Ransomware defense part 4: Deep Dive

In this last article about Security and Ransomware, I’m going to add new features and deep dive those you’ve already read in my first article about Veeam Backup & Replication.

The starting point is creating copies of your data (remember the 3-2-1 rule) and from these copies perform automatic tests of availability and security.

Which technology should be deployed to sleep safer?
In this article, I’m going to show you some Veeam technologies that address the threats explaining why they are a must to be used.


It is the best way to be certain that a backup is really usable.

What does it mean exactly?

In my public speeches, I often use a pen to explain the Sure-Backup concept correctly.

How can I be sure that the pen is usable? The answer is very easy. If it writes on paper it works and it is usable.

Going back to our scenario,  the only way to know if your backup is usable is to perform a restore in an environment logically separate from the production.

How Sure-Backup works?

It is composed of two parts:
The application group identifies the backup VMs that have to be verified.
DataLab is the way through which VMs are switched-on into a specific network that can’t communicate with the production network.

This great technology allows you to add the number zero meaning no errors (from 3-2-1 to 3-2-1-0) to the above rule.

One more important thing to add here is that you can create scripts to random test your backup.

In the following article by Luca Dell’Oca, you can have an excellent example of how scripts can help you.

How can you test 1000 VMs with Veeam SureBackup?


VBR is a solution that allows customers to perform Backup and Replicas of your VMs.
Replicas are commonly deployed to create a Disaster Recovery Site.

Veeam has “integrated” the Sure-Backup technology for Replica too. It is named Sure-Replica and it gives all advantages shown for Sure-Backup

For managing the automation of Replicas I suggest customers use a new Veeam product, the Veeam Availability Orchestrator (VAO).

On this site, you can find a very detailed guide to use set-up VAO.


Secure Restore

It scans the saved  VM Windows  (VM that has at least one valid restore point), with your antivirus software before restoring the VM to the production environment.

Secure Restore is available for the following restore tasks:

  • Instant VM Recovery
  • Entire VM Restore
  • Virtual Disks Restore

The only requirement is that your antivirus has to be installed on the mount server and supports CLI.

Data Integration API

Veeam Data Integration API is a set of Veeam PowerShell cmdlets that allow you to represent data of backup files as a mounted Windows folder.

This feature allows you to access backed-up data in read-only mode.

It has a lot of possible usages to example data mining and data warehouse.

In the field of security, it can be adopted to check if a virus is already present in your VM checking via backup files the guest OS files through your antivirus software (It scans the files of the VMs and not the backup file). A good example of use is in the following blog article by Niels Engelen


Storage Integration

VBR has two different storage integration.

The primary storage integration allows customers to perform backup more frequently because this technology allows creating backup without impacting the VMware environment.
The integration allows creating a test environment because it is integrated with Datalab and Sure technologies.

The secondary storage integration is commonly used with deduplication appliances that can allow you another layer of security for ransomware.

When the Veeam Data Mover Service is installed directly on the appliance, it reduces the risk of ransomware encrypting and deleting data.

In addition, if for some reason the first data is compromised, copies can be replicated to a second data center or in the cloud.

Before leaving you my two last cents:
1) The starting point is always to perform copies of your data. Veeam gives you powerful tools to manage them and to perform more check to verify that your data are safe from threats.

2) Some customers still think that the backup asset is just a cost because they are used just to restore. With Veeam you can use backup data to perform different actions relieving the production of not business core tasks (for example think the great use of Data API Integration for data mining, data warehouse etc)

Take care guys and see you at soon

Ransomware defense part 3: Monitoring and more

In the previous articles, I described some good ideas to design your architecture to keep it safer as much as possible.

One of the greatest challenges the IT guys have to face is finding the right balance among design, deployment and budget.

It’s very important to have the right tools to measure architectural behaviour. In this way you can easily:

  1. Watch from a privileged point of view the architecture. Let’s image to be on the top of a mountain watching people and goods moving at the bottom of the valley”
  2. Launch the defending actions when an attack is on-going. Referring to my previous example, it’s like blocking some passages to people and goods.
  3. When the attack is over remove any possible threat left (cleaning the passages).
  4. Do a thorough workup understanding of the weak points of your architecture and create a plan to reinforce it.

Monitor tools are your sentinels, but they need to be trained to trigger also the first defense lines. Imagine the new sentinel as a lieutenant warrior with a varied arsenal of weapons.
To be clearer: the required features monitor and respond to actions in function of the severity of the alarm.

But why is measuring so important? The reason is that you can define the KPI (Key performance indicator) for your environment and periodically check if the measures are respected.
In other words, it is possible to measure the service level and understand if the budget and skill invested in the company are enough to address the backup security challenges or if more tunings actions or some great changes are needed.

Let’s see how to use Veeam One to address this common request:

The Possible ransomware activity alarm keeps tracking of the Operating system of the VM.

As shown in picture 1 the monitored counters are by default CPU, Datastore write Rates and networking transmit rate (the case of copy offsite of sensible data for future blackmail).
The value counters can be changed to adapt to your own needs (Tuning phases) and more counters can be added to monitor more objects as shown in picture 2.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Another alarm already present in Veeam One is “Suspicious increment backup size“.

It checks if the restore point size is significantly different from the previously created ones.

The two main reasons I like  Veeam ONE are:

  1. Very easy to use
  2. Customizing the action after an alarm has been triggered

Thx to “customizing action” it’s possible to launch your antivirus/antimalware on the VMs belonging to the backup job that has triggered the suspicious alarm, or disconnect the repository from the network, or what else you wrote on your incident and rescue procedure.

The main point here is that you can manually click on it or automatically execute the action as shown in picture 3

Picture 3

Veeam One has furthermore an exhaustive technology of reporting.

If an alarm is a good way to intercept an error or a misconfiguration because  it works in real-time, through the reporting it is possible to check the status of your protection (KPI, SLA….), understanding the exercise and security cost of your production environment and forecasting the new investment to implement in the next years.

Which are the reports to use?

All of them are important and an all report list is available from the following link: Reports 

Just as an example please check the use of the following

The next article will talk about which are the automatic procedures you can adopt to check your backup infrastructure.

Take care and see you soon

Ransomware defense part 2: Hardening

There are many documents on the internet that describe how to address this common request.

In this article, I’ll give you a track to move easier around this topic pointing out the most interesting articles.

Before starting let me thank Edwin Weijdema who created an  exhaustive guide to answer the common question (please click here to get it)

Are you ready? Let’s start

1- The first magic point for starting is Wikipedia where I got a good definition:

In computinghardening is usually the process of securing a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability, which is larger when a system performs more functions; in principle, a single-function system is more secure than a multipurpose one. Reducing available ways of attack typically includes changing default passwords, the removal of unnecessary software, unnecessary usernames or logins, and the disabling or removal of unnecessary services.

2- The second point is to understand the concept of Perimeter security:

It is natural barriers or artificially built fortifications that have the goal of keeping intruders out of the area . The strategies can be listed as:

  • Use rack-mount servers
  • Keep intruders from opening the case
  • Disable the drives
  • Lock up the server room
  • Set up surveillance

A complete article is available by clicking here

3- The third point is  Network segmentation:

It is the division of an organization network into smaller and, consequently, a more manageable grouping of interfaces called zones. These zones consist of IP ranges, subnets, or security groups designed typically to boost performance and security.

In the event of a cyberattack, effective network segmentation will confine the attack to a specific network zone and contain its impact by blocking lateral movement across the network via logical isolation through access controls.

Designating zones allows organizations to consistently track the location of sensitive data and assess the relevance of an access request based on the nature of that data.  Designating where sensitive data reside permits network and security operations to assign resources for more aggressive patch management and proactive system hardening.

A complete article is available by clicking here

4- Hardening your Backup Repositories

The next good rules involve your backup architecture and in specific the Backup Repositories:


a. Use the built-in local administrator account

b. Set permissions on the repository directory

c. Modify the Firewall

d. Disable remote RDP services


e. Create a Dedicated Repository Account

f. Set Permissions on the Repository Directory

g. Configure the Linux Repository in VeeamModify the Firewall

h. Use Veeam Encryption

Do you want to know more about security? If so the Veeam Best Practices are for sure the answer.

The next article will cover monitoring and automatic actions using Veeam-ONE.

5- Prevent injection of shady boot code​

Code injection, also called Remote Code Execution (RCE), occurs when an attacker exploits an input validation flaw in software to introduce and execute malicious code.

To prevent the attack please follow the following rules:

a. Run with UEFI Native Mode​
b. Use UEFI with Secure Boot Standard Mode​
c. Combine Secure Boot with TPM
d. Equip critical servers with a TPM 2.0

Stay tuned and see you soon

Ransomware defense – part 1: Advanced product features are an mandatory requirement

A lot of new challenges came to people who work in IT-Departments these last months.

The number of ransomware attacks has been growing day by day and their attack strategies are becoming more and more evil and dangerous.

The common questions the Managers ask the IT guys are:

a) Are the company protected against these risks?

A good answer is that a successful approach is when the percentage of certainty is more than the percentage of risk.

b) Which are the best practices to be safer?

The key is defining the right process of protection.

The scope of these articles is showing the correct behavior to keep your architecture as safer as possible or, in case of attack, gain as much time as possible to fend off the assault.

The articles will cover the storage point of view and do not deal with perimetral defenses, antimalware, antiviruses, networking strategies, and so on.

Which are the main strategies to adopt?

  1. Having more copies of your data
  2. Hardening the infrastructure
  3. Monitoring behaviors

Are you ready? Let’s start with the first topic !!!

    1. Having more copies of  your data:

Backup software is the right tool to score the goals of this first part.

It has to be able to:

a) Create application consistency backup.

b) Copy backup data to different locations.

Almost all backup software can do that but some additional features can address better the biggest challenges:

Flexible: Backup software should write backup data to different types of repositories and be able to restore it without any required dependency. To be clearer, the backup data have to be self-consistent. The advantage is being able to fit different architecture scenarios (Let’s call it “Data mobility”).

Data-Offline:  back up data should be put into a “quarantine” area where they cannot be either re-written or read. The classic deployment is a Tape Devices architecture or any scripts that automatically detach the repository devices.

Immutability: The backup data cannot be changed until the immutability period is over. This has a double advantage in comparison to data-offline strategy: It changes the repository status as written & online just for the new backup file. It is offline (as Tape technologies) for re-writing to already present backup data. The speed restore option has to remain unchanged.

Immutability can be reached in two ways:

By WORM  (Write Once, Read Many) devices, where the backup files can be used just to restore once they have been added to repositories. For example, technology can be the optical disk, a technology I have been working on in the past.

At Veeam Software this common customer and partner request has been addressed using the immutability propriety of the Object Storage. The good news is that VBR v. 11 implements this great feature directly in Linux Repositories.

Is this enough? I’m still thinking that the backup solution should at least be able to:

  • Check the backup file and the backup content. The only way to check if a backup file is really reusable is restoring it in a separate area where communication with the production environment is forbidden. At Veeam it is called Sure-Backup.
  • Check with your anti-virus/anti-malware that the backup files have not been already attacked somewhere and sometime. At Veeam the technology used is the Data integration API.
  • Before restoring files or VMs in production, check with your anti-virus/anti-malware if your data has been already attacked. At Veeam it is called Secure Restore
  • Perform Replica Jobs. It helps to create a Disaster Recovery Site useful in performing a quick restart of the service.  At Veeam this feature is included from the beginning and the Sure-Backup can be applied with replica too (it is called Sure-Replica). V.11 has a very powerful feature: CDP.
  • Restore backup data to the public cloud when the primary and replication site is totally out of order. I call it Cold Disaster Recovery and it needs at least one restore point available.

The next article topic is how to hardening your backup architecture

See you soon and take care!