When listening to mom pays off: a last-minute decision foils a ransomware attack

Ransomware attacks are an unfortunate reality faced by companies of all shapes and sizes. When the Kodiak Island Borough had its data threatened by a ransomware attack, we used Veeam to help us recover our data.

IT life on Kodiak Island

Kodiak Island Borough is a unique place, and that’s why I live there. Located on an archipelago that spans 16 islands along the Alaskan coastline, the island is home to 3,000 Kodiak brown bears and 30,000 people. I first moved to Kodiak Island with my family in 1980 when I was in second grade, after my dad got a job there with the U.S. Coast Guard.

I ventured to Texas for college and started a degree in Computer Science. Hijinks saw my debts grow as my grades dropped… So, when an opening came up as a PC tech at Kodiak Island Borough, I saw an opportunity to return to the place I truly loved growing up in — and I took it. Moving back to the island marked the beginning of a 30-year career in the borough’s IT department. I’m now an IT supervisor and consider protecting government data one of the most important responsibilities of my job.

Mom’s advice is useful during a ransomware attack

When I was younger, my mom taught me to always clean the house before you go on vacation, so you can have a relaxing time away and a smooth return. I’d internalized this message for my work too, so I decided to address some issues I’d been having with our Veritas Backup Exec solution before I left for a conference on the mainland.

Backups failed for two weeks straight, putting our data in jeopardy. I spent hours trying to get out of Level 1 tech support. Venting my frustration in online forums about inaccessible resources wasn’t doing the trick. Instead, I downloaded a free trial version of Veeam, created a backup and left for my conference.

I was getting ready to go onstage to present when I learned that Kodiak Island Borough had been hit by a cyberattack. A colleague had noticed an unusual file appear on his desktop. Ironically, my presentation was focused on stress and how to deal with it, and I’d just received the most stressful news of a decades-long career!

After pulling myself together and delivering my speech, I raced back to the office in Kodiak Island and started working on the data recovery process. It had been less than 24 hours since I had first turned to Veeam, and now it was the one thing standing between us and disaster.

The ransomware crisis: using Veeam to recover data

As I brought up virtual servers within our VMware console, I could see they were being encrypted in real-time. I quickly shut everything down and turned my attention to rebuilding our environment using the Veeam backup. As a single resource, I needed to act quickly and methodically. I succeeded by leaning heavily on the incident management workflows I’d learned through incident command classes. As the saying goes: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

After catching fitful rest in a sleeping bag on my office floor, I decided to check the ransom. To my surprise, it was only half a bitcoin — which at the time, cost about $200! I ended up paying the ransom, but still went through the restore process with Veeam. We talked about doing a dry run of our DR process, and this forced my hand — albeit under the most stressful of circumstances.

All the same, I consider myself extremely fortunate. Lucky that I switched to Veeam when I did. Lucky that I listened to my mom and cleaned the house before I left for my conference. Since then, we’ve tightened up our cybersecurity measures even more, and added an air-gapped tape library and better antivirus software.

Keep your data “clean” and safe

But fundamentally, while the cybersecurity landscape might be ever changing, the requirement for backups is fixed and constant. With Veeam protecting our key data at Kodiak Island Borough, we can rest assured that we will always be protected and can always restore our data even in the event of a cyberattack. Our next plan is to move backup into the cloud, and we’re delighted that Veeam is staying with us every step of the way.

If you want to find out how Veeam can protect your company’s data from ransomware, you can request a custom demo

The author and his mom
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