very interesting and I enjoyed the support the Synapsys team rendered throughout. The trainer was not only training, but also interactive, which made the training live.”
Michael Nyirenda, technical director at Dynamic IT Consultancy, Malawi

“The training covered details of the latest version of Acronis Cyber Cloud (8.0), complete with marketing tips and ideas to help grow our businesses. Synapsys played host to the experience and went out of their way to ensure complete comfort and satisfaction for all participants. We enjoyed two interactive days of training and insight into what is on the horizon for Acronis as far as new and exciting features go.”
Mike Edmunds, head of partner marketing at Bastion Backups, South Africa

“I found the training to be very informative and practical for our day-to-day use. I’m really looking forward to the release of the Acronis Cyber Cloud update, which will bring some great features.”
Stewart Chifamba, systems administrator at 1-grid, South Africa

“It’s evident that Synapsys and Acronis value strong relationships with their partners, which is something we at 1-grid also feel strongly about. I’m also excited to see some of the features of Acronis Cyber Cloud in action.”
Nico Visser, DevOps manager at 1-grid, South Africa

This article was first published on ITWeb on 12 March 2020

Acronis Cyber Cloud 8.0 now available

By 2020

Acronis Cyber Cloud version 8.0 will deliver advanced full-spectrum cyber protection, thanks to several significant feature enhancements.

“These new features are sure to delight service provider partners worldwide, simplifying their tasks and giving them even greater peace of mind in terms of security,” says Peter French, MD of award-winning local distributor Synapsys. Highlighting in particular the enhancements to the Disaster Recovery service, French anticipates a surge in interest from prospective partners.

Responding to feedback and requests from Acronis managed service provider (MSP) partners worldwide, major improvements have been designed with ease of use, efficiency and security in mind, and include edition-based feature management and licensing for easier upsell, application-aware VM backup on Hyper-V, and the inclusion of advanced features of the Acronis Cyber Backup 12.5 on-premises solution.

A further welcome addition to the feature set is the built-in support for SAP HANA and Oracle Database.

Disaster Recovery highlights

With significant R&D focus directed at the Disaster Recovery component of the platform, Acronis sought to reduce management overhead and improve service-level agreement (SLA) compliance with features, including a new Disaster Recovery section in the management console, a redesigned cloud server management UI, and recovery servers RPO compliance tracking, while the new VPN-less deployment option will make for faster, easier customer onboarding.

Cyber Protection

These new features and capabilities in their service provider platform are in line with Acronis’ strategic vision to merge data protection and cybersecurity into the new discipline of cyber protection and thereby address modern digital protection challenges more holistically.

This article was first published on ITWeb on 21 January 2020

Acronis Unveils Cyber Protection at Recent Summits

By 2020

January, 2020 Two recent Acronis events in Miami and Abu Dhabi in October and November respectively provided the ideal platform for new product announcements and the exposition of a fresh strategic vision for the global cyber protection organisation.

‘Traditional backup is dead’

Explaining why “just backup” is no longer adequate, Acronis founder Serguei Beloussov has on several occasions outlined the need for a multi-pronged approach to solving the rapidly evolving challenges faced by today’s digital world.

Five problem areas transformed

By merging data protection and cyber security into the new discipline of cyber protection, Acronis has strategically positioned itself to target the broader spectrum of challenges located within the acronym SAPAS: Safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, security.

These five problem areas, typically tackled with individual solutions from different vendors, have been transformed into the five vectors of cyber protection and form the backbone of Acronis’ new, unified approach.

Integrated solutions

Beloussov’s announcement of three new cyber protection solutions confirms Acronis’ commitment to addressing the fragmentation in the current cyber protection market:

1. Acronis Cyber Protect – integrated backup, disaster recovery, AI-based malware protection, remote assistance and security in one complete, unified and efficient solution.

2. Acronis Cyber Infrastructure – software-defined compute, network and storage united in a single, scalable product.

3. Acronis Cyber Platform – connects ISVs, devs and MSPs to the Acronis community of 50 000 channel partners to facilitate customisation, integration and extension of their applications and services with cyber protection solutions.

An additional indication of Acronis’ focus on integrated cyber protection is the inclusion of the word “Cyber” in existing product names.

Along with its mission to provide comprehensive cyber protection, Acronis sees these new products as offering great market opportunities – and margin – to their partners, and partner interaction on social media during both events indicated overwhelmingly positive responses to the new solutions.

“Service providers and resellers can look forward to not only offering their customers more, but also eliminating the myriad complications and overhead associated with supplying multiple solutions from multiple vendors,” affirms Peter French, MD of award-winning local distributor Synapsys.

First published on ITWeb on 8 January 2020