Object Lock 101: Protecting Data From Ransomware

A decorative image showing a cloud with a computer monitor and a lock screen. A heading reads Ransomware Protection with Object Lock.

2023 was a record-breaking year for ransomware, with threat actors targeting higher ed institutions, schools, governments, and hospitals, amongst other targets. And, a study by cybersecurity firm Sophos found that 94% of organizations hit by ransomware in the past year said that the cybercriminals attempted to compromise their backups during the attack. 

If your backups are compromised, you lose one of the strongest cards in your hand when it comes to recovery. But with advances in backup protection like Object Lock, you can add one more layer of defense between cybercriminals and your business data.

In this post, we’ll explain:

  • What Object Lock is.
  • What Object Lock does.
  • Why you should use it.
  • When you should use it.

More On Protecting Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

This post is a part of our ongoing series on ransomware. Take a look at our other posts for more information on how businesses can defend themselves against a ransomware attack, the latest patterns in ransomware attacks, and more.

➔ Download the Complete Guide to Ransomware

What Is Object Lock?

Object Lock is a powerful backup protection tool that prevents a file from being altered or deleted until a given date. When you set the lock, you can specify the length of time an object should be locked. Any attempts to manipulate, copy, encrypt, change, or delete the file will be rejected during that time. (NOTE: At Backblaze, the Object Lock feature was previously referred to as “File Lock,” and you may see the term from time to time in documentation. They are one and the same.)

A decorative image showing a lock icon.

Reminder: What Is an Object?

An object is a discrete unit of data that includes both the information itself—a file, image, video, or any other digital content—and its metadata. Objects are typically stored in object storage systems (hey, that’s us!), where each object is uniquely identified and accessed via a unique address.

What Does Object Lock Do?

Object Lock allows you to store data using a write once, read many (WORM) model. You write the data to a storage medium, then it can only be read after that for a defined period of time. No one can change it, including the data owner, the cloud provider storing the data, or whoever set the Object Lock. 

Enabling Object Lock is a one-time operation. Once it is enabled on a bucket (either a new or existing bucket), you can assign Object Lock settings on specific files, but you can’t disable it. There are a two different Object Lock modes:

  • In compliance mode, not only can objects not be deleted or modified while the lock is in place, but the lock also cannot be removed, only extended. 
  • In governance mode, the lock can be removed or overwritten via an API call with the appropriate application key. 

What is Object Lock Legal Hold?

Object Lock Legal Hold is a feature that also prevents data from being changed or deleted, but the lock does not have a defined retention period—it can be turned on and off at any time. 

A Deeper Dive

For more information on how compliance mode, governance mode, and Object Lock Legal Hold work, check out Digging Deeper into Object Lock or our Tech Docs. They’re both required reading if you want to avoid accidentally locking your data for 100 years, a very safe but impractical way to store your data. Remember, once you set a lock in compliance mode, even the cloud provider is unable to unlock or delete data in response to a support request.

What Is an Air Gap, and How Does Object Lock Provide One?

Object Lock creates a virtual air gap for your data. The term comes from the world of LTO tape. When backups are written to tape, the tapes are then physically removed from the network, creating a physical gap of air between backups and production systems. In the event of a ransomware attack, you can just pull the tapes from the previous day to restore systems.

Object Lock does the same thing, but it all happens in the cloud. Instead of physically isolating data, Object Lock virtually isolates the data.

What Is Immutable Data? Is It the Same as Object Lock?

In object storage, immutability is a characteristic of an object that cannot be modified or changed. It is different from Object Lock in that Object Lock is a function that allows you to create immutable or unchangeable objects. Immutability is the characteristic you want to achieve, and Object Lock is the way you achieve it.

How Does Object Lock Work with Veeam Ransomware Protection?

Veeam, a backup software provider, offers immutability as a feature to protect your data. The immutability feature in Veeam works hand in hand with the Object Lock functionality offered by cloud providers like Backblaze. If you’re using a cloud storage provider to store your Veeam backups and they support Object Lock (which we think all providers should, not that we’re biased), you can configure Veeam to save your backups to a storage bucket with Object Lock enabled. As a certified Veeam Ready-Object and Veeam Ready-Object with Immutability partner, utilizing this feature with Backblaze is as simple as checking a box in your settings (and in your Veeam settings too, of course).

For a step-by-step guide on how to back up Veeam to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage with Object Lock functionality, check out the video below.

Does Object Lock Work with Other Integrations?

Object Lock works with many Backblaze B2 integrations in addition to Veeam, including MSP360, Commvault, Rubrik, and more. You can also enable Object Lock using the Backblaze S3 Compatible API, the B2 Native API, the Backblaze B2 SDKs, and the CLI.

Why Should You Use Object Lock?

With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, the ability to store data with immutability provides an essential layer of protection. Even if your system falls victim to an attack, the original data remains recoverable, minimizing the impact on business operations and reputation. Even you can’t edit or delete your data. 

There’s no added cost to use Object Lock with Backblaze B2 beyond what you would pay to store the data anyway. (But other cloud providers charge for API calls related to Object Lock, so if you ever need to renew an Object Lock on a file, you may get charged for that call. Your Object Locks can renew fairly often based on the immutability settings in your software, so be sure to ask when comparing cloud storage providers).

Finally, data security experts strongly recommend using Object Lock to protect your critical backups. Not only is it recommended, but in some industries Object Lock is necessary to maintain data protection standards required by compliance agencies. One other thing to consider: Many companies are adopting cyber insurance, and often those companies require immutable backups for you to be fully covered.

The question really isn’t, “Why should you use Object Lock?” but rather “Why aren’t you using Object Lock?”

A decorative image showing a calendar icon with a red arrow circling it in counterclockwise.

When Should You Use Object Lock?

The immutability achieved by Object Lock is useful for protecting against ransomware, but there are some additional use cases that make it valuable to businesses as well.

  1. To Replace an LTO System: Most folks looking to migrate from tape are concerned about maintaining the security of the air gap that tape provides. With Object Lock you can create a backup that’s just as secure as air-gapped tape without the need for expensive physical infrastructure.
  2. For Compliance: If you work in an industry subject to HIPAA, GDPR, or SEC Rule 17a-4 regulations or if you need to retain and protect data for legal reasons, Object Lock allows you to easily set appropriate retention periods for regulatory compliance.
  3. For Data Governance and Auditability: Object Lock enables you to demonstrate data integrity and compliance with audit trails. This can be important for regulatory audits or internal investigations.
  4. For Long-Term Data Preservation: For archival purposes or long-term storage, Object Lock ensures that data remains accessible and unaltered for extended periods, mitigating the risk of data loss from accidental deletion. 
  5. For Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: The last thing you want to worry about in the event you are attacked by ransomware is whether your backups are safe. Being able to restore systems from backups stored with Object Lock can help you minimize downtime and interruptions, comply with cybersecurity insurance requirements, and achieve recovery time objectives easier.

Protecting Your Data with Object Lock

To summarize, here are a few key points to remember about Object Lock:

  • Object Lock creates a virtual air gap using a WORM model.
  • Data that is protected using Object Lock is immutable, meaning it’s unchangeable.
  • With Object Lock enabled, your data can’t be modified or deleted for the length of the lock.
  • Object Lock can be used to replace tapes, protect sensitive data, and defend against ransomware.

Ransomware attacks can be disruptive, but your story doesn’t have to end with you feeling forced into a ransom payment against your better judgment or facing extended downtime. As cybercriminals become bolder and more advanced, creating immutable, air-gapped backups using Object Lock functionality puts a manageable recovery in closer reach.

Have questions about Object Lock functionality and ransomware? Let us know in the comments.


About Kari Rivas

Kari Rivas is the product marketing manager for server backup at Backblaze, where she works closely with lead integration partners like MSP360 and others to ensure that managed service providers, IT consultants, and small and medium-sized businesses never lose their precious data. She received her MBA in 2010 and has spent 13 years in marketing, most notably in the education and human capital management industries before landing at Backblaze. When she's not busy talking about the benefits of Backblaze's astonishingly easy cloud storage, she can be found practicing yoga, eating cupcakes, and spending time with her family. Connect with her on LinkedIn.