Content Assessment: Thwarting Architectural Imbalance? Considering Dynamic Distributed Secure Storage Against Ransomware
Information - 90%
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Relevance - 90%
Objectivity - 90%
Authority - 95%
A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the published paper on dynamic distributed secure storage to thwart ransomware.
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Dynamic Distributed Secure Storage Against Ransomware
Citation: J. Castiglione and D. Pavlovic, “Dynamic Distributed Secure Storage Against Ransomware,” in IEEE Transactions on Computational Social Systems, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 1469-1475, Dec. 2020, doi: 10.1109/TCSS.2019.2924650.
In just a few years, ransomware evolved into one of the most pernicious threats on the web. From hijacking private disks, the cybercriminals moved to disabling hospital networks, while the cyberwarriors launched destructive cyberwar exercises masquerading as ransomware. To match the variety of attacks, there is also a variety of promising proposals for the mitigation of the ransomware problem by disrupting the attack cycle at various points. None of them seems to be eliminating the vulnerability of static nodes in dynamic networks. We put forward the idea that ransomware is a symptom of a broader problem of architectural imbalance in social computation, while the processes are dynamic and nonlocal, the storage is static and local. We study and discuss some paths toward dynamic, nonlocal, and secure storage. Furthermore, we provide a toy method for locally encrypting the data that can provide a balance of high security and encryption speed.
Introduction: Why is There Ransomware?
In the recent years, ransomware has emerged as a significant threat across all levels of use, from individuals, hospitals, and banks, to government institutions and organizations. It continues to spread, since ultimately it is profitable. The passive storage architecture enables malicious executables to hijack the locally stored data. Until recently, the stolen data was siphoned away and monetized on the black market. Ransomware enabled criminals to profit from hacking into systems where the data could not be sold to other criminals. They realized the data had value to the owners.
Why is hijacking local storage and ransoming it to the owner much easier than attempting to ransom the communication links? The answer to this question is full of intrigue and goes back to the design of the Internet. The origin story of the Internet is motivated by the cold war. The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were in an arms race. They were designing nuclear command and control systems to insure if one side launched nuclear ballistic missiles then the other would respond in kind. The main concern was designing a communications network that was resilient to nuclear attack so that it may delay the launch of a retaliation strike in case of any erroneous warnings. P. Baran of RAND Corporation studied the problem and, in multiple reports, started architecting a new system where the switching nodes stored minimal information. The work at RAND in the 1960s made a paradigm change in the communications systems so that a large message would be broken up into smaller ones of a fixed size and be passed along until it reached its destination.
As mentioned above, the Internet was born of social and political challenges. It answered the requirement of a robust communications infrastructure that could survive an all-out nuclear war. A consequence of designing such a robust communications network is that criminals now have access and are able to reach beyond their backyard. We argue that ransomware and denial of access to data present us with the next challenge. It is imperative to design a resilient and secure storage system that can survive local attacks and the degradation of service.
In this paper, we focus on ransomware, which is a type of digital crime that is essentially theft of information followed by demanding a ransom from the victim to regain access. We recommend a paradigm change, akin to the ARPANET project, with regards to a broadly deployed network storage system. The intent is to find a solution which addresses: 1) the financial incentive for ransomware attacks and 2) the difficulty of securing a system from an ever-evolving social/technical attack matrix. In addition, we take into account the restraint that any solution must be cost-effective.
Thus, we submit that the architecture with: 1) local, single-copy storage of valuable confidential data and 2) local control of program executions, often irreversible, is indefensible. Either 1) needs to be relaxed, so that the confidentiality requirement can be satisfied by nonlocal, cloud storage. Otherwise, 2) needs to be relaxed, and the executions of potentially harmful payloads should be removed from the user’s hands.
The confluence of problems (1) and (2) is due to legacy and commercial interests. Changing the architecture is much easier and cheaper than defending it. Resolving problem (2) by restricting what the users can execute has been introduced effectively and resourcefully when this was needed for digital rights management (DRM) and for the software IP protections, as well as when such restrictions provided a foundation for the market of approved apps. Resolving problem (1) by assuring the confidentiality of nonlocal (cloud) storage is an interesting challenge which requires reconciling technical investments into the solution and the rational confidentiality requirements.
Dynamic Distributed Secure Storage Against Ransomware
*Shared with permission under Creative Commons – Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) – license.
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