Why Network-Attached Storage (NAS) Security is Important

Securing network-attached storage (NAS) environments gives companies confidence in their data protection. Enterprise NAS systems often store sensitive company and customer data, and attackers may view them as an easy target, because they are often connected to easy-to-access networks. 

Security strategies like password protection, regular software updates, and strong access controls help companies take control of NAS environments and defend their data. Businesses must make consistent effort over time to maintain storage security, including all NAS arrays. Without implementing overall NAS security, businesses risk major financial loss, damaged reputation, and challenging recovery procedures.

Why NAS security is critical

Importance of NAS security 

Good data management 

Enterprise security includes protecting all storage solutions, including NAS environments, and data-related applications. 

Data is one of the most valuable assets of any business, because it provides organizations with information to make better operational and sales decisions. This includes the ability to better serve customers. With the right data analytics tools, a business can provide the right goods and services to customers who need them, rather than guessing which services to market.  

However, NAS-based data and other data has to be protected for companies to reap its full benefits. Data security is a responsibility of businesses and general good practice. 

Compliance 

Companies that store and manage customer data in a NAS environment are subject to data protection and privacy regulatory standards. Regulatory standards may mandate the following: 

  • Restricting access to NAS systems and implementing different access privileges. For example, one employee might not receive access to any NAS systems. Another might be able to view files stored in the NAS but not edit them. 
  • Notifying users of personal data transfers to third-party organizations or another country. If files within NAS are shared with a business partner in another country, the organization may be required to disclose that to any customers whose personal data is in those files. 
  • Deleting data from enterprise NAS systems once it has reached its allotted storage time. Some data protection regulations limit the number of years that companies can store customer data. Businesses must carefully manage their NAS systems to determine whether they’re storing customer information for the appropriate length of time. 
  • Encrypting customer data. Some regulatory standards require security measures such as encryption to shield personal data from unfriendly, unauthorized eyes. 

Finances and reputation 

Organizations that protect their data can save money. Losing data requires time and effort to rebuild: recovering the data may mean exceeding preferred recovery times, and it often requires financial investment. Additionally, losing customer files can negatively impact a company’s reputation with their customers.

Cards Technology, a cloud, security, and business continuity vendor, estimates the cost of a breach at $200,000 for small to medium businesses. The numbers are much higher for enterprises across the world, though: according to IBM, the global cost of a data breach was $4.35 million.

Safeguarding proprietary information 

NAS devices are a good location for archived files that don’t need to be accessed frequently. However, that data can include customer information and business secrets. And often, NAS systems aren’t secure, according to Chase Wu, co-director at the Center for Big Data at New Jersey Institute of Technology. 

“Many businesses nowadays still use NAS arrays to store valuable proprietary information in their local environments, partially due to the lack of trustworthiness on the use of cloud storage,” Wu said. 

“Since such storage devices are typically connected to the network for public access with limited security measures, they are often included on the target list of cybercriminals.”

Although it’s not bad to avoid storing proprietary data in cloud solutions, the on-premises alternative shouldn’t be ridden with vulnerabilities, either. Consistent and practical NAS security helps storage teams avoid this mistake. 

NAS security vulnerabilities

Some key NAS vulnerabilities include:

  • Exposure to malicious internet traffic and unsecured web pages
  • Malware and ransomware attacks
  • Default admin passwords that are easy to hack
  • Outdated software

Cyberthreats NAS security prevents

Single-extortion ransomware attacks

Single-extortion ransomware attacks can be prevented by full, recoverable NAS backups. It takes time and thoughtful storage to maintain backups of an entire NAS system, but it’s worth the effort if a ransomware attack hits the business, and there’s no need to pay the ransom. Note that groups using double-extortion tactics, by threatening to publish company data on the internet, won’t be deterred by backups. 

Data theft 

If a company requires authentication at each entry point for the NAS, including protecting other devices on the network with passwords, then attackers will have far fewer opportunities to reach the data stored on NAS devices. Their chances to move laterally are much lower when each access point requires authorized credentials. This also decreases the chance of data being stolen. 

Easy targets in firmware

Unpatched operating systems and other storage device firmware provide an open door for attackers if they’re not immediately fixed. Some proactive hackers will learn about vulnerabilities before or immediately when they’re announced and then be able to locate the back door into the NAS system before the business patches it. But a quickly patched operating system or any other management software is much easier to protect. 

Is investing in NAS security worth it? 

Security professionals consistently tell businesses about the many tools they should be implementing to protect their storage systems. But most security solutions require a hefty financial and employee training investment. To successfully implement firewalls, encryption plans, thorough backup strategies, and internet security protocols, businesses have to put in extensive preparation and deployment work. 

For companies that are wondering if security solutions are worth the time and money required to implement them, keep in mind that a ransomware attack or network outage doesn’t just cost money. It also affects the business’s reputation. If an organization is known for not protecting its customers’ data or having applications down, it could lose patronage and revenue long-term. The average cost of a breach in the United States is $9.4 million, according to IBM’s 2022 data breach report

Keep in mind that successful NAS security doesn’t mean purchasing every type of tool on the market, but certain ones, like advanced firewalls and identity and access management (IAM) tools, are good building blocks. Strong password protection and thorough employee training also goes a long way. Not all security strategies have to be expensive. 

Yes, NAS security is challenging to plan and deploy, and it requires collaboration from not only IT and storage teams but often also business leaders. But for enterprises that want to be successful for decades to come, it’s critical. And for data stored in network-attached storage systems, it’s essential.   

Learn how to secure your NAS environments: Best Practices for NAS Security

Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a contributor for Enterprise Mobile Today, Webopedia.com, and Enterprise Storage Forum. She writes about information technology security, networking, and data storage. Jenna lives in Nashville, TN.

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