IV.A.3     Data Backup and Replication

Management should maintain data confidentiality, integrity, and availability for all iterations of data, including data backup and replication, not just focused on the production environment. Data backup and re-creation are important to recovering critical business functions in the event of disruptions. Backup files are commonly created electronically and can be mirrored at an off-site location, backed up on removable media, stored temporarily on network servers until rotated off-site, or backed up to a cloud environment. Backups should be readily accessible and adhere to the entity’s information security policy.

Management should reassess backup and recovery strategies as the technology and threat environments evolve. For real-time or high-volume systems, it may be appropriate to have advanced duplication and backup methods. These advanced methods, including cloud and mirroring, provide high availability and are detailed in section V.C.1, “Data Center Recovery Alternatives.”

Management should maintain an accessible, off-site repository of software, configuration settings, and related documentation. Even standard software configurations can vary from one location to another. Differences could include parameter settings and modifications, security profiles, reporting options, account information, customized software changes, or other options. Failure to back up software configurations could result in inoperability or could delay recovery. Therefore, a comprehensive backup of critical software is important. Software backups generally consist of the following components:

  • Operating systems.
  • Applications.
  • Utility programs.
  • Databases.
  • Other critical software identified in the BIA.

Management should establish effective procedures to recover critical networks and systems. Procedures may address the following:

  • Backup types (physical or virtual).
  • Backup levels (full, incremental, or differential).
  • Updates and retention cycle frequencies.
  • Software and hardware compatibility reviews.
  • Data transmission controls.
  • Data repository maintenance.

Refer to the IT Handbook’s “Operations” booklet for additional information.

Data replication (also referred to as data synchronization or mirroring) is the process of copying data, usually with the objective of maintaining identical data sets in separate locations. Replication is important in any environment for resilience. Furthermore, management should consider integrity controls during replication so that data changes in production, development, and quality assurance environments are applied throughout the network.

Two common data replication processes used for information systems are synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous replication represents the direct application of the data by applying changes at the same time. In practice, synchronous replication allows data to be transmitted in a continuous stream and minimizes data loss; however, it requires significant communication bandwidth and has limitations on the distance data can be transported due to latency issues. Synchronous replication is typically used for critical business functions where little or no data loss can be tolerated. Conversely, asynchronous replication is the indirect application of data through applying changes to a log before transit. In practice, asynchronous replication allows data to be transmitted in intermittent batches. While asynchronous replication increases the potential for data loss related to the fractions of a second required to transmit the data, this process requires less communication bandwidth and is useful for data transport over longer distances, due to reduced latency issues.

Management should determine the appropriate retention periods for each iteration of data backup. Entities should safeguard against replicating malware and data corruption. This risk is heightened with the use of near real-time data replication systems, as malware can be replicated undetected. Even with diagnostic tools, management could be unaware of an event that causes data integrity issues until well after it happens, as data could appear uncorrupted but later determined to be inaccurate. Management may determine that the backup of critical data files should be subject to longer retention periods to ensure the ability to recover a backup prior to a corruption event.

Even in situations when the primary and backup facilities are inoperable or corrupted, customers of the entities expect to be able to access their accounts. Entities should develop appropriate cyber resilience processes (e.g., recovery of data and business operations, rebuilding network capabilities and restoring data) that enable restoration of critical services if the institution or its critical service providers fall victim to a destructive cyber attack or similar event. BCM should include the ability to protect offline data backups from destructive malware or other threats that may corrupt production and online backup versions of data. An example of an industry initiative to assist in addressing the resilience of customer account information is Sheltered Harbor.Sheltered Harbor is a voluntary industry initiative launched in 2015 following a series of cybersecurity simulation exercises between public and private sectors, known as the Hamilton Series. The purpose of the proposed Sheltered Harbor standard is to promote the stability and resiliency of the financial sector and to preserve public confidence in the financial system. The Sheltered Harbor standard proposes a combination of secure data vaulting of critical customer account information with a comprehensive resilience plan to provide customers timely access to their account information and underlying funds during a prolonged systems outage or destructive cyber attack. (Sheltered Harbor).


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IV.A.2 Cyber Resilience
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IV.A.4 Personnel