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Ensuring Comprehensive Data Protection: 8 NAS Security Best Practices

A reliable NAS security system is critical for data protection. Discover how NAS backups can support production continuity and compliance.

Network-attached storage (NAS) is a reliable data storage solution. Nearly 80% of midsize and large enterprises use network-attached storage of some tier to store data. This makes NAS cybersecurity critical to maintaining production continuity and ensuring regulatory compliance.

For Further Reading:

Zero Trust Model: The Best Way to Build a Robust Data Backup Strategy

Unstructured Data Management: Plan Your Security and Governance

Assessing Your Cybersecurity Risk: Why, What, How?

This article explains the most common NAS security challenges that can cause data loss and infrastructure downtime and eight best practices to enhance your NAS security and improve data protection.

NAS Security Challenges

Modern cyberthreats are numerous and sophisticated enough to target every IT system and device, including NAS. Even nodes that are not connected to the internet can be targeted by malicious actors. Below you can explore some of the most relevant challenges to NAS cybersecurity.

Password reliability and security. Phishing (and specifically spear phishing) cyberattacks aim either to make unsuspecting users click a malicious link or trick them into giving out credentials. When the NAS password is compromised, a data breach can follow. Breaking through weak passwords doesn’t even require preliminary preparation; hackers can simply guess them and access data storage.

Uncontrolled connections. NAS devices are convenient to use as shared storage, which means they should be connected to other nodes. Normally, those nodes are the machines inside an organization’s network. However, the growing number of gadgets per employee can lead to unintentional external connections.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are a separate threat category. Hackers can target these devices and then use them to propagate malicious codes inside corporate networks. If you connect such a device to your NAS, you risk compromising NAS security and then suffering a cyberattack.

Viruses and malware. Malicious software remains a ubiquitous threat to any node connected to the network. Malware can steal, delete, and block access to NAS data or intercept incoming and outgoing traffic. Furthermore, the example of Stuxnet shows that powerful computer worms can disrupt and disable IT hardware or even entire production clusters.

Insider threats. When planning an organization’s cybersecurity, IT experts reasonably focus on outside threats. However, malicious insiders threaten a large number of organizations globally every year. Although this type of threat is not as frequent as viruses, an insider obtaining important login credentials and knowing the infrastructure can be significantly more dangerous for an organization.

Ransomware infections. Ransomware is another ever-evolving and flexible threat to NAS cybersecurity that can bypass traditional protection and ransomware detection until the very last moment. A disturbing development is ransomware specifically targeting NAS. Cybercriminals know about the value of NAS data for organizations and try to hit this storage to increase the chance of obtaining the ransom.

NAS Cybersecurity Best Practices

There are methods to enhance NAS security against these (and other) threats. Consider applying the following best practices to your NAS to keep control over your data in case of a cyberattack.

Best Practice #1: Use complex passwords

For Further Reading:

Zero Trust Model: The Best Way to Build a Robust Data Backup Strategy

Unstructured Data Management: Plan Your Security and Governance

Assessing Your Cybersecurity Risk: Why, What, How?

Avoid using default NAS passwords. Leaving a default password in production is equal to leaving a key near the door to your house. Change the default admin account password and any other password that grants access to NAS data (for example, that of an SSH account).

A strong password is at least 8 random symbols, including uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (for example, uLd&3m*P). You need unique passwords of that type for every account that can access NAS.

Best Practice #2: Disable the default admin account

On most NAS devices, you can create new user accounts and configure admin rights for each depending on your requirements. I recommend you demote the default admin account to a regular one. You can also delete that default account entirely to prevent hackers from exploiting possible backdoor vulnerabilities.

By demoting or removing the default admin account, you take some opportunities out of hackers’ hands. They then need to put additional effort into trying to obtain the username of a new admin account.

Best Practice #3: Avoid using default ports

Just like default admin credentials, default ports that establish network connections for NAS are known. A cybercriminal trying to breach into your data storage knows these ports and has a starting attack vector to try.

Switching default ports to random ones can help you pose additional challenges for hackers, thus improving your network-attached storage security. With random ports, the chance for random attacks to become successful is significantly lower.

Best Practice #4: Enable SSL

Ensure that your NAS has a secure encrypted remote connection. Check the URL: it should start with https:// and have a lock icon on the left of the browser bar. Secure connections keep data such as login credentials unavailable for third parties intercepting traffic.

Enabling SSL may require certain configurations, such as redirecting connections and installing an SSL certificate on your NAS. Network-attached storage vendors have instructions on these configurations in user manuals.

Best Practice #5: Set up a VPN connection

You can use VPN capabilities to block outsiders from accessing your NAS via the internet. Converting the NAS to a VPN server requires logging into the VPN first. This step helps you automatically encrypt connections and leave fewer access ports open.

Best Practice #6: Perform timely updates of NAS firmware

NAS firmware can also be the target for cybercriminals. If you don’t update firmware on time, the risk of hackers exploiting newly discovered vulnerabilities increases. Usually, such vulnerabilities and backdoors get patched urgently.

The main point here is that you should ensure timely firmware updates. Follow the NAS vendor releases and install new firmware versions as quickly as possible.

Best Practice #7: Use firewalls

A built-in firewall is another tool to enhance your NAS cybersecurity. If your device has this tool, enable it and ensure only trusted IP addresses can have access to the storage. With properly configured firewalls, you can prevent any third party from attempting to access your NAS from the outside.

Best Practice #8: Implement NAS backup

Regardless of the solutions you use to secure network storage, attackers can always infiltrate your environment. Security failure can lead to a data loss disaster that can result in financial and reputational damage, legal issues, and compliance fines.

Implementing a specialized solution to back up your network-attached storage is a reliable way to enhance NAS data protection. With a modern solution, you can set up regular automated backups of your NAS and send backup data to different onsite, offsite, and cloud storage, ensuring you keep control over your data in case of a cyberattack. Whenever a data loss disaster occurs to the main storage, backups can be used for full or granular recovery of critical items.

Additionally, you can enable immutability for NAS backups, protecting backup data from alteration or deletion. Immutable backups can’t be encrypted or deleted by ransomware. You can use such backups to restore NAS data even if ransomware successfully reaches your backup repository.

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