Use Cloud Backup to recover from a Bad Actor attack

  • Last updated on: 2019-09-11
  • Authored by: Brett Johnson

The article shows you how to recover backups from partial deletion of your assets at Rackspace. The Related comments section at the end of this article discusses how to recover from complete asset deletion.

Occasionally, bad actors attempt to destroy your cloud assets, such as files, websites, databases, and so on. The bad actor might be a foreign attacker who stole cloud account authentication info, or it might be a disgruntled employee with access to company assets or any similar bad actor. Attacks like this might cripple or kill a company, and the ability to recover backups makes the difference between whether the company survives the attack or not.

Note: It should go without saying that you are responsible for protecting the credentials that allow access to your cloud assets. This article outlines how to recover if your credentials were compromised.

Symptoms of an attack

Company assets, such as servers, backups, or cloud files, suddenly begin disappearing as fast as the bad actor can destroy them.


Note: This article addresses the recovery of only those assets related to Cloud Backup (CBU).

For each intact backup configuration (config) container in Cloud Files, you can recover backups for that backup config.

The following steps provide a summary of the solution:

  1. Save or recover as much from associated Cloud Files containers as possible.
  2. The Rackspace CBU support team must revert any machine agents and backup configs that have been deleted for this account.
  3. Do a cross-site restore from the recovered backups to new servers.

The following sections describe the preceding steps in detail.

Step 1

Time is of the essence in this step. You need to stop the damage before it becomes total. Most importantly, stop the bad actor from deleting any more Cloud Files assets. These should be protected first.

After you discover that assets are being destroyed, contact support to immediately halt access to the account and reset credentials. If you have monitoring and alerts in place to immediately notify stakeholders of malfunctioning assets, you have an advantage in detecting these attacks.

One advantage of Cloud Files in this scenario is that there is not an easy way to do bulk deletes through the web interface without some high-powered utilities that aren’t available through our web interface. So deleting these files can be slow enough that you can interrupt the attacker before he finishes.

The more Cloud Files assets that can be saved or restored before recovery starts, the more backups you can salvage.

Step 2

Revert any valid machine agents and/or backup configs that have been deleted.

Note: The Rackspace CBU Operations Engineering (OpsEng) or support teams must perform this step.

If you have any offsite backups of the Cloud Files containers for the backup configs in question (see Related comments at the end of this article), you should restore them to their original locations at this time. For this step to be successful, you must have at least one undeleted (or restored) Cloud Files container for at least one backup configuration.

When you request help for this step, reference the Cloud Backup support wiki article, Cloud Backup - Bad Actor Attack, in your comments on the ticket. The public can’t view the article, but Cloud Backup support can access it. Only Rackspace Support can perform the steps described in that wiki article. They must revert the deleted assets (machine agents and backup configurations) in your account.

Step 3

For any machine agent and backup config that Support successfully restored, use Cloud Backup to do a cross-site restore to a new server.

As mentioned earlier, it should go without saying that you are responsible for protecting the credentials that allow access to your cloud assets. But sometimes the good guys become the bad guys, or in spite of your best efforts, attackers manage to defeat your protective measures.

The instructions in this article describe a strategy to recover from the scenario where a bad actor compromised those credentials and destroyed some, or all, of the assets in your account. The recovery process isn’t easy, but losing all your data is worse.

To significantly increase the chance of recovering assets deleted by a bad actor, you can choose to have an offsite copy of one Cloud Files container for each backup configuration that you want to protect. (Some hints for how to find these containers are detailed below.) In this context, offsite refers to a copy of Cloud Files containers on media which is not on Rackspace infrastructure (which would, of course, be accessible via the stolen credentials). You can restore these files to their original locations in Cloud Files and then use them to create cross-site restores to new servers.

Important: For this solution to provide meaningful protection, you must have separation of access. Because we assume bad actors in this scenario have full access to your Rackspace assets through the stolen credentials, you must make sure that those with access (stolen or otherwise) to the Rackspace asset credentials do not have access to the offsite copies of the containers, and vice versa. You can do this with policies like physically locking up the offsite copies and giving the person who performs the offsite backups read-only access to Cloud Files. So, for instance, your system administrator should not have access to the offsite backup flash drive, and your secretary should have read-only access to Cloud Files.

It is not an easy process to identify the containers in Cloud Files that hold the artifacts necessary to restore backups. Open each machine agent in the Cloud Backup Systems list. View the Agent Configuration for each agent. This Agent Configuration is a large JSON document. The JSON has a section named “BackupConfigurations”. In that section there is an array of records that contain backup configuration details. In each record is an item named “VolumeUri”. This is the private address which the API uses to store the artifacts necessary to restore a backup. There is one such record for each backup configured for each agent, and there may be multiple backups configured for a given agent. This means there might be multiple VolumeUri addresses for any one agent. At the end of each address is a section that starts with “z_DO_NOT_DELETE_CloudBackup_v2_0_” and which has a GUID-formatted number appended to it. Search Cloud Files for a container name that matches this z-name. This is the container that holds the artifacts that Cloud Backup uses to restore files for this backup configuration. Save this entire container in your off-site copy.

The Rackspace CBU team currently does not have a tool that can bulk-copy Cloud Files containers, but there are third-party tools (such as swiftly or rclone) that might be used for this. If we create a tool specifically for this purpose in the future, we’ll update this article.

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