Tag Archives: backups

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 2

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-2/

Yesterday in Part 1 of this blog post, I showed you how to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance with an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role, an Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume, and tags that Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (Systems Manager) and Amazon Inspector use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.

Today in Steps 3 and 4, I show you how to:

  1. Take Amazon EBS snapshots using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  2. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

To catch up on Steps 1 and 2, see yesterday’s blog post.

Step 3: Take EBS snapshots using EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In this section, I show you how to use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take snapshots of your instances at specific intervals. To do this, I will show you how to:

  • Determine the schedule for EBS Snapshot Scheduler by providing you with best practices.
  • Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler by using AWS CloudFormation.
  • Tag your EC2 instances so that EBS Snapshot Scheduler backs up your instances when you want them backed up.

In addition to making sure your EC2 instances have all the available operating system patches applied on a regular schedule, you should take snapshots of the EBS storage volumes attached to your EC2 instances. Taking regular snapshots allows you to restore your data to a previous state quickly and cost effectively. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store, and snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to make regular snapshots of your EC2 instance. EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes advantage of other AWS services including CloudFormation, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Lambda to make backing up your EBS volumes simple.

Determine the schedule

As a best practice, you should back up your data frequently during the hours when your data changes the most. This reduces the amount of data you lose if you have to restore from a snapshot. For the purposes of this blog post, the data for my instances changes the most between the business hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time. During these hours, I will make snapshots hourly to minimize data loss.

In addition to backing up frequently, another best practice is to establish a strategy for retention. This will vary based on how you need to use the snapshots. If you have compliance requirements to be able to restore for auditing, your needs may be different than if you are able to detect data corruption within three hours and simply need to restore to something that limits data loss to five hours. EBS Snapshot Scheduler enables you to specify the retention period for your snapshots. For this post, I only need to keep snapshots for recent business days. To account for weekends, I will set my retention period to three days, which is down from the default of 15 days when deploying EBS Snapshot Scheduler.

Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In Step 1 of Part 1 of this post, I showed how to configure an EC2 for Windows Server 2012 R2 instance with an EBS volume. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take eight snapshots each weekday of your EC2 instance’s EBS volumes:

  1. Navigate to the EBS Snapshot Scheduler deployment page and choose Launch Solution. This takes you to the CloudFormation console in your account. The Specify an Amazon S3 template URL option is already selected and prefilled. Choose Next on the Select Template page.
  2. On the Specify Details page, retain all default parameters except for AutoSnapshotDeletion. Set AutoSnapshotDeletion to Yes to ensure that old snapshots are periodically deleted. The default retention period is 15 days (you will specify a shorter value on your instance in the next subsection).
  3. Choose Next twice to move to the Review step, and start deployment by choosing the I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources check box and then choosing Create.

Tag your EC2 instances

EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes a few minutes to deploy. While waiting for its deployment, you can start to tag your instance to define its schedule. EBS Snapshot Scheduler reads tag values and looks for four possible custom parameters in the following order:

  • <snapshot time> – Time in 24-hour format with no colon.
  • <retention days> – The number of days (a positive integer) to retain the snapshot before deletion, if set to automatically delete snapshots.
  • <time zone> – The time zone of the times specified in <snapshot time>.
  • <active day(s)>all, weekdays, or mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, and/or sun.

Because you want hourly backups on weekdays between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, you need to configure eight tags—one for each hour of the day. You will add the eight tags shown in the following table to your EC2 instance.

Tag Value
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:0900 0900;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1000 1000;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1100 1100;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1200 1200;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1300 1300;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1400 1400;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1500 1500;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1600 1600;3;utc;weekdays

Next, you will add these tags to your instance. If you want to tag multiple instances at once, you can use Tag Editor instead. To add the tags in the preceding table to your EC2 instance:

  1. Navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console and choose Tags in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose Add/Edit Tags and then choose Create Tag to add all the tags specified in the preceding table.
  3. Confirm you have added the tags by choosing Save. After adding these tags, navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console. Your EC2 instance should look similar to the following screenshot.
    Screenshot of how your EC2 instance should look in the console
  4. After waiting a couple of hours, you can see snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console.Screenshot of snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console
  5. To check if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active, you can check the CloudWatch rule that runs the Lambda function. If the clock icon shown in the following screenshot is green, the scheduler is active. If the clock icon is gray, the rule is disabled and does not run. You can enable or disable the rule by selecting it, choosing Actions, and choosing Enable or Disable. This also allows you to temporarily disable EBS Snapshot Scheduler.Screenshot of checking to see if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active
  1. You can also monitor when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule as shown in the previous screenshot and choosing Show metrics for the rule.Screenshot of monitoring when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule

If you want to restore and attach an EBS volume, see Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Step 4: Use Amazon Inspector

In this section, I show you how to you use Amazon Inspector to scan your EC2 instance for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and set up Amazon SNS notifications. To do this I will show you how to:

  • Install the Amazon Inspector agent by using EC2 Run Command.
  • Set up notifications using Amazon SNS to notify you of any findings.
  • Define an Amazon Inspector target and template to define what assessment to perform on your EC2 instance.
  • Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs to assess your EC2 instance on a regular interval.

Amazon Inspector can help you scan your EC2 instance using prebuilt rules packages, which are built and maintained by AWS. These prebuilt rules packages tell Amazon Inspector what to scan for on the EC2 instances you select. Amazon Inspector provides the following prebuilt packages for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures
  • Center for Internet Security Benchmarks
  • Runtime Behavior Analysis

In this post, I’m focused on how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances patched, backed up, and inspected for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). As a result, I will focus on how to use the CVE rules package and use your instance tags to identify the instances on which to run the CVE rules. If your EC2 instance is fully patched using Systems Manager, as described earlier, you should not have any findings with the CVE rules package. Regardless, as a best practice I recommend that you use Amazon Inspector as an additional layer for identifying any unexpected failures. This involves using Amazon CloudWatch to set up weekly Amazon Inspector scans, and configuring Amazon Inspector to notify you of any findings through SNS topics. By acting on the notifications you receive, you can respond quickly to any CVEs on any of your EC2 instances to help ensure that malware using known CVEs does not affect your EC2 instances. In a previous blog post, Eric Fitzgerald showed how to remediate Amazon Inspector security findings automatically.

Install the Amazon Inspector agent

To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use EC2 Run Command, which allows you to run any command on any of your EC2 instances that have the Systems Manager agent with an attached IAM role that allows access to Systems Manager.

  1. Choose Run Command under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. Then choose Run a command.
    Screenshot of choosing "Run a command"
  2. To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use an AWS managed and provided command document that downloads and installs the agent for you on the selected EC2 instance. Choose AmazonInspector-ManageAWSAgent. To choose the target EC2 instance where this command will be run, use the tag you previously assigned to your EC2 instance, Patch Group, with a value of Windows Servers. For this example, set the concurrent installations to 1 and tell Systems Manager to stop after 5 errors.
    Screenshot of installing the Amazon Inspector agent
  3. Retain the default values for all other settings on the Run a command page and choose Run. Back on the Run Command page, you can see if the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances.
    Screenshot showing that the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances

Set up notifications using Amazon SNS

Now that you have installed the Amazon Inspector agent, you will set up an SNS topic that will notify you of any findings after an Amazon Inspector run.

To set up an SNS topic:

  1. In the AWS Management Console, choose Simple Notification Service under Messaging in the Services menu.
  2. Choose Create topic, name your topic (only alphanumeric characters, hyphens, and underscores are allowed) and give it a display name to ensure you know what this topic does (I’ve named mine Inspector). Choose Create topic.
    "Create new topic" page
  3. To allow Amazon Inspector to publish messages to your new topic, choose Other topic actions and choose Edit topic policy.
  4. For Allow these users to publish messages to this topic and Allow these users to subscribe to this topic, choose Only these AWS users. Type the following ARN for the US East (N. Virginia) Region in which you are deploying the solution in this post: arn:aws:iam::316112463485:root. This is the ARN of Amazon Inspector itself. For the ARNs of Amazon Inspector in other AWS Regions, see Setting Up an SNS Topic for Amazon Inspector Notifications (Console). Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) uniquely identify AWS resources across all of AWS.
    Screenshot of editing the topic policy
  5. To receive notifications from Amazon Inspector, subscribe to your new topic by choosing Create subscription and adding your email address. After confirming your subscription by clicking the link in the email, the topic should display your email address as a subscriber. Later, you will configure the Amazon Inspector template to publish to this topic.
    Screenshot of subscribing to the new topic

Define an Amazon Inspector target and template

Now that you have set up the notification topic by which Amazon Inspector can notify you of findings, you can create an Amazon Inspector target and template. A target defines which EC2 instances are in scope for Amazon Inspector. A template defines which packages to run, for how long, and on which target.

To create an Amazon Inspector target:

  1. Navigate to the Amazon Inspector console and choose Get started. At the time of writing this blog post, Amazon Inspector is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
  2. For Amazon Inspector to be able to collect the necessary data from your EC2 instance, you must create an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector. Amazon Inspector can create this role for you if you choose Choose or create role and confirm the role creation by choosing Allow.
    Screenshot of creating an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector
  3. Amazon Inspector also asks you to tag your EC2 instance and install the Amazon Inspector agent. You already performed these steps in Part 1 of this post, so you can proceed by choosing Next. To define the Amazon Inspector target, choose the previously used Patch Group tag with a Value of Windows Servers. This is the same tag that you used to define the targets for patching. Then choose Next.
    Screenshot of defining the Amazon Inspector target
  4. Now, define your Amazon Inspector template, and choose a name and the package you want to run. For this post, use the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures package and choose the default duration of 1 hour. As you can see, the package has a version number, so always select the latest version of the rules package if multiple versions are available.
    Screenshot of defining an assessment template
  5. Configure Amazon Inspector to publish to your SNS topic when findings are reported. You can also choose to receive a notification of a started run, a finished run, or changes in the state of a run. For this blog post, you want to receive notifications if there are any findings. To start, choose Assessment Templates from the Amazon Inspector console and choose your newly created Amazon Inspector assessment template. Choose the icon below SNS topics (see the following screenshot).
    Screenshot of choosing an assessment template
  6. A pop-up appears in which you can choose the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you (choose Finding reported).
    Screenshot of choosing the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you

Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs

The last step in using Amazon Inspector to assess for CVEs is to schedule the Amazon Inspector template to run using Amazon CloudWatch Events. This will make sure that Amazon Inspector assesses your EC2 instance on a regular basis. To do this, you need the Amazon Inspector template ARN, which you can find under Assessment templates in the Amazon Inspector console. CloudWatch Events can run your Amazon Inspector assessment at an interval you define using a Cron-based schedule. Cron is a well-known scheduling agent that is widely used on UNIX-like operating systems and uses the following syntax for CloudWatch Events.

Image of Cron schedule

All scheduled events use a UTC time zone, and the minimum precision for schedules is one minute. For more information about scheduling CloudWatch Events, see Schedule Expressions for Rules.

To create the CloudWatch Events rule:

  1. Navigate to the CloudWatch console, choose Events, and choose Create rule.
    Screenshot of starting to create a rule in the CloudWatch Events console
  2. On the next page, specify if you want to invoke your rule based on an event pattern or a schedule. For this blog post, you will select a schedule based on a Cron expression.
  3. You can schedule the Amazon Inspector assessment any time you want using the Cron expression, or you can use the Cron expression I used in the following screenshot, which will run the Amazon Inspector assessment every Sunday at 10:00 P.M. GMT.
    Screenshot of scheduling an Amazon Inspector assessment with a Cron expression
  4. Choose Add target and choose Inspector assessment template from the drop-down menu. Paste the ARN of the Amazon Inspector template you previously created in the Amazon Inspector console in the Assessment template box and choose Create a new role for this specific resource. This new role is necessary so that CloudWatch Events has the necessary permissions to start the Amazon Inspector assessment. CloudWatch Events will automatically create the new role and grant the minimum set of permissions needed to run the Amazon Inspector assessment. To proceed, choose Configure details.
    Screenshot of adding a target
  5. Next, give your rule a name and a description. I suggest using a name that describes what the rule does, as shown in the following screenshot.
  6. Finish the wizard by choosing Create rule. The rule should appear in the Events – Rules section of the CloudWatch console.
    Screenshot of completing the creation of the rule
  7. To confirm your CloudWatch Events rule works, wait for the next time your CloudWatch Events rule is scheduled to run. For testing purposes, you can choose your CloudWatch Events rule and choose Edit to change the schedule to run it sooner than scheduled.
    Screenshot of confirming the CloudWatch Events rule works
  8. Now navigate to the Amazon Inspector console to confirm the launch of your first assessment run. The Start time column shows you the time each assessment started and the Status column the status of your assessment. In the following screenshot, you can see Amazon Inspector is busy Collecting data from the selected assessment targets.
    Screenshot of confirming the launch of the first assessment run

You have concluded the last step of this blog post by setting up a regular scan of your EC2 instance with Amazon Inspector and a notification that will let you know if your EC2 instance is vulnerable to any known CVEs. In a previous Security Blog post, Eric Fitzgerald explained How to Remediate Amazon Inspector Security Findings Automatically. Although that blog post is for Linux-based EC2 instances, the post shows that you can learn about Amazon Inspector findings in other ways than email alerts.

Conclusion

In this two-part blog post, I showed how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances up to date with patching, how to back up your instances with snapshots, and how to monitor your instances for CVEs. Collectively these measures help to protect your instances against common attack vectors that attempt to exploit known vulnerabilities. In Part 1, I showed how to configure your EC2 instances to make it easy to use Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also showed how to use Systems Manager to schedule automatic patches to keep your instances current in a timely fashion. In Part 2, I showed you how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

If you have comments about today’s or yesterday’s post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Your Holiday Cybersecurity Guide

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/your-holiday-cybersecurity-guide.html

Many of us are visiting parents/relatives this Thanksgiving/Christmas, and will have an opportunity to help our them with cybersecurity issues. I thought I’d write up a quick guide of the most important things.

1. Stop them from reusing passwords

By far the biggest threat to average people is that they re-use the same password across many websites, so that when one website gets hacked, all their accounts get hacked.
To demonstrate the problem, go to haveibeenpwned.com and enter the email address of your relatives. This will show them a number of sites where their password has already been stolen, like LinkedIn, Adobe, etc. That should convince them of the severity of the problem.

They don’t need a separate password for every site. You don’t care about the majority of website whether you get hacked. Use a common password for all the meaningless sites. You only need unique passwords for important accounts, like email, Facebook, and Twitter.

Write down passwords and store them in a safe place. Sure, it’s a common joke that people in offices write passwords on Post-It notes stuck on their monitors or under their keyboards. This is a common security mistake, but that’s only because the office environment is widely accessible. Your home isn’t, and there’s plenty of places to store written passwords securely, such as in a home safe. Even if it’s just a desk drawer, such passwords are safe from hackers, because they aren’t on a computer.

Write them down, with pen and paper. Don’t put them in a MyPasswords.doc, because when a hacker breaks in, they’ll easily find that document and easily hack your accounts.

You might help them out with getting a password manager, or two-factor authentication (2FA). Good 2FA like YubiKey will stop a lot of phishing threats. But this is difficult technology to learn, and of course, you’ll be on the hook for support issues, such as when they lose the device. Thus, while 2FA is best, I’m only recommending pen-and-paper to store passwords. (AccessNow has a guide, though I think YubiKey/U2F keys for Facebook and GMail are the best).

2. Lock their phone (passcode, fingerprint, faceprint)
You’ll lose your phone at some point. It has the keys all all your accounts, like email and so on. With your email, phones thieves can then reset passwords on all your other accounts. Thus, it’s incredibly important to lock the phone.

Apple has made this especially easy with fingerprints (and now faceprints), so there’s little excuse not to lock the phone.

Note that Apple iPhones are the most secure. I give my mother my old iPhones so that they will have something secure.

My mom demonstrates a problem you’ll have with the older generation: she doesn’t reliably have her phone with her, and charged. She’s the opposite of my dad who religiously slaved to his phone. Even a small change to make her lock her phone means it’ll be even more likely she won’t have it with her when you need to call her.

3. WiFi (WPA)
Make sure their home WiFi is WPA encrypted. It probably already is, but it’s worthwhile checking.

The password should be written down on the same piece of paper as all the other passwords. This is importance. My parents just moved, Comcast installed a WiFi access point for them, and they promptly lost the piece of paper. When I wanted to debug some thing on their network today, they didn’t know the password, and couldn’t find the paper. Get that password written down in a place it won’t get lost!

Discourage them from extra security features like “SSID hiding” and/or “MAC address filtering”. They provide no security benefit, and actually make security worse. It means a phone has to advertise the SSID when away from home, and it makes MAC address randomization harder, both of which allows your privacy to be tracked.

If they have a really old home router, you should probably replace it, or at least update the firmware. A lot of old routers have hacks that allow hackers (like me masscaning the Internet) to easily break in.

4. Ad blockers or Brave

Most of the online tricks that will confuse your older parents will come via advertising, such as popups claiming “You are infected with a virus, click here to clean it”. Installing an ad blocker in the browser, such as uBlock Origin, stops most all this nonsense.

For example, here’s a screenshot of going to the “Speedtest” website to test the speed of my connection (I took this on the plane on the way home for Thanksgiving). Ignore the error (plane’s firewall Speedtest) — but instead look at the advertising banner across the top of the page insisting you need to download a browser extension. This is tricking you into installing malware — the ad appears as if it’s a message from Speedtest, it’s not. Speedtest is just selling advertising and has no clue what the banner says. This sort of thing needs to be blocked — it fools even the technologically competent.

uBlock Origin for Chrome is the one I use. Another option is to replace their browser with Brave, a browser that blocks ads, but at the same time, allows micropayments to support websites you want to support. I use Brave on my iPhone.
A side benefit of ad blockers or Brave is that web surfing becomes much faster, since you aren’t downloading all this advertising. The smallest NYtimes story is 15 megabytes in size due to all the advertisements, for example.

5. Cloud Backups
Do backups, in the cloud. It’s a good idea in general, especially with the threat of ransomware these days.

In particular, consider your photos. Over time, they will be lost, because people make no effort to keep track of them. All hard drives will eventually crash, deleting your photos. Sure, a few key ones are backed up on Facebook for life, but the rest aren’t.
There are so many excellent online backup services out there, like DropBox and Backblaze. Or, you can use the iCloud feature that Apple provides. My favorite is Microsoft’s: I already pay $99 a year for Office 365 subscription, and it comes with 1-terabyte of online storage.

6. Separate email accounts
You should have three email accounts: work, personal, and financial.

First, you really need to separate your work account from personal. The IT department is already getting misdirected emails with your spouse/lover that they don’t want to see. Any conflict with your work, such as getting fired, gives your private correspondence to their lawyers.

Second, you need a wholly separate account for financial stuff, like Amazon.com, your bank, PayPal, and so on. That prevents confusion with phishing attacks.

Consider this warning today:

If you had split accounts, you could safely ignore this. The USPS would only your financial email account, which gets no phishing attacks, because it’s not widely known. When your receive the phishing attack on your personal email, you ignore it, because you know the USPS doesn’t know your personal email account.

Phishing emails are so sophisticated that even experts can’t tell the difference. Splitting financial from personal emails makes it so you don’t have to tell the difference — anything financial sent to personal email can safely be ignored.

7. Deauth those apps!

Twitter user @tompcoleman comments that we also need deauth apps.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google encourage you to enable “apps” that work their platforms, often demanding privileges to generate messages on your behalf. The typical scenario is that you use them only once or twice and forget about them.
A lot of them are hostile. For example, my niece’s twitter account would occasional send out advertisements, and she didn’t know why. It’s because a long time ago, she enabled an app with the permission to send tweets for her. I had to sit down and get rid of most of her apps.
Now would be a good time to go through your relatives Facebook, Twitter, and Google/GMail and disable those apps. Don’t be a afraid to be ruthless — they probably weren’t using them anyway. Some will still be necessary. For example, Twitter for iPhone shows up in the list of Twitter apps. The URL for editing these apps for Twitter is https://twitter.com/settings/applications. Google link is here (thanks @spextr). I don’t know of simple URLs for Facebook, but you should find it somewhere under privacy/security settings.
Update: Here’s a more complete guide for a even more social media services.
https://www.permissions.review/

8. Up-to-date software? maybe

I put this last because it can be so much work.

You should install the latest OS (Windows 10, macOS High Sierra), and also turn on automatic patching.

But remember it may not be worth the huge effort involved. I want my parents to be secure — but no so secure I have to deal with issues.

For example, when my parents updated their HP Print software, the icon on the desktop my mom usually uses to scan things in from the printer disappeared, and needed me to spend 15 minutes with her helping find the new way to access the software.
However, I did get my mom a new netbook to travel with instead of the old WinXP one. I want to get her a Chromebook, but she doesn’t want one.
For iOS, you can probably make sure their phones have the latest version without having these usability problems.

Conclusion

You can’t solve every problem for your relatives, but these are the more critical ones.

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 1

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-1/

Most malware tries to compromise your systems by using a known vulnerability that the maker of the operating system has already patched. To help prevent malware from affecting your systems, two security best practices are to apply all operating system patches to your systems and actively monitor your systems for missing patches. In case you do need to recover from a malware attack, you should make regular backups of your data.

In today’s blog post (Part 1 of a two-part post), I show how to keep your Amazon EC2 instances that run Microsoft Windows up to date with the latest security patches by using Amazon EC2 Systems Manager. Tomorrow in Part 2, I show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

What you should know first

To follow along with the solution in this post, you need one or more EC2 instances. You may use existing instances or create new instances. For the blog post, I assume this is an EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instance installed from the Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). If you are not familiar with how to launch an EC2 instance, see Launching an Instance. I also assume you launched or will launch your instance in a private subnet. A private subnet is not directly accessible via the internet, and access to it requires either a VPN connection to your on-premises network or a jump host in a public subnet (a subnet with access to the internet). You must make sure that the EC2 instance can connect to the internet using a network address translation (NAT) instance or NAT gateway to communicate with Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector. The following diagram shows how you should structure your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). You should also be familiar with Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Later on, you will assign tasks to a maintenance window to patch your instances with Systems Manager. To do this, the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user you are using for this post must have the iam:PassRole permission. This permission allows this IAM user to assign tasks to pass their own IAM permissions to the AWS service. In this example, when you assign a task to a maintenance window, IAM passes your credentials to Systems Manager. This safeguard ensures that the user cannot use the creation of tasks to elevate their IAM privileges because their own IAM privileges limit which tasks they can run against an EC2 instance. You should also authorize your IAM user to use EC2, Amazon Inspector, Amazon CloudWatch, and Systems Manager. You can achieve this by attaching the following AWS managed policies to the IAM user you are using for this example: AmazonInspectorFullAccess, AmazonEC2FullAccess, and AmazonSSMFullAccess.

Architectural overview

The following diagram illustrates the components of this solution’s architecture.

Diagram showing the components of this solution's architecture

For this blog post, Microsoft Windows EC2 is Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instances with attached Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes, which are running in your VPC. These instances may be standalone Windows instances running your Windows workloads, or you may have joined them to an Active Directory domain controller. For instances joined to a domain, you can be using Active Directory running on an EC2 for Windows instance, or you can use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory.

Amazon EC2 Systems Manager is a scalable tool for remote management of your EC2 instances. You will use the Systems Manager Run Command to install the Amazon Inspector agent. The agent enables EC2 instances to communicate with the Amazon Inspector service and run assessments, which I explain in detail later in this blog post. You also will create a Systems Manager association to keep your EC2 instances up to date with the latest security patches.

You can use the EBS Snapshot Scheduler to schedule automated snapshots at regular intervals. You will use it to set up regular snapshots of your Amazon EBS volumes. EBS Snapshot Scheduler is a prebuilt solution by AWS that you will deploy in your AWS account. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store. Snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost.

You will use Amazon Inspector to run security assessments on your EC2 for Windows Server instance. In this post, I show how to assess if your EC2 for Windows Server instance is vulnerable to any of the more than 50,000 CVEs registered with Amazon Inspector.

In today’s and tomorrow’s posts, I show you how to:

  1. Launch an EC2 instance with an IAM role, Amazon EBS volume, and tags that Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector will use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.
  3. Take EBS snapshots by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  4. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

Step 1: Launch an EC2 instance

In this section, I show you how to launch your EC2 instances so that you can use Systems Manager with the instances and use instance tags with EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots. This requires three things:

  • Create an IAM role for Systems Manager before launching your EC2 instance.
  • Launch your EC2 instance with Amazon EBS and the IAM role for Systems Manager.
  • Add tags to instances so that you can automate policies for which instances you take snapshots of and when.

Create an IAM role for Systems Manager

Before launching your EC2 instance, I recommend that you first create an IAM role for Systems Manager, which you will use to update the EC2 instance you will launch. AWS already provides a preconfigured policy that you can use for your new role, and it is called AmazonEC2RoleforSSM.

  1. Sign in to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane. Choose Create new role.
    Screenshot of choosing "Create role"
  2. In the role-creation workflow, choose AWS service > EC2 > EC2 to create a role for an EC2 instance.
    Screenshot of creating a role for an EC2 instance
  3. Choose the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to attach it to the new role you are creating.
    Screenshot of attaching the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to the new role you are creating
  4. Give the role a meaningful name (I chose EC2SSM) and description, and choose Create role.
    Screenshot of giving the role a name and description

Launch your EC2 instance

To follow along, you need an EC2 instance that is running Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 and that has an Amazon EBS volume attached. You can use any existing instance you may have or create a new instance.

When launching your new EC2 instance, be sure that:

  • The operating system is Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • You attach at least one Amazon EBS volume to the EC2 instance.
  • You attach the newly created IAM role (EC2SSM).
  • The EC2 instance can connect to the internet through a network address translation (NAT) gateway or a NAT instance.
  • You create the tags shown in the following screenshot (you will use them later).

If you are using an already launched EC2 instance, you can attach the newly created role as described in Easily Replace or Attach an IAM Role to an Existing EC2 Instance by Using the EC2 Console.

Add tags

The final step of configuring your EC2 instances is to add tags. You will use these tags to configure Systems Manager in Step 2 of this blog post and to configure Amazon Inspector in Part 2. For this example, I add a tag key, Patch Group, and set the value to Windows Servers. I could have other groups of EC2 instances that I treat differently by having the same tag key but a different tag value. For example, I might have a collection of other servers with the Patch Group tag key with a value of IAS Servers.

Screenshot of adding tags

Note: You must wait a few minutes until the EC2 instance becomes available before you can proceed to the next section.

At this point, you now have at least one EC2 instance you can use to configure Systems Manager, use EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and use Amazon Inspector.

Note: If you have a large number of EC2 instances to tag, you may want to use the EC2 CreateTags API rather than manually apply tags to each instance.

Step 2: Configure Systems Manager

In this section, I show you how to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches to your EC2 instances, and how to manage patch compliance.

To start, I will provide some background information about Systems Manager. Then, I will cover how to:

  • Create the Systems Manager IAM role so that Systems Manager is able to perform patch operations.
  • Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance to define which patches Systems Manager should apply.
  • Define a maintenance window to make sure Systems Manager patches your instance when you tell it to.
  • Monitor patch compliance to verify the patch state of your instances.

Systems Manager is a collection of capabilities that helps you automate management tasks for AWS-hosted instances on EC2 and your on-premises servers. In this post, I use Systems Manager for two purposes: to run remote commands and apply operating system patches. To learn about the full capabilities of Systems Manager, see What Is Amazon EC2 Systems Manager?

Patch management is an important measure to prevent malware from infecting your systems. Most malware attacks look for vulnerabilities that are publicly known and in most cases are already patched by the maker of the operating system. These publicly known vulnerabilities are well documented and therefore easier for an attacker to exploit than having to discover a new vulnerability.

Patches for these new vulnerabilities are available through Systems Manager within hours after Microsoft releases them. There are two prerequisites to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches. First, you must attach the IAM role you created in the previous section, EC2SSM, to your EC2 instance. Second, you must install the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. If you have used a recent Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 AMI published by AWS, Amazon has already installed the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. You can confirm this by logging in to an EC2 instance and looking for Amazon SSM Agent under Programs and Features in Windows. To install the Systems Manager agent on an instance that does not have the agent preinstalled or if you want to use the Systems Manager agent on your on-premises servers, see the documentation about installing the Systems Manager agent. If you forgot to attach the newly created role when launching your EC2 instance or if you want to attach the role to already running EC2 instances, see Attach an AWS IAM Role to an Existing Amazon EC2 Instance by Using the AWS CLI or use the AWS Management Console.

To make sure your EC2 instance receives operating system patches from Systems Manager, you will use the default patch baseline provided and maintained by AWS, and you will define a maintenance window so that you control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. For the maintenance window to be able to run any tasks, you also must create a new role for Systems Manager. This role is a different kind of role than the one you created earlier: Systems Manager will use this role instead of EC2. Earlier we created the EC2SSM role with the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy, which allowed the Systems Manager agent on our instance to communicate with the Systems Manager service. Here we need a new role with the policy AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole to make sure the Systems Manager service is able to execute commands on our instance.

Create the Systems Manager IAM role

To create the new IAM role for Systems Manager, follow the same procedure as in the previous section, but in Step 3, choose the AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole policy instead of the previously selected AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy.

Screenshot of creating the new IAM role for Systems Manager

Finish the wizard and give your new role a recognizable name. For example, I named my role MaintenanceWindowRole.

Screenshot of finishing the wizard and giving your new role a recognizable name

By default, only EC2 instances can assume this new role. You must update the trust policy to enable Systems Manager to assume this role.

To update the trust policy associated with this new role:

  1. Navigate to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose MaintenanceWindowRole and choose the Trust relationships tab. Then choose Edit trust relationship.
  3. Update the policy document by copying the following policy and pasting it in the Policy Document box. As you can see, I have added the ssm.amazonaws.com service to the list of allowed Principals that can assume this role. Choose Update Trust Policy.
    {
       "Version":"2012-10-17",
       "Statement":[
          {
             "Sid":"",
             "Effect":"Allow",
             "Principal":{
                "Service":[
                   "ec2.amazonaws.com",
                   "ssm.amazonaws.com"
               ]
             },
             "Action":"sts:AssumeRole"
          }
       ]
    }

Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance

Next, you are going to associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your EC2 instance. A patch baseline defines which patches Systems Manager should apply. You will use the default patch baseline that AWS manages and maintains. Before you can associate the patch baseline with your instance, though, you must determine if Systems Manager recognizes your EC2 instance.

Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Managed Instances. Your new EC2 instance should be available there. If your instance is missing from the list, verify the following:

  1. Go to the EC2 console and verify your instance is running.
  2. Select your instance and confirm you attached the Systems Manager IAM role, EC2SSM.
  3. Make sure that you deployed a NAT gateway in your public subnet to ensure your VPC reflects the diagram at the start of this post so that the Systems Manager agent can connect to the Systems Manager internet endpoint.
  4. Check the Systems Manager Agent logs for any errors.

Now that you have confirmed that Systems Manager can manage your EC2 instance, it is time to associate the AWS maintained patch baseline with your EC2 instance:

  1. Choose Patch Baselines under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console.
  2. Choose the default patch baseline as highlighted in the following screenshot, and choose Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down.
    Screenshot of choosing Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down
  3. In the Patch group box, enter the same value you entered under the Patch Group tag of your EC2 instance in “Step 1: Configure your EC2 instance.” In this example, the value I enter is Windows Servers. Choose the check mark icon next to the patch group and choose Close.Screenshot of modifying the patch group

Define a maintenance window

Now that you have successfully set up a role and have associated a patch baseline with your EC2 instance, you will define a maintenance window so that you can control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. By creating multiple maintenance windows and assigning them to different patch groups, you can make sure your EC2 instances do not all reboot at the same time. The Patch Group resource tag you defined earlier will determine to which patch group an instance belongs.

To define a maintenance window:

  1. Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Maintenance Windows. Choose Create a Maintenance Window.
    Screenshot of starting to create a maintenance window in the Systems Manager console
  2. Select the Cron schedule builder to define the schedule for the maintenance window. In the example in the following screenshot, the maintenance window will start every Saturday at 10:00 P.M. UTC.
  3. To specify when your maintenance window will end, specify the duration. In this example, the four-hour maintenance window will end on the following Sunday morning at 2:00 A.M. UTC (in other words, four hours after it started).
  4. Systems manager completes all tasks that are in process, even if the maintenance window ends. In my example, I am choosing to prevent new tasks from starting within one hour of the end of my maintenance window because I estimated my patch operations might take longer than one hour to complete. Confirm the creation of the maintenance window by choosing Create maintenance window.
    Screenshot of completing all boxes in the maintenance window creation process
  5. After creating the maintenance window, you must register the EC2 instance to the maintenance window so that Systems Manager knows which EC2 instance it should patch in this maintenance window. To do so, choose Register new targets on the Targets tab of your newly created maintenance window. You can register your targets by using the same Patch Group tag you used before to associate the EC2 instance with the AWS-provided patch baseline.
    Screenshot of registering new targets
  6. Assign a task to the maintenance window that will install the operating system patches on your EC2 instance:
    1. Open Maintenance Windows in the EC2 console, select your previously created maintenance window, choose the Tasks tab, and choose Register run command task from the Register new task drop-down.
    2. Choose the AWS-RunPatchBaseline document from the list of available documents.
    3. For Parameters:
      1. For Role, choose the role you created previously (called MaintenanceWindowRole).
      2. For Execute on, specify how many EC2 instances Systems Manager should patch at the same time. If you have a large number of EC2 instances and want to patch all EC2 instances within the defined time, make sure this number is not too low. For example, if you have 1,000 EC2 instances, a maintenance window of 4 hours, and 2 hours’ time for patching, make this number at least 500.
      3. For Stop after, specify after how many errors Systems Manager should stop.
      4. For Operation, choose Install to make sure to install the patches.
        Screenshot of stipulating maintenance window parameters

Now, you must wait for the maintenance window to run at least once according to the schedule you defined earlier. Note that if you don’t want to wait, you can adjust the schedule to run sooner by choosing Edit maintenance window on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager. If your maintenance window has expired, you can check the status of any maintenance tasks Systems Manager has performed on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager and select your maintenance window.

Screenshot of the maintenance window successfully created

Monitor patch compliance

You also can see the overall patch compliance of all EC2 instances that are part of defined patch groups by choosing Patch Compliance under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. You can filter by Patch Group to see how many EC2 instances within the selected patch group are up to date, how many EC2 instances are missing updates, and how many EC2 instances are in an error state.

Screenshot of monitoring patch compliance

In this section, you have set everything up for patch management on your instance. Now you know how to patch your EC2 instance in a controlled manner and how to check if your EC2 instance is compliant with the patch baseline you have defined. Of course, I recommend that you apply these steps to all EC2 instances you manage.

Summary

In Part 1 of this blog post, I have shown how to configure EC2 instances for use with Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also have shown how to use Systems Manager to keep your Microsoft Windows–based EC2 instances up to date. In Part 2 of this blog post tomorrow, I will show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any CVEs.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, start a new thread on the EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ares-kodi-project-calls-it-quits-after-hollywood-cease-desist-171117/

This week has been particularly bad for those involved in the Kodi addon scene. Following cease-and-desist notices from the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, several addon developers and repositories shut down.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV all lined up for war, the third-party developers had little choice but to quit. One of those affected was the leader of the hugely popular Ares Project, which quietly disappeared mid-week.

The Ares Wizard was an extremely popular and important piece of software which allowed people to switch Kodi builds, install third-party addons, install popular repositories, change system settings, and carry out backups. It’s installed on huge numbers of machines worldwide but it will soon fall into disrepair.

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

“[This week] I was subject to a hand-delivered notice to cease-and-desist from MPA & ACE,” Ares Project leader Tekto informs TorrentFreak.

“Given the notice, we obviously shut down the repo and wizard as requested.”

The news that Ares Project is done and never coming back will be a huge blow to the community. The project just celebrated its second birthday and has grown exponentially since it first arrived on the scene.

“Ares Project started in Oct 2015. Originally it was to be a tool to setup up the video cache on Kodi correctly. However, many ideas were thrown into the pot and it became a wee bit more; such as a wizard to install community provided builds, common addons and few other tweaks and options,” Tekto says.

“For my own part I started blogging earlier that year as part of a longer-term goal to be self-funding. I always disliked seeing begging bowls out to support ‘server’ costs, many of which were cheap £5-10 per month servers that were used to gain £100s in donations.

“The blog, via affiliate links and ads, could and would provide the funds to cover our hosting costs without resorting to begging for money every weekend.”

Intrigued by this first wave of actions by ACE in Europe, TorrentFreak asked for a copy of the MPA/ACE cease-and-desist notice but unfortunately, Tekto flat-out refused. All he would tell us is that he’d agreed not to give out any copies or screenshots and that he was adhering to that 100%.

That only leaves speculation as to what grounds the MPA/ACE cited for closing the project but to be fair, it doesn’t take much thought to find a direct comparison. Earlier this year, in the BREIN v Filmspeler case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes amounted to illegally communicating copyrighted content to the public.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how this ruling could also apply to someone distributing “fully-loaded” Kodi software builds or addons via a website. It had previously been considered a legal gray area, of course, and it was in that space that the Ares team believed it operated. After all, it took ECJ clarification for local courts in the Netherlands to be satisfied with the legal position.

“There was never any question that what we were doing was illegal. We didn’t and never have hosted any content, we always prevented discussions about illegal paid services, and never sold any devices, pre-loaded or otherwise. That used to be enough to occupy the ‘gray’ area which meant we were safe to develop our applications. That changed in 2017 as we were to discover,” Tekto notes.

Up until this week and apparently oblivious to how the earlier ECJ ruling might affect their operation, things had been going extremely well for Ares. In mid-2016, the group moved to its own support forum that attracted 100,000 signed-up members and 300,000 visitors every month.

“This was quite an achievement in terms of viral marketing but ultimately this would become part of our downfall,” Tekto says.

“The recent innovation of the ‘basket driven’ Ares Portal system seems to have triggered the legal move to shut the project down completely. This simple system gave access to hundreds of add-ons. The system removed the need for builds, blogs and YouTubers – you just shopped on the site for addons and then installed them to your device with a simple 6 digit code.”

While Ares and Tekto still didn’t believe they were doing anything illegal (addons were linked, not hosted) it is now pretty clear to them that the previous gray area has been well and truly closed, at least as far as the MPA/ACE alliance is concerned. And with that in mind, the show is over. Done. Finished.

“We are not criminals or malicious hackers, we weren’t even careful about hiding our identities. You couldn’t meet a more ordinary bunch of folks in truth,” he says.

“There was never any question we would close our doors if what we were doing crossed any boundaries of legality. So with the notice served on us, we are closing our doors and removing all our websites and applications. It’s a sad day in many ways, but nobody wants to be facing court or a potential custodial sentence, for what is essentially a hobby.”

Finally, Tekto says that others like him might want to consider their positions carefully, before they too get a knock at the door. In the meantime, he gives thanks to the project’s supporters, who have remained loyal over the past two years.

“It just leaves me to thank our users for their support and step away from the Kodi scene,” he concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

How to Recover From Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/complete-guide-ransomware/

Here’s the scenario. You’re working on your computer and you notice that it seems slower. Or perhaps you can’t access document or media files that were previously available.

You might be getting error messages from Windows telling you that a file is of an “Unknown file type” or “Windows can’t open this file.”

Windows error message

If you’re on a Mac, you might see the message “No associated application,” or “There is no application set to open the document.”

MacOS error message

Another possibility is that you’re completely locked out of your system. If you’re in an office, you might be looking around and seeing that other people are experiencing the same problem. Some are already locked out, and others are just now wondering what’s going on, just as you are.

Then you see a message confirming your fears.

wana decrypt0r ransomware message

You’ve been infected with ransomware.

You’ll have lots of company this year. The number of ransomware attacks on businesses tripled in the past year, jumping from one attack every two minutes in Q1 to one every 40 seconds by Q3.There were over four times more new ransomware variants in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first quarter of 2016, and damages from ransomware are expected to exceed $5 billion this year.

Growth in Ransomware Variants Since December 2015

Source: Proofpoint Q1 2017 Quarterly Threat Report

This past summer, our local PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, KQED, was debilitated for weeks by a ransomware attack that forced them to go back to working the way they used to prior to computers. Five months have passed since the attack and they’re still recovering and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware typically spreads via spam or phishing emails, but also through websites or drive-by downloads, to infect an endpoint and penetrate the network. Once in place, the ransomware then locks all files it can access using strong encryption. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (typically payable in bitcoins) to decrypt the files and restore full operations to the affected IT systems.

Encrypting ransomware or “cryptoware” is by far the most common recent variety of ransomware. Other types that might be encountered are:

  • Non-encrypting ransomware or lock screens (restricts access to files and data, but does not encrypt them)
  • Ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a drive or Microsoft’s NTFS, which prevents victims’ computers from being booted up in a live OS environment
  • Leakware or extortionware (exfiltrates data that the attackers threaten to release if ransom is not paid)
  • Mobile Device Ransomware (infects cell-phones through “drive-by downloads” or fake apps)

The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:

1
Infection
After it has been delivered to the system via email attachment, phishing email, infected application or other method, the ransomware installs itself on the endpoint and any network devices it can access.
2
Secure Key Exchange
The ransomware contacts the command and control server operated by the cybercriminals behind the attack to generate the cryptographic keys to be used on the local system.
3
Encryption
The ransomware starts encrypting any files it can find on local machines and the network.
4
Extortion
With the encryption work done, the ransomware displays instructions for extortion and ransom payment, threatening destruction of data if payment is not made.
5
Unlocking
Organizations can either pay the ransom and hope for the cybercriminals to actually decrypt the affected files (which in many cases does not happen), or they can attempt recovery by removing infected files and systems from the network and restoring data from clean backups.

Who Gets Attacked?

Ransomware attacks target firms of all sizes — 5% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked — and no no size business, from SMBs to enterprises, are immune. Attacks are on the rise in every sector and in every size of business.

Recent attacks, such as WannaCry earlier this year, mainly affected systems outside of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected from Taiwan to the United Kingdom, where it crippled the National Health Service.

The US has not been so lucky in other attacks, though. The US ranks the highest in the number of ransomware attacks, followed by Germany and then France. Windows computers are the main targets, but ransomware strains exist for Macintosh and Linux, as well.

The unfortunate truth is that ransomware has become so wide-spread that for most companies it is a certainty that they will be exposed to some degree to a ransomware or malware attack. The best they can do is to be prepared and understand the best ways to minimize the impact of ransomware.

“Ransomware is more about manipulating vulnerabilities in human psychology than the adversary’s technological sophistication.” — James Scott, expert in Artificial Intelligence

Phishing emails, malicious email attachments, and visiting compromised websites have been common vehicles of infection (we wrote about protecting against phishing recently), but other methods have become more common in past months. Weaknesses in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have allowed cryptoworms to spread. Desktop applications — in one case an accounting package — and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange — DDE) have been the agents of infection.

Recent ransomware strains such as Petya, CryptoLocker, and WannaCry have incorporated worms to spread themselves across networks, earning the nickname, “cryptoworms.”

How to Defeat Ransomware

1
Isolate the Infection
Prevent the infection from spreading by separating all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
2
Identify the Infection
From messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools, determine which malware strain you are dealing with.
3
Report
Report to the authorities to support and coordinate measures to counter attacks.
4
Determine Your Options
You have a number of ways to deal with the infection. Determine which approach is best for you.
5
Restore and Refresh
Use safe backups and program and software sources to restore your computer or outfit a new platform.
6
Plan to Prevent Recurrence
Make an assessment of how the infection occurred and what you can do to put measures into place that will prevent it from happening again.

1 — Isolate the Infection

The rate and speed of ransomware detection is critical in combating fast moving attacks before they succeed in spreading across networks and encrypting vital data.

The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.

Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.

This Week in Tech (TWiT.tv) did a videocast showing what happens when WannaCry is released on an isolated system and encrypts files and trys to spread itself to other computers. It’s a great lesson on how these types of cryptoworms operate.

2 — Identify the Infection

Most often the ransomware will identify itself when it asks for ransom. There are numerous sites that help you identify the ransomware, including ID Ransomware. The No More Ransomware! Project provides the Crypto Sheriff to help identify ransomware.

Identifying the ransomware will help you understand what type of ransomware you have, how it propagates, what types of files it encrypts, and maybe what your options are for removal and disinfection. It also will enable you to report the attack to the authorities, which is recommended.

wanna decryptor 2.0 ransomware message

WannaCry Ransomware Extortion Dialog

3 — Report to the Authorities

You’ll be doing everyone a favor by reporting all ransomware attacks to the authorities. The FBI urges ransomware victims to report ransomware incidents regardless of the outcome. Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases. Knowing more about victims and their experiences with ransomware will help the FBI to determine who is behind the attacks and how they are identifying or targeting victims.

You can file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

There are other ways to report ransomware, as well.

4 — Determine Your Options

Your options when infected with ransomware are:

  1. Pay the ransom
  2. Try to remove the malware
  3. Wipe the system(s) and reinstall from scratch

It’s generally considered a bad idea to pay the ransom. Paying the ransom encourages more ransomware, and in most cases the unlocking of the encrypted files is not successful.

In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said their organization is not at all likely to pay the ransom in order to recover their data (77%). Only a small minority said they were willing to pay some ransom (3% of companies have already set up a Bitcoin account in preparation).

Even if you decide to pay, it’s very possible you won’t get back your data.

5 — Restore or Start Fresh

You have the choice of trying to remove the malware from your systems or wiping your systems and reinstalling from safe backups and clean OS and application sources.

Get Rid of the Infection

There are internet sites and software packages that claim to be able to remove ransomware from systems. The No More Ransom! Project is one. Other options can be found, as well.

Whether you can successfully and completely remove an infection is up for debate. A working decryptor doesn’t exist for every known ransomware, and unfortunately it’s true that the newer the ransomware, the more sophisticated it’s likely to be and a perhaps a decryptor has not yet been created.

It’s Best to Wipe All Systems Completely

The surest way of being certain that malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is to do a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. If you’ve been following a sound backup strategy, you should have copies of all your documents, media, and important files right up to the time of the infection.

Be sure to determine as well as you can from file dates and other information what was the date of infection. Consider that an infection might have been dormant in your system for a while before it activated and made significant changes to your system. Identifying and learning about the particular malware that attacked your systems will enable you to understand how that malware operates and what your best strategy should be for restoring your systems.

Backblaze Backup enables you to go back in time and specify the date prior to which you wish to restore files. That date should precede the date your system was infected.

Choose files to restore from earlier date in Backblaze Backup

If you’ve been following a good backup policy with both local and off-site backups, you should be able to use backup copies that you are sure were not connected to your network after the time of attack and hence protected from infection. Backup drives that were completely disconnected should be safe, as are files stored in the cloud, as with Backblaze Backup.

System Restores Are not the Best Strategy for Dealing with Ransomware and Malware

You might be tempted to use a System Restore point to get your system back up and running. System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date. Also, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration, so don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

Local backups can be encrypted by ransomware. If your backup solution is local and connected to a computer that gets hit with ransomware, the chances are good your backups will be encrypted along with the rest of your data.

With a good backup solution that is isolated from your local computers, such as Backblaze Backup, you can easily obtain the files you need to get your system working again. You have the flexility to determine which files to restore, from which date you want to restore, and how to obtain the files you need to restore your system.

Choose how to obtain your backup files

You’ll need to reinstall your OS and software applications from the source media or the internet. If you’ve been managing your account and software credentials in a sound manner, you should be able to reactivate accounts for applications that require it.

If you use a password manager, such as 1Password or LastPass, to store your account numbers, usernames, passwords, and other essential information, you can access that information through their web interface or mobile applications. You just need to be sure that you still know your master username and password to obtain access to these programs.

6 — How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

“Ransomware is at an unprecedented level and requires international investigation.” — European police agency EuroPol

A ransomware attack can be devastating for a home or a business. Valuable and irreplaceable files can be lost and tens or even hundreds of hours of effort can be required to get rid of the infection and get systems working again.

Security experts suggest several precautionary measures for preventing a ransomware attack.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to Patch Early and Patch Often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

It’s clear that the best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Other than that, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or avoided completely.

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please let us know in the comments.

The post How to Recover From Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Sci-Hub Won’t Be Blocked by US ISPs Anytime Soon

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-wont-be-blocked-by-us-isps-anytime-soon-171111/

Sci-Hub, often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” hasn’t had a particularly good run in US courts so far.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages late last week.

In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site.

The order specifically mentions domain registrars and hosting companies, but also search engines and ISPs, although only those who are in “active concert or participation” with the site. This order sparked fears that Google, Comcast, and others would be ordered to take action, but that’s not the case.

After the news broke ACS issued a press release clarifying that it would not go after search engines and ISPs when they are not in “active participation” with Sci-Hub. The problem is that this can be interpreted quite broadly, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty.

Luckily, ACS Director Glenn Ruskin was willing to provide more clarity. He stressed that search engines and ISPs won’t be targeted for simply linking users to Sci-Hub. Companies that host the content are a target though.

“The court’s affirmative ruling does not apply to search engines writ large, but only to those entities who have been in active concert or participation with Sci-Hub, such as websites that host ACS content stolen by Sci-Hub,” Ruskin said.

When we asked whether this means that ISPs such as Comcast are not likely to be targeted, the answer was affirmative.

“That is correct, unless the internet service provider has been in active concert or participation with SciHub. Simply linking to SciHub does not rise to be in active concert or participation,” Ruskin clarified.

The above suggests that ACS will go after domain name registrars, hosting companies, and perhaps Cloudflare, but not any further. Still, even if that’s the case there is cause for worry among several digital rights activists.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that these type of orders set a dangerous precedent. The concept of “active concert or participation” should only cover close associates and co-conspirators, not everyone who provides a service to the defendant. Domain registrars and registries have often been compelled to take action in similar cases, but EFF says this goes too far.

“The courts need to limit who can be bound by orders like this one, to prevent them from being abused,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz informs TorrentFreak.

“In particular, domain name registrars and registries shouldn’t be ordered to help take down a website because of a dispute over the site’s contents. That invites others to use the domain name system as a tool for censorship.”

News of the Sci-Hub injunction has sparked controversy and confusion in recent days, not least because Sci-hub.cc became unavailable soon after. Instead of showing the usual search box, visitors now see a “403 Forbidden” error message. On top of that, the bulletproof Tor version of the site also went offline.

The error message indicates that there’s a hosting issue. While it’s easy to conclude that the court’s injunction has something to do with this, that might not necessarily be the case. Sci-Hub’s hosting company isn’t tied to the US and has a history of protecting sites from takedown efforts.

We reached out to Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for comment but we’re yet to receive a response. The site hasn’t posted any relevant updates on its social media pages either.

That said, the site is far from done. In addition to the Tor domain, Sci-Hub has several other backups in place such as Sci-Hub.io and Sci-Hub.ac, which are up and running as usual.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Backing Up the Modern Enterprise with Backblaze for Business

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-solutions/

Endpoint backup diagram

Organizations of all types and sizes need reliable and secure backup. Whether they have as few as 3 or as many as 300,000 computer users, an organization’s computer data is a valuable business asset that needs to be protected.

Modern organizations are changing how they work and where they work, which brings new challenges to making sure that company’s data assets are not only available, but secure. Larger organizations have IT departments that are prepared to address these needs, but often times in smaller and newer organizations the challenge falls upon office management who might not be as prepared or knowledgeable to face a work environment undergoing dramatic changes.

Whether small or large, local or world-wide, for-profit or non-profit, organizations need a backup strategy and solution that matches the new ways of working in the enterprise.

The Enterprise Has Changed, and So Has Data Use

More and more, organizations are working in the cloud. These days organizations can operate just fine without their own file servers, database servers, mail servers, or other IT infrastructure that used to be standard for all but the smallest organization.

The reality is that for most organizations, though, it’s a hybrid work environment, with a combination of cloud-based and PC and Macintosh-based applications. Legacy apps aren’t going away any time soon. They will be with us for a while, with their accompanying data scattered amongst all the desktops, laptops and other endpoints in corporate headquarters, home offices, hotel rooms, and airport waiting areas.

In addition, the modern workforce likely combines regular full-time employees, remote workers, contractors, and sometimes interns, volunteers, and other temporary workers who also use company IT assets.

The Modern Enterprise Brings New Challenges for IT

These changes in how enterprises work present a problem for anyone tasked with making sure that data — no matter who uses it or where it lives — is adequately backed-up. Cloud-based applications, when properly used and managed, can be adequately backed up, provided that users are connected to the internet and data transfers occur regularly — which is not always the case. But what about the data on the laptops, desktops, and devices used by remote employees, contractors, or just employees whose work keeps them on the road?

The organization’s backup solution must address all the needs of the modern organization or enterprise using both cloud and PC and Mac-based applications, and not be constrained by employee or computer location.

A Ten-Point Checklist for the Modern Enterprise for Backing Up

What should the modern enterprise look for when evaluating a backup solution?

1) Easy to deploy to workers’ computers

Whether installed by the computer user or an IT person locally or remotely, the backup solution must be easy to implement quickly with minimal demands on the user or administrator.

2) Fast and unobtrusive client software

Backups should happen in the background by efficient (native) PC and Macintosh software clients that don’t consume valuable processing power or take memory away from applications the user needs.

3) Easy to configure

The backup solutions must be easy to configure for both the user and the IT professional. Ease-of-use means less time to deploy, configure, and manage.

4) Defaults to backing up all valuable data

By default, the solution backs up commonly used files and folders or directories, including desktops. Some backup solutions are difficult and intimidating because they require that the user chose what needs to be backed up, often missing files and folders/directories that contain valuable data.

5) Works automatically in the background

Backups should happen automatically, no matter where the computer is located. The computer user, especially the remote or mobile one, shouldn’t be required to attach cables or drives, or remember to initiate backups. A working solution backs up automatically without requiring action by the user or IT administrator.

6) Data restores are fast and easy

Whether it’s a single file, directory, or an entire system that must be restored, a user or IT sysadmin needs to be able to restore backed up data as quickly as possible. In cases of large restores to remote locations, the ability to send a restore via physical media is a must.

7) No limitations on data

Throttling, caps, and data limits complicate backups and require guesses about how much storage space will be needed.

8) Safe & Secure

Organizations require that their data is secure during all phases of initial upload, storage, and restore.

9) Easy-to-manage

The backup solution needs to provide a clear and simple web management interface for all functions. Designing for ease-of-use leads to efficiency in management and operation.

10) Affordable and transparent pricing

Backup costs should be predictable, understandable, and without surprises.

Two Scenarios for the Modern Enterprise

Enterprises exist in many forms and types, but wanting to meet the above requirements is common across all of them. Below, we take a look at two common scenarios showing how enterprises face these challenges. Three case studies are available that provide more information about how Backblaze customers have succeeded in these environments.

Enterprise Profile 1

The needs of a smaller enterprise differ from those of larger, established organizations. This organization likely doesn’t have anyone who is devoted full-time to IT. The job of on-boarding new employees and getting them set up with a computer likely falls upon an executive assistant or office manager. This person might give new employees a checklist with the software and account information and lets users handle setting up the computer themselves.

Organizations in this profile need solutions that are easy to install and require little to no configuration. Backblaze, by default, backs up all user data, which lets the organization be secure in knowing all the data will be backed up to the cloud — including files left on the desktop. Combined with Backblaze’s unlimited data policy, organizations have a truly “set it and forget it” platform.

Customizing Groups To Meet Teams’ Needs

The Groups feature of Backblaze for Business allows an organization to decide whether an individual client’s computer will be Unmanaged (backups and restores under the control of the worker), or Managed, in which an administrator can monitor the status and frequency of backups and handle restores should they become necessary. One group for the entire organization might be adequate at this stage, but the organization has the option to add additional groups as it grows and needs more flexibility and control.

The organization, of course, has the choice of managing and monitoring users using Groups. With Backblaze’s Groups, organizations can set user-based access rules, which allows the administrator to create restores for lost files or entire computers on an employee’s behalf, to centralize billing for all client computers in the organization, and to redeploy a recovered computer or new computer with the backed up data.

Restores

In this scenario, the decision has been made to let each user manage her own backups, including restores, if necessary, of individual files or entire systems. If a restore of a file or system is needed, the restore process is easy enough for the user to handle it by herself.

Case Study 1

Read about how PagerDuty uses Backblaze for Business in a mixed enterprise of cloud and desktop/laptop applications.

PagerDuty Case Study

In a common approach, the employee can retrieve an accidentally deleted file or an earlier version of a document on her own. The Backblaze for Business interface is easy to navigate and was designed with feedback from thousands of customers over the course of a decade.

In the event of a lost, damaged, or stolen laptop,  administrators of Managed Groups can  initiate the restore, which could be in the form of a download of a restore ZIP file from the web management console, or the overnight shipment of a USB drive directly to the organization or user.

Enterprise Profile 2

This profile is for an organization with a full-time IT staff. When a new worker joins the team, the IT staff is tasked with configuring the computer and delivering it to the new employee.

Backblaze for Business Groups

Case Study 2

Global charitable organization charity: water uses Backblaze for Business to back up workers’ and volunteers’ laptops as they travel to developing countries in their efforts to provide clean and safe drinking water.

charity: water Case Study

This organization can take advantage of additional capabilities in Groups. A Managed Group makes sense in an organization with a geographically dispersed work force as it lets IT ensure that workers’ data is being regularly backed up no matter where they are. Billing can be company-wide or assigned to individual departments or geographical locations. The organization has the choice of how to divide the organization into Groups (location, function, subsidiary, etc.) and whether the Group should be Managed or Unmanaged. Using Managed Groups might be suitable for most of the organization, but there are exceptions in which sensitive data might dictate using an Unmanaged Group, such as could be the case with HR, the executive team, or finance.

Deployment

By Invitation Email, Link, or Domain

Backblaze for Business allows a number of options for deploying the client software to workers’ computers. Client installation is fast and easy on both Windows and Macintosh, so sending email invitations to users or automatically enrolling users by domain or invitation link, is a common approach.

By Remote Deployment

IT might choose to remotely and silently deploy Backblaze for Business across specific Groups or the entire organization. An administrator can silently deploy the Backblaze backup client via the command-line, or use common RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tools such as Jamf and Munki.

Restores

Case Study 3

Read about how Bright Bear Technology Solutions, an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP), uses the Groups feature of Backblaze for Business to manage customer backups and restores, deploy Backblaze licenses to their customers, and centralize billing for all their client-based backup services.

Bright Bear Case Study

Some organizations are better equipped to manage or assist workers when restores become necessary. Individual users will be pleased to discover they can roll-back files to an earlier version if they wish, but IT will likely manage any complete system restore that involves reconfiguring a computer after a repair or requisitioning an entirely new system when needed.

This organization might chose to retain a client’s entire computer backup for archival purposes, using Backblaze B2 as the cloud storage solution. This is another advantage of having a cloud storage provider that combines both endpoint backup and cloud object storage among its services.

The Next Step: Server Backup & Data Archiving with B2 Cloud Storage

As organizations grow, they have increased needs for cloud storage beyond Macintosh and PC data backup. Backblaze’s object cloud storage, Backblaze B2, provides low-cost storage and archiving of records, media, and server data that can grow with the organization’s size and needs.

B2 Cloud Storage is available through the same Backblaze management console as Backblaze Computer Backup. This means that Admins have one console for billing, monitoring, deployment, and role provisioning. B2 is priced at 1/4 the cost of Amazon S3, or $0.005 per month per gigabyte (which equals $5/month per terabyte).

Why Modern Enterprises Chose Backblaze

Backblaze for Business

Businesses and organizations select Backblaze for Business for backup because Backblaze is designed to meet the needs of the modern enterprise. Backblaze customers are part of a a platform that has a 10+ year track record of innovation and over 400 petabytes of customer data already under management.

Backblaze’s backup model is proven through head-to-head comparisons to back up data that other backup solutions overlook in their default configurations — including valuable files that are needed after an accidental deletion, theft, or computer failure.

Backblaze is the only enterprise-level backup company that provides TOTP (Time-based One-time Password) via both SMS and Authentication app to all accounts at no incremental charge. At just $50/year/computer, Backblaze is affordable for any size of enterprise.

Modern Enterprises can Meet The Challenge of The Changing Data Environment

With the right backup solution and strategy, the modern enterprise will be prepared to ensure that its data is protected from accident, disaster, or theft, whether its data is in one office or dispersed among many locations, and remote and mobile employees.

Backblaze for Business is an affordable solution that enables organizations to meet the evolving data demands facing the modern enterprise.

The post Backing Up the Modern Enterprise with Backblaze for Business appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Amazon ElastiCache for Redis Is Now a HIPAA Eligible Service and You Can Use It to Power Real-Time Healthcare Applications

Post Syndicated from Manan Goel original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/now-you-can-use-amazon-elasticache-for-redis-a-hipaa-eligible-service-to-power-real-time-healthcare-applications/

HIPAA image

Amazon ElastiCache for Redis is now a HIPAA Eligible Service and has been added to the AWS Business Associate Addendum (BAA). This means you can use ElastiCache for Redis to help you power healthcare applications as well as process, maintain, and store protected health information (PHI). ElastiCache for Redis is a Redis-compatible, fully-managed, in-memory data store and cache in the cloud that provides sub-millisecond latency to power applications. Now you can use the speed, simplicity, and flexibility of ElastiCache for Redis to build secure, fast, and internet-scale healthcare applications.

ElastiCache for Redis with HIPAA eligibility is available for all current-generation instance node types and requires Redis engine version 3.2.6. You must ensure that nodes are configured to encrypt the data in transit and at rest, and to authenticate Redis commands before the engine executes them. See Architecting for HIPAA Security and Compliance on Amazon Web Services for information about how to configure Amazon HIPAA Eligible Services to store, process, and transmit PHI.

ElastiCache for Redis uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-512 symmetric keys to encrypt data on disk. The Redis backups stored in Amazon S3 are encrypted with server-side encryption (SSE) using AES-256 symmetric keys. ElastiCache for Redis uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt data in transit. It uses the Redis AUTH token that you provide at the time of Redis cluster creation to authenticate the Redis commands coming from clients. The AUTH token is encrypted using AWS Key Management Service.

There is no additional charge for using ElastiCache for Redis clusters with HIPAA eligibility. To get started, see HIPAA Compliance for Amazon ElastiCache for Redis.

– Manan

AWS HIPAA Eligibility Update (October 2017) – Sixteen Additional Services

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hipaa-eligibility-post-update-october-2017-sixteen-additional-services/

Our Health Customer Stories page lists just a few of the many customers that are building and running healthcare and life sciences applications that run on AWS. Customers like Verge Health, Care Cloud, and Orion Health trust AWS with Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifying Information (PII) as part of their efforts to comply with HIPAA and HITECH.

Sixteen More Services
In my last HIPAA Eligibility Update I shared the news that we added eight additional services to our list of HIPAA eligible services. Today I am happy to let you know that we have added another sixteen services to the list, bringing the total up to 46. Here are the newest additions, along with some short descriptions and links to some of my blog posts to jog your memory:

Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility – This brand-new addition to Amazon Aurora allows you to encrypt your relational databases using keys that you create and manage through AWS Key Management Service (KMS). When you enable encryption for an Amazon Aurora database, the underlying storage is encrypted, as are automated backups, read replicas, and snapshots. Read New – Encryption at Rest for Amazon Aurora to learn more.

Amazon CloudWatch Logs – You can use the logs to monitor and troubleshoot your systems and applications. You can monitor your existing system, application, and custom log files in near real-time, watching for specific phrases, values, or patterns. Log data can be stored durably and at low cost, for as long as needed. To learn more, read Store and Monitor OS & Application Log Files with Amazon CloudWatch and Improvements to CloudWatch Logs and Dashboards.

Amazon Connect – This self-service, cloud-based contact center makes it easy for you to deliver better customer service at a lower cost. You can use the visual designer to set up your contact flows, manage agents, and track performance, all without specialized skills. Read Amazon Connect – Customer Contact Center in the Cloud and New – Amazon Connect and Amazon Lex Integration to learn more.

Amazon ElastiCache for Redis – This service lets you deploy, operate, and scale an in-memory data store or cache that you can use to improve the performance of your applications. Each ElastiCache for Redis cluster publishes key performance metrics to Amazon CloudWatch. To learn more, read Caching in the Cloud with Amazon ElastiCache and Amazon ElastiCache – Now With a Dash of Redis.

Amazon Kinesis Streams – This service allows you to build applications that process or analyze streaming data such as website clickstreams, financial transactions, social media feeds, and location-tracking events. To learn more, read Amazon Kinesis – Real-Time Processing of Streaming Big Data and New: Server-Side Encryption for Amazon Kinesis Streams.

Amazon RDS for MariaDB – This service lets you set up scalable, managed MariaDB instances in minutes, and offers high performance, high availability, and a simplified security model that makes it easy for you to encrypt data at rest and in transit. Read Amazon RDS Update – MariaDB is Now Available to learn more.

Amazon RDS SQL Server – This service lets you set up scalable, managed Microsoft SQL Server instances in minutes, and also offers high performance, high availability, and a simplified security model. To learn more, read Amazon RDS for SQL Server and .NET support for AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server – Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) to learn more.

Amazon Route 53 – This is a highly available Domain Name Server. It translates names like www.example.com into IP addresses. To learn more, read Moving Ahead with Amazon Route 53.

AWS Batch – This service lets you run large-scale batch computing jobs on AWS. You don’t need to install or maintain specialized batch software or build your own server clusters. Read AWS Batch – Run Batch Computing Jobs on AWS to learn more.

AWS CloudHSM – A cloud-based Hardware Security Module (HSM) for key storage and management at cloud scale. Designed for sensitive workloads, CloudHSM lets you manage your own keys using FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validated HSMs. To learn more, read AWS CloudHSM – Secure Key Storage and Cryptographic Operations and AWS CloudHSM Update – Cost Effective Hardware Key Management at Cloud Scale for Sensitive & Regulated Workloads.

AWS Key Management Service – This service makes it easy for you to create and control the encryption keys used to encrypt your data. It uses HSMs to protect your keys, and is integrated with AWS CloudTrail in order to provide you with a log of all key usage. Read New AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to learn more.

AWS Lambda – This service lets you run event-driven application or backend code without thinking about or managing servers. To learn more, read AWS Lambda – Run Code in the Cloud, AWS Lambda – A Look Back at 2016, and AWS Lambda – In Full Production with New Features for Mobile Devs.

[email protected] – You can use this new feature of AWS Lambda to run Node.js functions across the global network of AWS locations without having to provision or manager servers, in order to deliver rich, personalized content to your users with low latency. Read [email protected] – Intelligent Processing of HTTP Requests at the Edge to learn more.

AWS Snowball Edge – This is a data transfer device with 100 terabytes of on-board storage as well as compute capabilities. You can use it to move large amounts of data into or out of AWS, as a temporary storage tier, or to support workloads in remote or offline locations. To learn more, read AWS Snowball Edge – More Storage, Local Endpoints, Lambda Functions.

AWS Snowmobile – This is an exabyte-scale data transfer service. Pulled by a semi-trailer truck, each Snowmobile packs 100 petabytes of storage into a ruggedized 45-foot long shipping container. Read AWS Snowmobile – Move Exabytes of Data to the Cloud in Weeks to learn more (and to see some of my finest LEGO work).

AWS Storage Gateway – This hybrid storage service lets your on-premises applications use AWS cloud storage (Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Glacier, and Amazon Elastic File System) in a simple and seamless way, with storage for volumes, files, and virtual tapes. To learn more, read The AWS Storage Gateway – Integrate Your Existing On-Premises Applications with AWS Cloud Storage and File Interface to AWS Storage Gateway.

And there you go! Check out my earlier post for a list of resources that will help you to build applications that comply with HIPAA and HITECH.

Jeff;

 

Now You Can Use Amazon ElastiCache for Redis with In-Transit and At-Rest Encryption to Help Protect Sensitive Information

Post Syndicated from Manan Goel original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/amazon-elasticache-now-supports-encryption-for-elasticache-for-redis/

Amazon ElastiCache image

Amazon ElastiCache for Redis now supports encryption for secure internode communications to help keep personally identifiable information (PII) safe. Both encryption in transit and at rest are supported. The new encryption in-transit feature enables you to encrypt all communications between clients and Redis servers as well as between Redis servers (primary and read replica nodes). The encryption at-rest feature allows you to encrypt your ElastiCache for Redis backups on disk and in Amazon S3. Additionally, you can use the Redis AUTH command for an added level of authentication.

If you are in the Financial Services, Healthcare, and Telecommunications sectors, this new encryption functionality can help you protect your sensitive data sets and meet compliance requirements. You can start using the new functionality by enabling it at the time of cluster creation via the ElastiCache console or through the API. You don’t have to manage the lifecycle of your certificates because ElastiCache for Redis automatically manages the issuance, renewal, and expiration of your certificates. For more information, see Enabling In-Transit Encryption and Enabling At-Rest Encryption.

There is no additional charge to use this feature, and it is available in the US West (Oregon), US West (N. California), US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), Canada (Central), EU (Ireland), and South America (São Paulo) Regions. We will make this feature available in other AWS Regions as well.

For more information about this feature and Amazon ElastiCache for Redis, see the ElastiCache for Redis FAQs.

– Manan

Now Available – Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/now-available-amazon-aurora-with-postgresql-compatibility/

Late last year I told you about our plans to add PostgreSQL compatibility to Amazon Aurora. We launched the private beta shortly after that announcement, and followed it up earlier this year with an open preview. We’ve received lots of great feedback during the beta and the preview and have done our best to make sure that the product meets your needs and exceeds your expectations!

Now Generally Available
I am happy to report that Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility is now generally available and that you can use it today in four AWS Regions, with more to follow. It is compatible with PostgreSQL 9.6.3 and scales automatically to support up to 64 TB of storage, with 6-way replication behind the scenes to improve performance and availability.

Just like Amazon Aurora with MySQL compatibility, this edition is fully managed and is very easy to set up and to use. On the performance side, you can expect up to 3x the throughput that you’d get if you ran PostgreSQL on your own (you can read Amazon Aurora: Design Considerations for High Throughput Cloud-Native Relational Databases to learn more about how we did this).

You can launch a PostgreSQL-compatible Amazon Aurora instance from the RDS Console by selecting Amazon Aurora as the engine and PostgreSQL-compatible as the edition, and clicking on Next:

Then choose your instance class, single or Multi-AZ deployment (good for dev/test and production, respectively), set the instance name, and the administrator credentials, and click on Next:

You can choose between six instance classes (2 to 64 vCPUs and 15.25 to 488 GiB of memory):

The db.r4 instance class is new addition to Aurora and to RDS, and gives you an additional size at the top-end. The db.r4.16xlarge will give you additional write performance, and may allow you to use a single Aurora database instead of two or more sharded databases.

You can also set many advanced options on the next page, starting with network options such as the VPC and public accessibility:

You can set the cluster name and other database options. Encryption is easy to use and enabled by default; you can use the built-in default master key or choose one of your own:

You can also set failover behavior, the retention period for snapshot backups, and choose to enable collection of detailed (OS-level) metrics via Enhanced Monitoring:

After you have set it up to your liking, click on Launch DB Instance to proceed!

The new instances (primary and secondary since I specified Multi-AZ) are up and running within minutes:

Each PostgreSQL-compatible instance publishes 44 metrics to CloudWatch automatically:

With enhanced monitoring enabled, each instance collects additional per-instance and per-process metrics. It can be enabled when the instance is launched, or afterward, via Modify Instance. Here are some of the metrics collected when enhanced monitoring is enabled:

Clicking on Manage Graphs lets you choose which metrics are shown:

Per-process metrics are also available:

You can scale your read capacity by creating up to 15 Aurora replicas:

The cluster provides a single reader endpoint that you can access in order to load-balance requests across the replicas:

Performance Insights
As I noted earlier, Performance Insights is turned on automatically. This Amazon Aurora feature is wired directly into the database engine and allows you to look deep inside of each query, seeing the database resources that it uses and how they contribute to the overall response time. Here’s the initial view:

I can slice the view by SQL query in order to see how many concurrent copies of each query are running:

There are more views and options than I can fit in this post; to learn more take a look at Using Performance Insights.

Migrating to Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility
AWS Database Migration Service and the Schema Conversion Tool are ready to help you to move data stored in commercial and open-source databases to Amazon Aurora. The Schema Conversion Tool will perform a quick assessment of your database schemas and your code in order to help you to choose between MySQL and PostgreSQL. Our new, limited-time, Free DMS program allows you to use DMS and SCT to migrate to Aurora at no cost, with access to several types of DMS Instances for up to 6 months.

If you are already using PostgreSQL, you will be happy to hear that we support a long list of extensions including PostGIS and dblink.

Available Now
You can use Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL Compatibility today in the US East (Northern Virginia), EU (Ireland), US West (Oregon), and US East (Ohio) Regions, with others to follow as soon as possible.

Jeff;

Blockchain? It’s All Greek To Me…

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/blockchain-its-all-greek-to-me/

The blockchain hype is huge, the ICO craze (“Coindike”) is generating millions if not billions of “funding” for businesses that claim to revolutionize basically anything.

I’ve been following all of that for a while. I got my first (and only) Bitcoin several years ago, I know how the technology works, I’ve implemented the data structure part, I’ve tried (with varying success) to install an Ethereum wallet since almost as soon as Ethereum appeared, and I’ve read and subscribed to newsletters about dozens of projects and new cryptocurrencies, including storj.io, siacoin, namecoin, etc. I would say I’m at least above average in terms of knowledge on how the cryptocurrencies, blockchain, smart contracts, EVM, proof-of-wahtever operates. And I’ve voiced my concerns about the technology in general.

Now it’s rant time.

I’ve been reading whitepapers of various projects, I’ve been to various meetups and talks, I’ve been reading the professed future applications of the blockchain, and I have to admit – it’s all Greek to me. I have no clue what these people are talking about. And why would all of that make any sense. I still think I’m not clever enough to understand the upcoming revolution, but there’s also a cynical side of me that says “this is all a scam”.

Why “X on the blockchain” somehow makes it magical and superior to a good old centralized solution? No, spare me the cliches about “immutable ledger”, “lack of central authority” and the likes. These are the phrases that a person learns after reading literally one article about blockchain. Have you actually written anything apart from a complex-sounding whitepaper or a hello-world smart contract? Do you really know how the overlay network works, how the economic incentives behind that network work, how all the cryptography works? Maybe there are many, many people that indeed know that and they know it better than me and are thus able to imagine the business case behind “X on the blockchain”.

I can’t. I can’t see why it would be useful to abandon a centralized database that you can query in dozens of ways, test easily and scale trivially in favour of a clunky write-only, low-throughput, hard-to-debug privacy nightmare that is any public blockchain. And how do you imagine to gain a substantial userbase with an ecosystem where the Windows client for the 2nd most popular blockchain (Ethereum) has been so buggy, I (a software engineer) couldn’t get it work and sync the whole chain. And why would building a website ontop of that clunky, user-unfriendly database has any benefit over a centralized competitor?

Do we all believe that somehow the huge datacenters with guarnateed power backups, regular hardware and network checks, regular backups and overall – guaranteed redundancy – will somehow be beaten by a few thousand machines hosting a software that has the sole purpose of guaranteeing integrity? Bitcoin has 10 thousand nodes. Ethereum has 22 thousand nodes. And while these nodes are probably very well GPU-equipped, they aren’t supercomputers. Amazon’s AWS has a million servers. How’s that for comparison. And why would anyone take seriously 22 thousand non-servers. Or even 220 thousand, if we believe in some inevitable growth.

Don’t get me wrong, the technology is really cool. The way tamper-evident data structures (hash chains) were combined with a consensus algorithm, an overlay network and a financial incentive is really awesome. When you add a distributed execution environment, it gets even cooler. But is it suitable for literally everything? I fail to see how.

I’m sure I’m missing something. The fact that many of those whitepapers sound increasingly like Greek to me might hint that I’m just a dumb developer and those enlightened people are really onto something huge. I guess time will tell.

But I happen to be living in a country that saw a transition to capitalism in the years of my childhood. And there were a lot of scams and ponzi schemes that people believed in. Because they didn’t know how capitalism works, how the market works. I’m seeing some similarities – we have no idea how the digital realm really works, and so a lot of scams are bound to appear, until we as a society learn the basics.

Until then – enjoy your ICO, enjoy your tokens, enjoy your big-player competitor with practically the same business model, only on a worse database.

And I hope that after the smoke of hype and fraud clears, we’ll be able to enjoy the true benefits of the blockchain innovation.

The post Blockchain? It’s All Greek To Me… appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Backing Up Linux to Backblaze B2 with Duplicity and Restic

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-linux-backblaze-b2-duplicity-restic/

Linux users have a variety of options for handling data backup. The choices range from free and open-source programs to paid commercial tools, and include applications that are purely command-line based (CLI) and others that have a graphical interface (GUI), or both.

If you take a look at our Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage Integrations page, you will see a number of offerings that enable you to back up your Linux desktops and servers to Backblaze B2. These include CloudBerry, Duplicity, Duplicacy, 45 Drives, GoodSync, HashBackup, QNAP, Restic, and Rclone, plus other choices for NAS and hybrid uses.

In this post, we’ll discuss two popular command line and open-source programs: one older, Duplicity, and a new player, Restic.

Old School vs. New School

We’re highlighting Duplicity and Restic today because they exemplify two different philosophical approaches to data backup: “Old School” (Duplicity) vs “New School” (Restic).

Old School (Duplicity)

In the old school model, data is written sequentially to the storage medium. Once a section of data is recorded, new data is written starting where that section of data ends. It’s not possible to go back and change the data that’s already been written.

This old-school model has long been associated with the use of magnetic tape, a prime example of which is the LTO (Linear Tape-Open) standard. In this “write once” model, files are always appended to the end of the tape. If a file is modified and overwritten or removed from the volume, the associated tape blocks used are not freed up: they are simply marked as unavailable, and the used volume capacity is not recovered. Data is deleted and capacity recovered only if the whole tape is reformatted. As a Linux/Unix user, you undoubtedly are familiar with the TAR archive format, which is an acronym for Tape ARchive. TAR has been around since 1979 and was originally developed to write data to sequential I/O devices with no file system of their own.

It is from the use of tape that we get the full backup/incremental backup approach to backups. A backup sequence beings with a full backup of data. Each incremental backup contains what’s been changed since the last full backup until the next full backup is made and the process starts over, filling more and more tape or whatever medium is being used.

This is the model used by Duplicity: full and incremental backups. Duplicity backs up files by producing encrypted, digitally signed, versioned, TAR-format volumes and uploading them to a remote location, including Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), Duplicity is free software.

With Duplicity, the first archive is a complete (full) backup, and subsequent (incremental) backups only add differences from the latest full or incremental backup. Chains consisting of a full backup and a series of incremental backups can be recovered to the point in time that any of the incremental steps were taken. If any of the incremental backups are missing, then reconstructing a complete and current backup is much more difficult and sometimes impossible.

Duplicity is available under many Unix-like operating systems (such as Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X) and ships with many popular Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora. It also can be used with Windows under Cygwin.

We recently published a KB article on How to configure Backblaze B2 with Duplicity on Linux that demonstrates how to set up Duplicity with B2 and back up and restore a directory from Linux.

New School (Restic)

With the arrival of non-sequential storage medium, such as disk drives, and new ideas such as deduplication, comes the new school approach, which is used by Restic. Data can be written and changed anywhere on the storage medium. This efficiency comes largely through the use of deduplication. Deduplication is a process that eliminates redundant copies of data and reduces storage overhead. Data deduplication techniques ensure that only one unique instance of data is retained on storage media, greatly increasing storage efficiency and flexibility.

Restic is a recently available multi-platform command line backup software program that is designed to be fast, efficient, and secure. Restic supports a variety of backends for storing backups, including a local server, SFTP server, HTTP Rest server, and a number of cloud storage providers, including Backblaze B2.

Files are uploaded to a B2 bucket as deduplicated, encrypted chunks. Each time a backup runs, only changed data is backed up. On each backup run, a snapshot is created enabling restores to a specific date or time.

Restic assumes that the storage location for repository is shared, so it always encrypts the backed up data. This is in addition to any encryption and security from the storage provider.

Restic is open source and free software and licensed under the BSD 2-Clause License and actively developed on GitHub.

There’s a lot more you can do with Restic, including adding tags, mounting a repository locally, and scripting. To learn more, you can review the documentation at https://restic.readthedocs.io.

Coincidentally with this blog post, we published a KB article, How to configure Backblaze B2 with Restic on Linux, in which we show how to set up Restic for use with B2 and how to back up and restore a home directory from Linux to B2.

Which is Right for You?

While Duplicity is a popular, widely-available, and useful program, many users of cloud storage solutions such as B2 are moving to new-school solutions like Restic that take better advantage of the non-sequential access capabilities and speed of modern storage media used by cloud storage providers.

Tell us how you’re backing up Linux

Please let us know in the comments what you’re using for Linux backups, and if you have experience using Duplicity, Restic, or other backup software with Backblaze B2.

The post Backing Up Linux to Backblaze B2 with Duplicity and Restic appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Amazon Lightsail Update – Launch and Manage Windows Virtual Private Servers

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/amazon-lightsail-update-launch-and-manage-windows-virtual-private-servers/

I first told you about Amazon Lightsail last year in my blog post, Amazon Lightsail – the Power of AWS, the Simplicity of a VPS. Since last year’s launch, thousands of customers have used Lightsail to get started with AWS, launching Linux-based Virtual Private Servers.

Today we are adding support for Windows-based Virtual Private Servers. You can launch a VPS that runs Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2016 with SQL Server 2016 Express and be up and running in minutes. You can use your VPS to build, test, and deploy .NET or Windows applications without having to set up or run any infrastructure. Backups, DNS management, and operational metrics are all accessible with a click or two.

Servers are available in five sizes, with 512 MB to 8 GB of RAM, 1 or 2 vCPUs, and up to 80 GB of SSD storage. Prices (including software licenses) start at $10 per month:

You can try out a 512 MB server for one month (up to 750 hours) at no charge.

Launching a Windows VPS
To launch a Windows VPS, log in to Lightsail , click on Create instance, and select the Microsoft Windows platform. Then click on Apps + OS if you want to run SQL Server 2016 Express, or OS Only if Windows is all you need:

If you want to use a Powershell script to customize your instance after it launches for the first time, click on Add launch script and enter the script:

Choose your instance plan, enter a name for your instance(s), and select the quantity to be launched, then click on Create:

Your instance will be up and running within a minute or so:

Click on the instance, and then click on Connect using RDP:

This will connect using a built-in, browser-based RDP client (you can also use the IP address and the credentials with another client):

Available Today
This feature is available today in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), EU (London), EU (Ireland), EU (Frankfurt), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.

Jeff;

 

Bringing Clean and Safe Drinking Water to Developing Countries

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/keeping-charity-water-data-safe/

image of a cup filling with water

If you’d like to read more about charity: water‘s use of Backblaze for Business, visit backblaze.com/charitywater/

charity: water  + Backblaze for Business

Considering that charity: water sends workers with laptop computers to rural communities in 24 countries around the world, it’s not surprising that computer backup is needed on every computer they have. It’s so essential that Matt Ward, System Administrator for charity: water, says it’s a standard part of employee on-boarding.

charity: water, based in New York City, is a non-profit organization that is working to bring clean water to the nearly one in ten people around the world who live without it — a situation that affects not only health, but education and income.

“We have people constantly traveling all over the world, so a cloud-based service makes sense whether the user is in New York or Malawi. Most of our projects and beneficiaries are in Sub Saharan Africa and Southern/Southeast Asia,” explains Matt. “Water scarcity and poor water quality are a problem here, and in so many countries around the world.”

charity: water in Rwanda

To achieve their mission, charity: water works through implementing organizations on the ground within the targeted communities. The people in these communities must spend hours every day walking to collect water for their families. It’s a losing proposition, as the time they spend walking takes away from education, earning money, and generally limits the opportunities for improving their lives.

charity: water began using Backblaze for Business before Matt came on a year ago. They started with a few licenses, but quickly decided to deploy Backblaze to every computer in the organization.

“We’ve lost computers plenty of times,” he says, “but, because of Backblaze, there’s never been a case where we lost the computer’s data.”

charity: water has about 80 staff computer users, and adds ten to twenty interns each season. Each staff member or intern has at least one computer. “Our IT department is two people, me and my director,” explains Matt, “and we have to support everyone, so being super simple to deploy is valuable to us.”

“When a new person joins us, we just send them an invitation to join the Group on Backblaze, and they’re all set. Their data is automatically backed up whenever they’re connected to the internet, and I can see their current status on the management console. [Backblaze] really nailed the user interface. You can show anyone the interface, even on their first day, and they get it because it’s simple and easy to understand.”

young girl drinkng clean water

One of the frequent uses for Backblaze for Business is when Matt off-boards users, such as all the interns at the end of the season. He starts a restore through the Backblaze admin console even before he has the actual computer. “I know I have a reliable archive in the restore from Backblaze, and it’s easier than doing it directly from the laptop.”

Matt is an enthusiastic user of the features designed for business users, especially Backblaze’s Groups feature, which has enabled charity: water to centralize billing and computer management for their worldwide team. Businesses can create groups to cluster job functions, employee locations, or any other criteria.

charity: water delivery clean water to children

“It saves me time to be able to see the status of any user’s backups, such as the last time the data was backed up” explains Matt. Before Backblaze, charity: water was writing documentation for workers, hoping they would follow backup protocols. Now, Matt knows what’s going on in real time — a valuable feature when the laptops are dispersed around the world.

“Backblaze for Business is an essential element in any organization’s IT continuity plan,” says Matt. “You need to be sure that there is a backup solution for your data should anything go wrong.”

To learn more about how charity: water uses Backblaze for Business, visit backblaze.com/charitywater/.

Matt Ward of charity: water

Matt Ward, System Administrator for charity: water

The post Bringing Clean and Safe Drinking Water to Developing Countries appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backing Up WordPress

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-wordpress/

WordPress cloud backup
WordPress logo

WordPress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) for websites, with almost 30% of all websites in the world using WordPress. That’s a lot of sites — over 350 million!

In this post we’ll talk about the different approaches to keeping the data on your WordPress website safe.


Stop the Presses! (Or the Internet!)

As we were getting ready to publish this post, we received news from UpdraftPlus, one of the biggest WordPress plugin developers, that they are supporting Backblaze B2 as a storage solution for their backup plugin. They shipped the update (1.13.9) this week. This is great news for Backblaze customers! UpdraftPlus is also offering a 20% discount to Backblaze customers wishing to purchase or upgrade to UpdraftPlus Premium. The complete information is below.

UpdraftPlus joins backup plugin developer XCloner — Backup and Restore in supporting Backblaze B2. A third developer, BlogVault, also announced their intent to support Backblaze B2. Contact your favorite WordPress backup plugin developer and urge them to support Backblaze B2, as well.

Now, back to our post…


Your WordPress website data is on a web server that’s most likely located in a large data center. You might wonder why it is necessary to have a backup of your website if it’s in a data center. Website data can be lost in a number of ways, including mistakes by the website owner (been there), hacking, or even domain ownership dispute (I’ve seen it happen more than once). A website backup also can provide a history of changes you’ve made to the website, which can be useful. As an overall strategy, it’s best to have a backup of any data that you can’t afford to lose for personal or business reasons.

Your web hosting company might provide backup services as part of your hosting plan. If you are using their service, you should know where and how often your data is being backed up. You don’t want to find out too late that your backup plan was not adequate.

Sites on WordPress.com are automatically backed up by VaultPress (Automattic), which also is available for self-hosted WordPress installations. If you don’t want the work or decisions involved in managing the hosting for your WordPress site, WordPress.com will handle it for you. You do, however, give up some customization abilities, such as the option to add plugins of your own choice.

Very large and active websites might consider WordPress VIP by Automattic, or another premium WordPress hosting service such as Pagely.com.

This post is about backing up self-hosted WordPress sites, so we’ll focus on those options.

WordPress Backup

Backup strategies for WordPress can be divided into broad categories depending on 1) what you back up, 2) when you back up, and 3) where the data is backed up.

With server data, such as with a WordPress installation, you should plan to have three copies of the data (the 3-2-1 backup strategy). The first is the active data on the WordPress web server, the second is a backup stored on the web server or downloaded to your local computer, and the third should be in another location, such as the cloud.

We’ll talk about the different approaches to backing up WordPress, but we recommend using a WordPress plugin to handle your backups. A backup plugin can automate the task, optimize your backup storage space, and alert you of problems with your backups or WordPress itself. We’ll cover plugins in more detail, below.

What to Back Up?

The main components of your WordPress installation are:

You should decide which of these elements you wish to back up. The database is the top priority, as it contains all your website posts and pages (exclusive of media). Your current theme is important, as it likely contains customizations you’ve made. Following those in priority are any other files you’ve customized or made changes to.

You can choose to back up the WordPress core installation and plugins, if you wish, but these files can be downloaded again if necessary from the source, so you might not wish to include them. You likely have all the media files you use on your website on your local computer (which should be backed up), so it is your choice whether to back these up from the server as well.

If you wish to be able to recreate your entire website easily in case of data loss or disaster, you might choose to back up everything, though on a large website this could be a lot of data.

Generally, you should 1) prioritize any file that you’ve customized that you can’t afford to lose, and 2) decide whether you need a copy of everything in order to get your site back up quickly. These choices will determine your backup method and the amount of storage you need.

A good backup plugin for WordPress enables you to specify which files you wish to back up, and even to create separate backups and schedules for different backup contents. That’s another good reason to use a plugin for backing up WordPress.

When to Back Up?

You can back up manually at any time by using the Export tool in WordPress. This is handy if you wish to do a quick backup of your site or parts of it. Since it is manual, however, it is not a part of a dependable backup plan that should be done regularly. If you wish to use this tool, go to Tools, Export, and select what you wish to back up. The output will be an XML file that uses the WordPress Extended RSS format, also known as WXR. You can create a WXR file that contains all of the information on your site or just portions of the site, such as posts or pages by selecting: All content, Posts, Pages, or Media.
Note: You can use WordPress’s Export tool for sites hosted on WordPress.com, as well.

Export instruction for WordPress

Many of the backup plugins we’ll be discussing later also let you do a manual backup on demand in addition to regularly scheduled or continuous backups.

Note:  Another use of the WordPress Export tool and the WXR file is to transfer or clone your website to another server. Once you have exported the WXR file from the website you wish to transfer from, you can import the WXR file from the Tools, Import menu on the new WordPress destination site. Be aware that there are file size limits depending on the settings on your web server. See the WordPress Codex entry for more information. To make this job easier, you may wish to use one of a number of WordPress plugins designed specifically for this task.

You also can manually back up the WordPress MySQL database using a number of tools or a plugin. The WordPress Codex has good information on this. All WordPress plugins will handle this for you and do it automatically. They also typically include tools for optimizing the database tables, which is just good housekeeping.

A dependable backup strategy doesn’t rely on manual backups, which means you should consider using one of the many backup plugins available either free or for purchase. We’ll talk more about them below.

Which Format To Back Up In?

In addition to the WordPress WXR format, plugins and server tools will use various file formats and compression algorithms to store and compress your backup. You may get to choose between zip, tar, tar.gz, tar.gz2, and others. See The Most Common Archive File Formats for more information on these formats.

Select a format that you know you can access and unarchive should you need access to your backup. All of these formats are standard and supported across operating systems, though you might need to download a utility to access the file.

Where To Back Up?

Once you have your data in a suitable format for backup, where do you back it up to?

We want to have multiple copies of our active website data, so we’ll choose more than one destination for our backup data. The backup plugins we’ll discuss below enable you to specify one or more possible destinations for your backup. The possible destinations for your backup include:

A backup folder on your web server
A backup folder on your web server is an OK solution if you also have a copy elsewhere. Depending on your hosting plan, the size of your site, and what you include in the backup, you may or may not have sufficient disk space on the web server. Some backup plugins allow you to configure the plugin to keep only a certain number of recent backups and delete older ones, saving you disk space on the server.
Email to you
Because email servers have size limitations, the email option is not the best one to use unless you use it to specifically back up just the database or your main theme files.
FTP, SFTP, SCP, WebDAV
FTP, SFTP, SCP, and WebDAV are all widely-supported protocols for transferring files over the internet and can be used if you have access credentials to another server or supported storage device that is suitable for storing a backup.
Sync service (Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, OneDrive)
A sync service is another possible server storage location though it can be a pricier choice depending on the plan you have and how much you wish to store.
Cloud storage (Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace)
A cloud storage service can be an inexpensive and flexible option with pay-as-you go pricing for storing backups and other data.

A good website backup strategy would be to have multiple backups of your website data: one in a backup folder on your web hosting server, one downloaded to your local computer, and one in the cloud, such as with Backblaze B2.

If I had to choose just one of these, I would choose backing up to the cloud because it is geographically separated from both your local computer and your web host, it uses fault-tolerant and redundant data storage technologies to protect your data, and it is available from anywhere if you need to restore your site.

Backup Plugins for WordPress

Probably the easiest and most common way to implement a solid backup strategy for WordPress is to use one of the many backup plugins available for WordPress. Fortunately, there are a number of good ones and are available free or in “freemium” plans in which you can use the free version and pay for more features and capabilities only if you need them. The premium options can give you more flexibility in configuring backups or have additional options for where you can store the backups.

How to Choose a WordPress Backup Plugin

screenshot of WordPress plugins search

When considering which plugin to use, you should take into account a number of factors in making your choice.

Is the plugin actively maintained and up-to-date? You can determine this from the listing in the WordPress Plugin Repository. You also can look at reviews and support comments to get an idea of user satisfaction and how well issues are resolved.

Does the plugin work with your web hosting provider? Generally, well-supported plugins do, but you might want to check to make sure there are no issues with your hosting provider.

Does it support the cloud service or protocol you wish to use? This can be determined from looking at the listing in the WordPress Plugin Repository or on the developer’s website. Developers often will add support for cloud services or other backup destinations based on user demand, so let the developer know if there is a feature or backup destination you’d like them to add to their plugin.

Other features and options to consider in choosing a backup plugin are:

  • Whether encryption of your backup data is available
  • What are the options for automatically deleting backups from the storage destination?
  • Can you globally exclude files, folders, and specific types of files from the backup?
  • Do the options for scheduling automatic backups meet your needs for frequency?
  • Can you exclude/include specific database tables (a good way to save space in your backup)?

WordPress Backup Plugins Review

Let’s review a few of the top choices for WordPress backup plugins.

UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus is one of the most popular backup plugins for WordPress with over one million active installations. It is available in both free and Premium versions.

UpdraftPlus just released support for Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage in their 1.13.9 update on September 25. According to the developer, support for Backblaze B2 was the most frequent request for a new storage option for their plugin. B2 support is available in their Premium plugin and as a stand-alone update to their standard product.

Note: The developers of UpdraftPlus are offering a special 20% discount to Backblaze customers on the purchase of UpdraftPlus Premium by using the coupon code backblaze20. The discount is valid until the end of Friday, October 6th, 2017.

screenshot of Backblaze B2 cloud backup for WordPress in UpdraftPlus

XCloner — Backup and Restore

XCloner — Backup and Restore is a useful open-source plugin with many options for backing up WordPress.

XCloner supports B2 Cloud Storage in their free plugin.

screenshot of XCloner WordPress Backblaze B2 backup settings

BlogVault

BlogVault describes themselves as a “complete WordPress backup solution.” They offer a free trial of their paid WordPress backup subscription service that features real-time backups of changes to your WordPress site, as well as many other features.

BlogVault has announced their intent to support Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage in a future update.

screenshot of BlogValut WordPress Backup settings

BackWPup

BackWPup is a popular and free option for backing up WordPress. It supports a number of options for storing your backup, including the cloud, FTP, email, or on your local computer.

screenshot of BackWPup WordPress backup settings

WPBackItUp

WPBackItUp has been around since 2012 and is highly rated. It has both free and paid versions.

screenshot of WPBackItUp WordPress backup settings

VaultPress

VaultPress is part of Automattic’s well-known WordPress product, JetPack. You will need a JetPack subscription plan to use VaultPress. There are different pricing plans with different sets of features.

screenshot of VaultPress backup settings

Backup by Supsystic

Backup by Supsystic supports a number of options for backup destinations, encryption, and scheduling.

screenshot of Backup by Supsystic backup settings

BackupWordPress

BackUpWordPress is an open-source project on Github that has a popular and active following and many positive reviews.

screenshot of BackupWordPress WordPress backup settings

BackupBuddy

BackupBuddy, from iThemes, is the old-timer of backup plugins, having been around since 2010. iThemes knows a lot about WordPress, as they develop plugins, themes, utilities, and provide training in WordPress.

BackupBuddy’s backup includes all WordPress files, all files in the WordPress Media library, WordPress themes, and plugins. BackupBuddy generates a downloadable zip file of the entire WordPress website. Remote storage destinations also are supported.

screenshot of BackupBuddy settings

WordPress and the Cloud

Do you use WordPress and back up to the cloud? We’d like to hear about it. We’d also like to hear whether you are interested in using B2 Cloud Storage for storing media files served by WordPress. If you are, we’ll write about it in a future post.

In the meantime, keep your eye out for new plugins supporting Backblaze B2, or better yet, urge them to support B2 if they’re not already.

The Best Backup Strategy is the One You Use

There are other approaches and tools for backing up WordPress that you might use. If you have an approach that works for you, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The post Backing Up WordPress appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Have Friends Who Don’t Back Up? Share This Post!

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/beginner-guide-to-computer-backup/

pointing out how to backup a computer

We’ve all been there.

A friend or family member comes to you knowing you’re a knowledgeable computer user and tells you that he has lost all the data on his computer.

You say, “Sure, I’ll help you get your computer working again. We’ll just restore your backup to a new drive or a new computer.”

Your friend looks at his feet and says, “I didn’t have a backup.”

You have to tell your friend that it’s very possible that without a backup that data is lost forever. It’s too late for a lecture about how he should have made regular backups of his computer. Your friend just wants his data back and he’s looking to you to help him.

You wish you could help. You realize that the time you could have helped was before the loss happened; when you could have helped your friend start making regular backups.

Yes, we’ve all been there. In fact, it’s how Backblaze got started.

You Can Be a Hero to a Friend by Sharing This Post

If you share this post with a friend or family member, you could avoid the situation where your friend loses his data and you wish you could help but can’t.

The following information will help your friend get started backing up in the easiest way possible — no fuss, no decisions, and no buying storage drives or plugging in cables.

The guide begins here:

Getting Started Backing Up

Your friend or family member has shared this guide with you because he or she believes you might benefit from backing up your computer. Don’t consider this an intervention, just a friendly tip that will save you lots of headaches, sorrow, and maybe money. With the right backup solution, it’s easy to protect your data against accidental deletion, theft, natural disaster, or malware, including ransomware.

Your friend was smart to send this to you, which probably means that you’re a smart person as well, so we’ll get right to the point. You likely know you should be backing up, but like all of us, don’t always get around to everything we should be doing.

You need a backup solution that is:

  1. Affordable
  2. Easy
  3. Never runs out of storage space
  4. Backs up everything automatically
  5. Restores files easily

Why Cloud Backup is the Best Solution For You

Backblaze Personal Backup was created for everyone who knows they should back up, but doesn’t. It backs up to the cloud, meaning that your data is protected in our secure data centers. A simple installation gets you started immediately, with no decisions about what or where to back up. It just works. And it’s just $5 a month to back up everything. Other services might limit the amount of data, the types of files, or both. With Backblaze, there’s no limit on the amount of data you can back up from your computer.

You can get started immediately with a free 15 day trial of Backblaze Unlimited Backup. In fewer than 5 minutes you’ll be all set.

Congratulations, You’re Done!

You can now celebrate. Your data is backed up and secure.

That’s it, and all you really need to get started backing up. We’ve included more details below, but frankly, the above is all you need to be safely and securely backed up.

You can tell the person who sent this to you that you’re now safely backed up and have moved on to other things, like what advice you can give them to help improve their life. Seriously, you might want to buy the person who sent this to you a coffee or another treat. They deserve it.

Here’s more information if you’d like to learn more about backing up.

Share or Email This Post to a Friend

Do your friend and yourself a favor and share this post. On the left side of the page (or at the bottom of the post) are buttons you can use to share this post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, or to email it directly to your friend. It will take just a few seconds and could save your friend’s data.

It could also save you from having to give someone the bad news that her finances, photos, manuscript, or other work are gone forever. That would be nice.

But your real reward will be in knowing you did the right thing.

Tell us in the comments how it went. We’d like to hear.

The post Have Friends Who Don’t Back Up? Share This Post! appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Automating Amazon EBS Snapshot Management with AWS Step Functions and Amazon CloudWatch Events

Post Syndicated from Andy Katz original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/automating-amazon-ebs-snapshot-management-with-aws-step-functions-and-amazon-cloudwatch-events/

Brittany Doncaster, Solutions Architect

Business continuity is important for building mission-critical workloads on AWS. As an AWS customer, you might define recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) for different tier applications in your business. After the RPO and RTO requirements are defined, it is up to your architects to determine how to meet those requirements.

You probably store persistent data in Amazon EBS volumes, which live within a single Availability Zone. And, following best practices, you take snapshots of your EBS volumes to back up the data on Amazon S3, which provides 11 9’s of durability. If you are following these best practices, then you’ve probably recognized the need to manage the number of snapshots you keep for a particular EBS volume and delete older, unneeded snapshots. Doing this cleanup helps save on storage costs.

Some customers also have policies stating that backups need to be stored a certain number of miles away as part of a disaster recovery (DR) plan. To meet these requirements, customers copy their EBS snapshots to the DR region. Then, the same snapshot management and cleanup has to also be done in the DR region.

All of this snapshot management logic consists of different components. You would first tag your snapshots so you could manage them. Then, determine how many snapshots you currently have for a particular EBS volume and assess that value against a retention rule. If the number of snapshots was greater than your retention value, then you would clean up old snapshots. And finally, you might copy the latest snapshot to your DR region. All these steps are just an example of a simple snapshot management workflow. But how do you automate something like this in AWS? How do you do it without servers?

One of the most powerful AWS services released in 2016 was Amazon CloudWatch Events. It enables you to build event-driven IT automation, based on events happening within your AWS infrastructure. CloudWatch Events integrates with AWS Lambda to let you execute your custom code when one of those events occurs. However, the actions to take based on those events aren’t always composed of a single Lambda function. Instead, your business logic may consist of multiple steps (like in the case of the example snapshot management flow described earlier). And you may want to run those steps in sequence or in parallel. You may also want to have retry logic or exception handling for each step.

AWS Step Functions serves just this purpose―to help you coordinate your functions and microservices. Step Functions enables you to simplify your effort and pull the error handling, retry logic, and workflow logic out of your Lambda code. Step Functions integrates with Lambda to provide a mechanism for building complex serverless applications. Now, you can kick off a Step Functions state machine based on a CloudWatch event.

In this post, I discuss how you can target Step Functions in a CloudWatch Events rule. This allows you to have event-driven snapshot management based on snapshot completion events firing in CloudWatch Event rules.

As an example of what you could do with Step Functions and CloudWatch Events, we’ve developed a reference architecture that performs management of your EBS snapshots.

Automating EBS Snapshot Management with Step Functions

This architecture assumes that you have already set up CloudWatch Events to create the snapshots on a schedule or that you are using some other means of creating snapshots according to your needs.

This architecture covers the pieces of the workflow that need to happen after a snapshot has been created.

  • It creates a CloudWatch Events rule to invoke a Step Functions state machine execution when an EBS snapshot is created.
  • The state machine then tags the snapshot, cleans up the oldest snapshots if the number of snapshots is greater than the defined number to retain, and copies the snapshot to a DR region.
  • When the DR region snapshot copy is completed, another state machine kicks off in the DR region. The new state machine has a similar flow and uses some of the same Lambda code to clean up the oldest snapshots that are greater than the defined number to retain.
  • Also, both state machines demonstrate how you can use Step Functions to handle errors within your workflow. Any errors that are caught during execution result in the execution of a Lambda function that writes a message to an SNS topic. Therefore, if any errors occur, you can subscribe to the SNS topic and get notified.

The following is an architecture diagram of the reference architecture:

Creating the Lambda functions and Step Functions state machines

First, pull the code from GitHub and use the AWS CLI to create S3 buckets for the Lambda code in the primary and DR regions. For this example, assume that the primary region is us-west-2 and the DR region is us-east-2. Run the following commands, replacing the italicized text in <> with your own unique bucket names.

git clone https://github.com/awslabs/aws-step-functions-ebs-snapshot-mgmt.git

cd aws-step-functions-ebs-snapshot-mgmt/

aws s3 mb s3://<primary region bucket name> --region us-west-2

aws s3 mb s3://<DR region bucket name> --region us-east-2

Next, use the Serverless Application Model (SAM), which uses AWS CloudFormation to deploy the Lambda functions and Step Functions state machines in the primary and DR regions. Replace the italicized text in <> with the S3 bucket names that you created earlier.

aws cloudformation package --template-file PrimaryRegionTemplate.yaml --s3-bucket <primary region bucket name>  --output-template-file tempPrimary.yaml --region us-west-2

aws cloudformation deploy --template-file tempPrimary.yaml --stack-name ebsSnapshotMgmtPrimary --capabilities CAPABILITY_IAM --region us-west-2

aws cloudformation package --template-file DR_RegionTemplate.yaml --s3-bucket <DR region bucket name> --output-template-file tempDR.yaml  --region us-east-2

aws cloudformation deploy --template-file tempDR.yaml --stack-name ebsSnapshotMgmtDR --capabilities CAPABILITY_IAM --region us-east-2

CloudWatch event rule verification

The CloudFormation templates deploy the following resources:

  • The Lambda functions that are coordinated by Step Functions
  • The Step Functions state machine
  • The SNS topic
  • The CloudWatch Events rules that trigger the state machine execution

So, all of the CloudWatch event rules have been created for you by performing the preceding commands. The next section demonstrates how you could create the CloudWatch event rule manually. To jump straight to testing the workflow, see the “Testing in your Account” section. Otherwise, you begin by setting up the CloudWatch event rule in the primary region for the createSnapshot event and also the CloudWatch event rule in the DR region for the copySnapshot command.

First, open the CloudWatch console in the primary region.

Choose Create Rule and create a rule for the createSnapshot command, with your newly created Step Function state machine as the target.

For Event Source, choose Event Pattern and specify the following values:

  • Service Name: EC2
  • Event Type: EBS Snapshot Notification
  • Specific Event: createSnapshot

For Target, choose Step Functions state machine, then choose the state machine created by the CloudFormation commands. Choose Create a new role for this specific resource. Your completed rule should look like the following:

Choose Configure Details and give the rule a name and description.

Choose Create Rule. You now have a CloudWatch Events rule that triggers a Step Functions state machine execution when the EBS snapshot creation is complete.

Now, set up the CloudWatch Events rule in the DR region as well. This looks almost same, but is based off the copySnapshot event instead of createSnapshot.

In the upper right corner in the console, switch to your DR region. Choose CloudWatch, Create Rule.

For Event Source, choose Event Pattern and specify the following values:

  • Service Name: EC2
  • Event Type: EBS Snapshot Notification
  • Specific Event: copySnapshot

For Target, choose Step Functions state machine, then select the state machine created by the CloudFormation commands. Choose Create a new role for this specific resource. Your completed rule should look like in the following:

As in the primary region, choose Configure Details and then give this rule a name and description. Complete the creation of the rule.

Testing in your account

To test this setup, open the EC2 console and choose Volumes. Select a volume to snapshot. Choose Actions, Create Snapshot, and then create a snapshot.

This results in a new execution of your state machine in the primary and DR regions. You can view these executions by going to the Step Functions console and selecting your state machine.

From there, you can see the execution of the state machine.

Primary region state machine:

DR region state machine:

I’ve also provided CloudFormation templates that perform all the earlier setup without using git clone and running the CloudFormation commands. Choose the Launch Stack buttons below to launch the primary and DR region stacks in Dublin and Ohio, respectively. From there, you can pick up at the Testing in Your Account section above to finish the example. All of the code for this example architecture is located in the aws-step-functions-ebs-snapshot-mgmt AWSLabs repo.

Launch EBS Snapshot Management into Ireland with CloudFormation
Primary Region eu-west-1 (Ireland)

Launch EBS Snapshot Management into Ohio with CloudFormation
DR Region us-east-2 (Ohio)

Summary

This reference architecture is just an example of how you can use Step Functions and CloudWatch Events to build event-driven IT automation. The possibilities are endless:

  • Use this pattern to perform other common cleanup type jobs such as managing Amazon RDS snapshots, old versions of Lambda functions, or old Amazon ECR images—all triggered by scheduled events.
  • Use Trusted Advisor events to identify unused EC2 instances or EBS volumes, then coordinate actions on them, such as alerting owners, stopping, or snapshotting.

Happy coding and please let me know what useful state machines you build!

Strategies for Backing Up Windows Computers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/strategies-for-backing-up-windows-computers/

Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 logos

There’s a little company called Apple making big announcements this week, but about 45% of you are on Windows machines, so we thought it would be a good idea to devote a blog post today to Windows users and the options they have for backing up Windows computers.

We’ll be talking about the various options for backing up Windows desktop OS’s 7, 8, and 10, and Windows servers. We’ve written previously about this topic in How to Back Up Windows, and Computer Backup Options, but we’ll be covering some new topics and ways to combine strategies in this post. So, if you’re a Windows user looking for shelter from all the Apple hoopla, welcome to our Apple Announcement Day Windows Backup Day post.

Windows laptop

First, Let’s Talk About What We Mean by Backup

This might seem to our readers like an unneeded appetizer on the way to the main course of our post, but we at Backblaze know that people often mean very different things when they use backup and related terms. Let’s start by defining what we mean when we say backup, cloud storage, sync, and archive.

Backup
A backup is an active copy of the system or files that you are using. It is distinguished from an archive, which is the storing of data that is no longer in active use. Backups fall into two main categories: file and image. File backup software will back up whichever files you designate by either letting you include files you wish backed up or by excluding files you don’t want backed up, or both. An image backup, sometimes called a disaster recovery backup or a system clone, is useful if you need to recreate your system on a new drive or computer.
The first backup generally will be a full backup of all files. After that, the backup will be incremental, meaning that only files that have been changed since the full backup will be added. Often, the software will keep changed versions of the files for some period of time, so you can maintain a number of previous revisions of your files in case you wish to return to something in an earlier version of your file.
The destination for your backup could be another drive on your computer, an attached drive, a network-attached drive (NAS), or the cloud.
Cloud Storage
Cloud storage vendors supply data storage just as a utility company supplies power, gas, or water. Cloud storage can be used for data backups, but it can also be used for data archives, application data, records, or libraries of photos, videos, and other media.
You contract with the service for storing any type of data, and the storage location is available to you via the internet. Cloud storage providers generally charge by some combination of data ingress, egress, and the amount of data stored.
Sync
File sync is useful for files that you wish to have access to from different places or computers, or for files that you wish to share with others. While sync has its uses, it has limitations for keeping files safe and how much it could cost you to store large amounts of data. As opposed to backup, which keeps revision of files, sync is designed to keep two or more locations exactly the same. Sync costs are based on how much data you sync and can get expensive for large amounts of data.
Archive
A data archive is for data that is no longer in active use but needs to be saved, and may or may not ever be retrieved again. In old-style storage parlance, it is called cold storage. An archive could be stored with a cloud storage provider, or put on a hard drive or flash drive that you disconnect and put in the closet, or mail to your brother in Idaho.

What’s the Best Strategy for Backing Up?

Now that we’ve got our terminology clear, let’s talk backup strategies for Windows.

At Backblaze, we advocate the 3-2-1 strategy for safeguarding your data, which means that you should maintain three copies of any valuable data — two copies stored locally and one stored remotely. I follow this strategy at home by working on the active data on my Windows 10 desktop computer (copy one), which is backed up to a Drobo RAID device attached via USB (copy two), and backing up the desktop to Backblaze’s Personal Backup in the cloud (copy three). I also keep an image of my primary disk on a separate drive and frequently update it using Windows 10’s image tool.

I use Dropbox for sharing specific files I am working on that I might wish to have access to when I am traveling or on another computer. Once my subscription with Dropbox expires, I’ll use the latest release of Backblaze that has individual file preview with sharing built-in.

Before you decide which backup strategy will work best for your situation, you’ll need to ask yourself a number of questions. These questions include where you wish to store your backups, whether you wish to supply your own storage media, whether the backups will be manual or automatic, and whether limited or unlimited data storage will work best for you.

Strategy 1 — Back Up to a Local or Attached Drive

The first copy of the data you are working on is often on your desktop or laptop. You can create a second copy of your data on another drive or directory on your computer, or copy the data to a drive directly attached to your computer, such as via USB.

external hard drive and RAID NAS devices

Windows has built-in tools for both file and image level backup. Depending on which version of Windows you use, these tools are called Backup and Restore, File History, or Image. These tools enable you to set a schedule for automatic backups, which ensures that it is done regularly. You also have the choice to use Windows Explorer (aka File Explorer) to manually copy files to another location. Some external disk drives and USB Flash Drives come with their own backup software, and other backup utilities are available for free or for purchase.

Windows Explorer File History screenshot

This is a supply-your-own media solution, meaning that you need to have a hard disk or other medium available of sufficient size to hold all your backup data. When a disk becomes full, you’ll need to add a disk or swap out the full disk to continue your backups.

We’ve written previously on this strategy at Should I use an external drive for backup?

Strategy 2 — Back Up to a Local Area Network (LAN)

Computers, servers, and network-attached-storage (NAS) on your local network all can be used for backing up data. Microsoft’s built-in backup tools can be used for this job, as can any utility that supports network protocols such as NFS or SMB/CIFS, which are common protocols that allow shared access to files on a network for Windows and other operatings systems. There are many third-party applications available as well that provide extensive options for managing and scheduling backups and restoring data when needed.

NAS cloud

Multiple computers can be backed up to a single network-shared computer, server, or NAS, which also could then be backed up to the cloud, which rounds out a nice backup strategy, because it covers both local and remote copies of your data. System images of multiple computers on the LAN can be included in these backups if desired.

Again, you are managing the backup media on the local network, so you’ll need to be sure you have sufficient room on the destination drives to store all your backup data.

Strategy 3 — Back Up to Detached Drive at Another Location

You may have have read our recent blog post, Getting Data Archives Out of Your Closet, in which we discuss the practice of filling hard drives and storing them in a closet. Of course, to satisfy the off-site backup guideline, these drives would need to be stored in a closet that’s in a different geographical location than your main computer. If you’re willing to do all the work of copying the data to drives and transporting them to another location, this is a viable option.

stack of hard drives

The only limitation to the amount of backup data is the number of hard drives you are willing to purchase — and maybe the size of your closet.

Strategy 4 — Back Up to the Cloud

Backing up to the cloud has become a popular option for a number of reasons. Internet speeds have made moving large amounts of data possible, and not having to worry about supplying the storage media simplifies choices for users. Additionally, cloud vendors implement features such as data protection, deduplication, and encryption as part of their services that make cloud storage reliable, secure, and efficient. Unlimited cloud storage for data from a single computer is a popular option.

A backup vendor likely will provide a software client that runs on your computer and backs up your data to the cloud in the background while you’re doing other things, such as Backblaze Personal Backup, which has clients for Windows computers, Macintosh computers, and mobile apps for both iOS and Android. For restores, Backblaze users can download one or all of their files for free from anywhere in the world. Optionally, a 128 GB flash drive or 4 TB drive can be overnighted to the customer, with a refund available if the drive is returned.

Storage Pod in the cloud

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage is an option for those who need capabilities beyond Backblaze’s Personal Backup. B2 provides cloud storage that is priced based on the amount of data the customer uses, and is suitable for long-term data storage. B2 supports integrations with NAS devices, as well as Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers and servers.

Services such as BackBlaze B2 are often called Cloud Object Storage or IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), because they provide a complete solution for storing all types of data in partnership with vendors who integrate various solutions for working with B2. B2 has its own API (Application Programming Interface) and CLI (Command-line Interface) to work with B2, but B2 becomes even more powerful when paired with any one of a number of other solutions for data storage and management provided by third parties who offer both hardware and software solutions.

Backing Up Windows Servers

Windows Servers are popular workstations for some users, and provide needed network services for others. They also can be used to store backups from other computers on the network. They, in turn, can be backed up to attached drives or the cloud. While our Personal Backup client doesn’t support Windows servers, our B2 Cloud Storage has a number of integrations with vendors who supply software or hardware for storing data both locally and on B2. We’ve written a number of blog posts and articles that address these solutions, including How to Back Up your Windows Server with B2 and CloudBerry.

Sometimes the Best Strategy is to Mix and Match

The great thing about computers, software, and networks is that there is an endless number of ways to combine them. Our users and hardware and software partners are ingenious in configuring solutions that save data locally, copy it to an attached or network drive, and then store it to the cloud.

image of cloud backup

Among our B2 partners, Synology, CloudBerry Archiware, QNAP, Morro Data, and GoodSync have integrations that allow their NAS devices to store and retrieve data to and from B2 Cloud Storage. For a drag-and-drop experience on the desktop, take a look at CyberDuck, MountainDuck, and Dropshare, which provide users with an easy and interactive way to store and use data in B2.

If you’d like to explore more options for combining software, hardware, and cloud solutions, we invite you to browse the integrations for our many B2 partners.

Have Questions?

Windows versions, tools, and backup terminology all can be confusing, and we know how hard it can be to make sense of all of it. If there’s something we haven’t addressed here, or if you have a question or contribution, please let us know in the comments.

And happy Windows Backup Day! (Just don’t tell Apple.)

The post Strategies for Backing Up Windows Computers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.