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Data theft has become a big concern for business databases, devices, servers, and now, even sports teams.

In the present age, where digitisation has become an indispensable part of our routine life, the threat of cyber attacks has also grown exponentially in the last decade. We’re all prone to data breaches, including the breakneck speed-powered F1 business.

Formula 1 teams, who travel across the globe, often encounter cyber attacks, which leave them exposed to significant risks both, inside and outside the paddock.

In an interaction with Express DrivesStas Protassov, Co-Founder – Acronis, a Singapore-based cybersecurity firm, spoke at length about the importance of cybersecurity in the world of motorsports.

Why do racing teams require data protection and what kind of cyber threats do Formula 1 teams come across?

Like any other commercial company, racing teams could be attacked by ransomware gangs and extorted. Just a few weeks ago, news came out about the RansomEXX gang publishing internal documents of Ferrari.

There are other threats racing teams face that are specific to their industry. First, F1 is incredibly competitive and while I am not accusing any racing team of competitive espionage, the risk is certainly there.

Then there is the engineering and technologies aspect that the teams possess which could be of interest to industries outside of F1. Even this risk cannot be discarded.

Finally, racing teams process money and personal data of many people, their fans, customers, race attendants, and so on — their eCommerce wings are obvious targets for fraud and their fans databases would be as useful as any other PII database.

What are some of the infamous cases where insufficiency in cybersecurity has compromised an F1 team’s data?

Viruses are a real threat in F1. Back in 2014, the Marussia F1 team had to cut short testing because systems got infected by a virus. A year later, Mercedes sued a Ferrari-bound F1 engineer for data theft.

In an infamous case, McLaren was fined $100 million and was excluded from the constructors’ title in the spying scandal in 2007.

Earlier this year, Ferrari was hit by ransomware, wherein hackers were able to steal 7GB of data.

How do Formula 1 teams evaluate Acronis’ cybersecurity products before incorporating them into their operations?

Data is king in the F1 business and the teams know that. Acronis’ solutions are evaluated by teams before being deployed.  Acronis’ technology is fast and intuitive, and it helped teams like Williams Racing to optimize their IT resources.

The continuous data protection, ability to scale and faster deployment cycle without long lag when rolling patches out are some of the considerations. In addition, they also see the benefits of having a single product that offers numerous innovative features eg. URL filtering, and vulnerability assessments which add new layers of cyber protection.

Since all these capabilities are delivered and managed through a single solution, it eliminates the increased complexity and cost caused by relying on multiple vendor solutions, simplifies daily operations and reporting, saving on licensing, deployments, testing, and training.

How has Acronis helped Williams Racing with its data protection?

The team spends an enormous amount of time and resources analyzing their previously collected data to improve their cars and gain an edge over the competition. At the same time, they need to keep this data securely stored, protected from cyberattacks, and archived by the strict requirements of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).

We can provide cyber protection for Williams’ factory, trackside infrastructure, and business applications. Additionally, during deployment, Acronis provided implementation, consulting, and premier support services — allowing Williams to focus their IT efforts on the races ahead.

Before Acronis, the burden of responsibility for backup would have been on the staff, but now this function is centralized and scheduled for them. Routine backup tasks were transitioned to the help desk, significantly reducing resource demand while optimizing data management.

As a result, Williams was able to eliminate tape storage (used historically), keeping their data safe and accessible in the cloud – the first step toward protecting hundreds of terabytes of data on their hundreds of servers, workstations, and Office 365 mailboxes.

With Acronis, Williams’ reduced their backup window and recovery time from days to minutes through secure backups to their data centre and the Acronis Cloud. This allows the team to access and restore any file from any point in time through an easy-to-use interface. Acronis encrypts all data end-to-end, and only Williams holds the encryption key. The Acronis Cyber Protect automatically detects, terminates, and recovers from ransomware attacks, one of the world’s most destructive malware strains.

Why is cybersecurity important for Formula1 teams?

We live in a digital world. Sports teams like Williams Racing is a serious business that runs and depends on data.

Cybersecurity is now a top priority for any business – but it’s an even greater significance when you need to protect intellectual property at the cutting edge of research and development, as you do in Formula 1.

Backup office, design, engineering, and production depend on cybersecurity and data availability. Legacy cybersecurity solutions are not able to provide full protection against modern cyber threats.

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