145: GreyBeards talk proactive NAS security with Jonathan Halstuch, CTO & Co-Founder, RackTop Systems

Sponsored By:

We’ve known about RackTop Systems. since episode 84, and have been watching them ever since. On this episode we, once again, talk with Jonathan Halstuch (@JAHGT), CTO and Co-Founder, RackTop Systems.

RackTop was always very security oriented but lately they have taken this to the next level. As Jonathan says on the podcast, historically security has been mostly a network problem but since ransomware has emerged, security is now often a data concern too. The intent of proactive NAS security is to identify and thwart bad actors before they impact data, rather than after the fact. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Proactive security for NAS storage includes monitoring user IO and administrator activity and looking for anomalies. RackTop has the ability (via config options) to halt IO activity when things look wrong, that is user/application IO looks differently than what has been seen in the past. They also examine admin activity, a popular vector for ransomware attacks. RackTop IO/admin activity scanning is done in real time as IO is processed and admin commands received.

The customer gets to decide how far to take this. The challenge with automatically halting access is false positives, when say a new application starts taking off. Security admins must have an easy way to see and understand what was anomalous/what not and to quickly let that user/application return to normal activities or take it out.

In addition to just stopping access, they can also just report it to admins/security staff. Moreover, the system can also automatically take snapshots of data when anomalous behavior is detected, to give admins and security a point-in-time view into the data before bad behavior occurs.

RackTop Systems have a number of assessors that look for specific anomalous activity used to detect and act to twart malware. For example, an admin assessor is looking at all admin operations to determine if these are considered normal or not.

RackTop also support special time period access permissions. These provide temporary, time-dependent, unusual access rights to data for admins, users or applications that would normally be considered a breach. Such as having an admin copying lots of data or moving and deleting data. These are for situations that crop up where mass data deletion, movement or copying would be valid. When the time period access permission elapses, the system goes back into monitoring for anomalous behavior.

We talked about the overhead of doing all this scanning and detection in real time and how that may impact system IO performance. For other storage vendors, these sorts of activities are often done with standalone appliances, which of course add additional IO to a storage system to do offline scans.

Jonathan said, with recent Intel Xeon multi-core processors, they can readily afford the CPU cycles/cores required to do their scanning during IO processing, without sacrificing IO performance.

RackTop also supports a number of reports to show system configured data/user/application access rights as well as what accesses have occurred over time. Such reports offer admin/security teams visibility into data access rights and usage.

RackTop can be deployed in hybrid disk-flash solutions, as storage software in public clouds, in an HCI solution, or in edge environments that replicate back to core data centers. And they can also be used as a backup/archive data target for backup systems. RackTop Systems NAS supports CIFS 1.0- SMB 3.1.1, and NFSv3-v4.2.

RackTop Systems have customers in national government agencies, security sensitive commercial sectors, state gov’t, healthcare, and just about anyone subject to ransomware attacks on a regular basis. Which nowadays, is pretty much every IT organization on the planet.

Jonathan Halstuch, CTO & Co-Founder, RackTop Systems

Jonathan Halstuch is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of RackTop Systems. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Georgia Tech as well as a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from George Washington University.

With over 20-years of experience as an engineer, technologist, and manager for the federal government he provides organizations the most efficient and secure data management solutions to accelerate operations while reducing the burden on admins, users, and executives.

Leave a Reply