Ransomware, Aliens, and Anime: Seriously?

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Click to learn more about author David Paquette.

In September, a meme that a college student meant as a joke about how to procure government secrets about aliens and UFOs caused serious security concerns for the U.S. Air Force. A Facebook post from 21-year-old Matty Roberts, which said “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” led to the formation of an event that had the potential of drawing millions of people into the desert to “Storm Area 51.” Area 51 is a U.S. Air Force base that’s believed to house confidential information on government research relating to aliens.

With over three million people predicted to attend this so-called “storming,” Air Force security understandably grew alarmed, and Roberts found himself being questioned at his door by FBI agents about his intentions. The situation started to trend toward the ridiculous on social media, which spawned an event with the description as:

“If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.” 

For those unfamiliar with the Japanese anime, “Naruto running” refers to a cartoonish style of running where you lean forward with your arms stretched out behind you.

Though Roberts, according to the BBC, assured the agents that he “wasn’t building pipe bombs or something insane,” the lesson was clear. Security is no laughing matter, and when it comes to securing critical information, you have to take it very seriously even when it’s linked with an event called “Alienstock” that features people running around dressed in Naruto costumes.

Not If, But When

While the Air Force was in luck that the Storm Area 51 event was both a farce and a bust, many of those on the wrong side of ransomware attacks aren’t so lucky. The New York Times recently reported that cities across the U.S. including major municipalities as well as smaller towns in states including Texas and Florida have been experiencing “crippling” ransomware hits.

A 2019 Threats Report from McAfee Labs contained all kinds of bad news for businesses of all sizes, with attacks growing by 118 percent in Q1, and the discovery of not only new ransomware families but surprising new, more innovative techniques designed to “target and infect enterprises.” With these worrisome malware events more than doubling this year, it’s clear that no organization (or individual) is immune from the possibility of having to deal with the fallout of becoming the latest ransomware victims.

Bad alien jokes aside, how can enterprises better bolster their security systems for maximum defense against ransomware hackers? As the security-related concerns over Storm Area 51 revealed, just one attack can put a whole system in jeopardy. We’re also moving from the point of wondering if your organization will have to deal with a ransomware strike to when you will become the next victim, potentially having to resurrect an entire hijacked system, or hand over frighteningly high fees to regain access to your own data.

Popular OS Means Weak Links Are Known

How prepared is your operating system for managing a ransomware attack and recovering quickly from it? Some types of systems are particularly vulnerable to ransomware. Large systems with decades on the market come to mind first. These OS and virtualization stacks may have an advantage in terms of popularity, but they have serious drawbacks as well namely, that they aren’t very good secret keepers. Ransomware hackers have had plenty of time to investigate the ins and outs of these big systems and know exactly how to exploit their weak links and larger attack surfaces.

To avoid these disadvantages, more enterprises are discovering the wisdom of choosing a hyperconverged system, which has a number of benefits. First, it means less complexity without the need to integrate the services of several different vendors for virtualization. Second, a hyperconverged system allows for snapshot protection, and in the event of an attack, you’re still able to access an earlier snapshot copy of your data for speedier recovery. Third, these systems can often be paired with compatible solutions for even more ransomware protection. Hyperconverged solutions are also easier to manage and more affordable than larger systems.

While the image of costume-clad Alienstock participants doing the Naruto run is funny, especially since no threats to security actually occurred, jokes aren’t in order when it comes to ransomware. If you care about your organization’s data security, then take the time to evaluate the job that your current OS is doing to protect the system in the increasingly likely event of a ransomware attack.

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