Why You Need More Than Immutability to Protect Your Data

Mon Aug 07 2023By David Boland

In 2017, a bad actor (AKA “hacker”) used stolen AWS login credentials and deleted 23 accounts related to clients of his former employer. As a result, the company lost contracts with many customers. Police say that the account deletions caused an estimated loss of about $700,000.  The company was never able to recover the deleted data.   

In 2021, two days after being fired, a former employee of a New York-based bank, logged into the bank’s accounts, bypassed the anti-ransomware software and deleted the accounts and the tens of thousands of files and directories associated with loan mortgage applications. 

Indeed, security remains a significant sticking point for enterprises when considering a cloud storage solution. Respondents from Wasabi’s 2023 Cloud Storage Index said lack of native backup, disaster recovery, and data protection tools; as well as lack of native security services are among their top cloud storage concerns.  

Immutability: Protecting Data from People 

Some of you may be thinking, “I’m safe, I’m using offsite backups with immutable buckets or object lock.” Immutability and Object Lock prevent a bad actor who has accessed your account from encrypting, altering, or deleting your data, which is the most important step in the ransomware chain. Attackers will often first delete your backups so you can’t recover from them. But if your data can’t be encrypted, altered, or deleted, you can restore it. It can’t be ransomed. Immutability is a great shield for data, but it does not protect the weakest link in any security system: people. What happens if the bad actor held the keys to the cloud account that holds your immutable backups? 

As illustrated above, malicious attacks can come from inside an organization as well as from outside. A savvy insider can socially engineer a username and email address out of AWS support staff. They can either know the password or be able to intercept emails on the registered mail account of the AWS root, or social engineer this step away via AWS support.  

When is Multi-Factor Authentication not enough? 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is another line of defense against the human element in security. Here again, an insider may still have the upper hand. As an account holder, the bad actor may possess the MFA device associated with the root account, or they may be able to socially engineer this step away via access to internal support systems. MFA is great at keeping outsiders out, but it is still vulnerable to attacks from within.  

The importance of Multi-User Authentication  

The third line of defense for your data is Multi-User Authentication (MUA). Wasabi’s inventive Multi-User Authentication follows a concept similar to the nuclear missile launch protocol, where two individuals are required to turn their keys simultaneously for missile launch authorization ensuring no single person has sole control. With Wasabi’s MUA, users have the option to appoint up to three individuals who must collectively confirm an account deletion. If any of the designated individuals decline the deletion, the process is automatically canceled. No individual, be it a hacker, a rogue employee, or an inattentive administrator, possess the sole authority to delete the account. 

This is revolutionary when it comes to the world of cloud account security. Wasabi is the only Cloud Storage Provider to offer this security feature.  

Even if someone holds the root account credentials, they retain the capability to entirely delete an account, resulting in the complete erasure of the user's database. In a genuinely secure setting, this significant vulnerability is present across the object-locking implementations of all major cloud vendors. This is why Wasabi’s new Multi-User Authentication is a game-changing security feature that revolutionizes account security for Wasabi customers. Simply put, if the companies in our scenario at the beginning of the article had used a Cloud Storage Provider with the MUA feature like Wasabi’s, they would have saved themselves from the deletion of an essential account.

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Scenario Rewind  

Now let’s rewind and look at the malicious attacks at the beginning of this article but use Wasabi’s new Multi-User Authentication for account deletion feature instead of the traditional account deletion.  

  1. The bad actor gets access to root user credentials.  

  2. The malicious actor then tries to delete the data but realizes he can’t because it is immutable. 

  3. They then decide to delete the account and all the data.  

  4. Wasabi’s Multi-User Authentication feature requires a security contact to authorize the deletion. If the security contact denies the delete request, the account will not be deleted.  

  5. The notifications process allows the customer security contact to proactively alert their organization and Wasabi Support.   

Attacks are back on the rise. 

After a year of declining attacks, in 2023, ransomware attacks are back on the rise 

Backups are one the most, if not the most, important defense against ransomware, but if not configured properly, there may be a hole in your defense. A member of the notorious ransomware gang, DroppelPaymer, recently told an interviewer. 

“Cloud backups are a very good option against ransom but do not 100% protect as cloud backups are not always good configured, offline backups often outdated – the system of backups is really nice but human factor leaves some options.”  

Take the following steps to protect your data and your account: 

  1. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  2. Use immutability features with compliance as the default when you can. 

  3. Limit user permissions. NEVER share Root account credentials.

  4. Regularly update passwords. 

  5. Enable Wasabi’s Multi-User Authentication as an additional account security setting. 

(Wasabi encrypts ALL data, in-flight and at-rest; customers can use Wasabi’s default keys OR provide their own key as part of the S3 API, so no encryption step is necessary for Wasabi customers to do this on their own) 

This glaring hole exists in all major hyperscale cloud vendors. Wasabi’s Multi-User Authentication feature is revolutionary when it comes to the world of account security. Wasabi is the only cloud storage provider to offer this unique security feature. If the victims of unwanted account deletion used Wasabi’s MUA feature at the time of their incident, their data would have been available today.  

For more information on Wasabi’s Multi-User Authentication, see: Setting Up Multi-User Authentication for Account Deletion 

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