Object Lock is a powerful backup protection tool that makes data immutable. It allows you to store objects using a Write Once, Read Many (WORM) model, meaning after it’s written, data cannot be modified or deleted for a defined period of time. Any attempts to manipulate, copy, encrypt, change, or delete the file will fail during that time. The files may be accessed, but no one can change them, including the file owner or whoever set the Object Lock.
This makes Object Lock a great tool as part of a robust cybersecurity program. However, when Object Lock is used inconsistently, it can consume unnecessary storage resources. For example, if you set a retention period of one year, but you don’t end up needing to keep the data that long, you’re out of luck. Once the file is locked, it cannot be deleted. That’s why it’s important to develop a consistent approach.
In this post, we’ll outline five different use cases for Object Lock and explain how to add Object Lock to your IT security policies to ensure your company gets all the protection Object Lock offers while managing your storage footprint.
When to Use Object Lock: Five Use Cases
There are at least five situations where Object Lock is helpful. Keep in mind that these requirements may change over time. Compliance requirements, for example, might be relatively simple today. However, those requirements may become more complex if your company onboards customers in a highly regulated sector like finance or health care.
1. Reducing Cybersecurity Risk
Cybersecurity threats are increasing. In 2015, there were approximately 1,000 ransomware attacks per day, but this figure has increased to more than 4,000 per day since 2016, according to the U.S. government. To be clear, using Object Lock does not prevent a ransomware attack. Instead, data protected by Object Lock is immutable. In the event of a ransomware attack, it cannot be altered by malicious software. Ultimately, your organization may be able to recover from a cyber attack more quickly by restoring data protected by Object Lock.
2. Meet Compliance Requirements With Object Lock
Some industries have extensive record retention requirements. Preserving digital records with Object Lock is one way to fulfill those expectations. Several regulatory and legal requirements direct companies to retain records for a certain period of time.
- Banks insured by FDIC generally must retain account records for five years after the “account is closed or becomes dormant.” Beyond FDIC, there are many other state and federal compliance requirements on the financial industry. Preserving data with Object Lock can be helpful in these situations.
- In the health care field, requirements vary across the country. The American Health Information Management Association points out that retaining health records for up to 10 years or longer may be needed.
- You may also have to retain data for tax purposes. The IRS generally suggests keeping tax-related records for up to seven years. However, there are nuances to these requirements (i.e., shorter retention periods in some cases and potentially longer retention periods for property records).
3. Fulfilling a Legal Hold
When a company is sued, preserving all relevant records is wise. An article published by the American Bar Association points out that failing to preserve records may “undermine a litigant’s claims and defenses.” Given that many companies keep many (if not all) of their records in digital form, preserving digital records is essential. In this situation, using Object Lock to preserve records may be beneficial.
4. Meeting a Retention Period for Other Needs
Higher-risk business activities may benefit from preserving data with Object Lock. For example, an engineering company working on designing a bridge might use Object Lock to maintain records during the project. In software development, new versions of software may become unstable. Restoring to a previous version of the software, preserved from tampering or accidental deletion with Object Lock, can be valuable.
5. Replacing an LTO Tape System
In an LTO tape system, data immutability is conferred by a physical “air gap,” meaning there’s a literal gap of air between production data and backups stored on tape—the two are not physically connected in any way. Object Lock creates a virtual air gap, replacing the need for expensive physical infrastructure.
How to Add Object Lock to Your Security Policy
No matter the reason for implementing Object Lock, consistent usage is key. To encourage consistent usage, consider adding Object Lock as an option in your company’s security policy. Use the following tips as a guide on when and how to use Object Lock.
- Set Up Object Lock Governance: Assign responsibility to a single manager in IT or IT security to develop Object Lock governance policies. Then, periodically review Object Lock governance and update retention policies as necessary as the security landscape evolves.
- Evaluate the Application of Object Lock in Your Context: Are you subject to retention regulations? Do you have certain data you need to keep for an extended period of time? Take an inventory of your data and any specific retention considerations you may want to keep in mind when implementing Object Lock.
- Document Object Lock Requirements: There are different ways to explain and communicate Object Lock guidelines. If your IT security policy focuses on high-level principles, consider adding Object Lock to a data management procedure instead.
- Add Object Lock to Your Policy for Cloud Tools: Review your cloud solutions to see which providers support Object Lock. Only a few storage platforms currently offer the feature, but if your provider is one of them, you can enable Object Lock and specify the length of time an object should be locked in the storage provider’s user interface, via your backup software, or by using API calls.
- Use Change Management to Promote the Change to the Policy Internally: Writing Object Lock into your policy is a good step, but it is not the end of the process. You also need to communicate the change internally and ensure employees who need to use Object Lock are trained on the Object Lock policies and procedures.
- Testing and Monitoring: Periodically review if Object Lock is being used per the established policies and if data is being properly protected as outlined. As a starting point, review Object Lock usage quarterly and spot check data to ensure it’s locked.
Adding Object Lock to Your Security Tool Kit
Object Lock is a helpful way to protect data from being changed. It can help your organization meet records retention requirements and make it easier to recover from a cyber attack. It’s one tool that can strengthen a robust IT security practice, but you first need a well-developed backup program to keep your company operating in the event of a disruption. To find out more about emerging backup strategies, check out our explainer, “What’s the Diff: 3-2-1 vs. 4-3-2-1-0 vs. 4-3-2” to keep your valuable company data safe. And, for a comprehensive ransomware prevention playbook, check out our Complete Guide to Ransomware.