156: GreyBeards talk data security with Jonathan Halstuch, Co-Founder and CTO, RackTop Systems

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This is another repeat appearance of Jonathan Halstuch, Co-Founder and CTO, RackTop Systems on our podcast. This time he was here to discuss whether storage admins need to become security subject matter experts (SMEs) or not. Short answer, no but these days, security is everybody’s responsibility. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

It used to be that ransomware only encrypted data and then demanded money to decrypt. But nowadays, it’s more likely to steal data and then only encrypt some to get your attention. The criminal’s ultimate goal is to blackmail the organization not just once but possibly multiple times and then go after your clients, to extort them as well.

Data exfiltration or theft is a major concern today. And the only way to catch this happening is by checking any IO activity against normal IO and flag/stop unusual access. By doing so one can stop this, when it’s starting, rather than later, after your data is all gone. RackTop BrickStor storage provides assessors for IO activity to catch criminal acts like this while they are occurring.

Ransomware’s typical dwell time in an organizations systems, is on the order of 9 months. That is criminals are in your system server(s) for 9 months, using lateral actions, to infect other machines on your network and escalating privileges to gain even more access to your data.

Jason mentioned that a friend of his runs a major research university’s IT organization which is constantly under attack by foriegn adversaries. They found it typically takes:

  • Russian hackers 30 minutes once in your network to start escalating privileges and move laterally to access more systems.
  • Chinese hackers 2 hours, and
  • Iranian hackers 4 hours to do the same.

Jonathan also said that 1 in 3 cyber attacks is helped by an insider. Many insider attacks are used to steal IP and other information, but are never intended to be discovered. In this case, there may never be an external event to show you’ve been hacked.

Storage admins don’t need to become cyber security SMEs but everyone has a role to play in cyber security today. It’s important that storage admins provide proper information to upper management to identify risks and possible mitigations. This needs to include an understanding of an organizations data risks and what could be done with that data in the wrong hands.

Storage admins also need to run data security breach scenarios/simulations/tests showing what could happen and how they plan to recover. Sort of like DR testing but for ransomware.

And everyone needs to practice proper security hygiene. Storage admins have to lead on implementing security procedures, access controls, and the other functionality to protect an organization’s data. None of this replaces other network and server security functionality. But all of this functionality has to be in place to secure an organizations data.

Jonathan mentioned that the SEC in the US, has recently begun to enforce regulations to require public companies to disclose ransomware attacks within 3 days of discovery. Such disclosure needs to include any external data/users that are impacted. When organizations 1st disclose attacks, exposure is usually very limited, but over time, the organization typically finds exposure isn’t as limited as they first expected.

RackTop BrickStor maintains logs of who or what accessed which data. So when you identify an infection/culprit, BrickStor can tell you what data that entity has accessed over time. Making any initial disclosure more complete.

RackTop’s software defined storage solution can be implemented just about anywhere, in the cloud, in a VM, on bare metal (with approved hardware vendors) and can be used to front end anyone’s block storage or used with direct access storage.

Having something like RackTop Systems in place as your last line of defense to assess and log all IO activity, looking for anomalies, seems a necessary ingredient to any organizations cyber security regime.

Jonathan Halstuch, Co-Founder and CTO, 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.