IBM Unveils AI-Assisted SSD That Thwarts Ransomware For Safer Storage

IBM flashsystem
Most forms of malware can only make the attacker money in a roundabout way. For example, selling stolen data or bundling infected systems into a rentable botnet. Ransomware is different, however, in that it can be a moneymaker all on its own, and that's why infections have increased every year. IBM has debuted a new technology that has the potential to stop this nefarious gravy train in its tracks. The company's new enterprise SSDs have a feature called Storage Defender, an AI system that can identify and block ransomware before you lose access to any of your data.

There are countless ransomware variants floating around the web, but they all use the same basic playbook. After getting established on a system, the malware encrypts some or all of the files stored on the system. It then hits the user with a ransom note, promising to unlock those files for a fee that is usually paid in cryptocurrency. Sometimes that note is a bluff and the files will remain locked forever, but paying the ransom does sometimes allow victims to unlock their files. That uncertainty hasn't stopped some businesses from coughing up the virtual cash.

IBM's new security feature is embedded in its high-speed FlashCore modules, which are available in capacities from 4.8TB all the way up to 38.4TB. These drives use the standard 2.5-inch SSD form factor, but they only slot into the company's FlashSystem servers. IBM says new fourth-gen FlashCore modules have embedded AI sensors that can analyze all I/O data in real-time, allowing it to detect unauthorized encryption requests.

IBM storage

This is a potential game changer for enterprise security, if it works as advertised. Most malware can be deployed on a compromised system in the blink of an eye, but encryption takes time. For large storage partitions like you'd expect in an IBM FlashSystem, it might take hours to lock down all the data. Storage Defender could theoretically intervene and stop the attack before any important data is rendered inaccessible. As IBM puts it, Storage Defender reduces the "security breach blast radius."

This technology is currently aimed at businesses with the justification and budget to afford it. For example, a machine like the FlashSystem 5200 is considered an entry-level storage solution for enterprise, but it still costs about $30,000 to get up and running with a minimal amount of storage. Ransomware doesn't just go after business users of course, but it will take time for such technology to filter down to consumer hardware. With the increasing prevalence of AI, though, it's probably just a matter of time. That said, until you can buy a ransomware-proof drive, try to stay safe out there.