Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray

Is network-attached storage (NAS) safe?



Network-attached storage (NAS) is localized storage for data and management of available apps and services. Being a connected device, these servers are not invulnerable to malicious attacks, but just how safe is NAS and why should you consider buying one over using online cloud platforms?

Do NAS servers have vulnerabilities?

Contrary to what many NAS brands would lead you to believe in their marketing, no single enclosure is immune to malicious parties unless it’s physically disconnected from the outside world. When one looks to replace existing cloud platforms with a NAS, it’s usually a requirement for access to be available when not at home.

Only so much can be done by yourself, your NAS manufacturer, and your network infrastructure to shield your data from attack. We’ve seen NAS brands hit with ransomware attacks in recent years and as more people switch from cloud platforms to localized storage, this is only set to continue with more data up for grabs.

The good news is a NAS enclosure from a reputable brand – we only cover these companies on NAS Master – should have adequate protection, at least until a vulnerability is discovered and eventually patched. Just remember to use all available authentication methods, employ strong passwords, and secure your network.

How to protect your NAS

Ports on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ NAS
Ports on the Synology DiskStation DS224+. (Source: NM)

I’ve already touched on a few examples of ways to better protect your NAS and data. Some of these recommendations could (and should) be used elsewhere, be it a smartphone or desktop PC.

Use multi-factor authentication

Passwords are simply not enough anymore, even if you use a password manager and randomly generate all your credentials. I always urge everyone to make use of all available multi-factor authentication methods. The best NAS enclosures with 2FA enabled boast better security.

Keep your devices updated

Just like your smartphone, fridge, washing machine, and garage door, it’s important to keep your NAS updated. Most NAS enclosures from reliable brands will automatically check for and even install updates for the OS, but we’d recommend checking for recent app updates too.

Connect the NAS to a LAN

I know what you’re thinking, “We need to connect the NAS to a LAN anyway!” I’m talking about a local area network that isn’t connected to the outside world. An internal network that consists of an access point (or few) and some switches. This will require anyone who desires to gain access to the NAS to connect to the network.

Back up your backups

Don’t rely on backing up your data in one single location. Your NAS shouldn’t be the only location where a backup copy is stored. If it is, back up the backups on your NAS and store them elsewhere. Should you fall victim to ransomware, you’ll be able to reinstall the NAS and load it up with a backup.

Disable/remove unused apps and services

Not using all the apps and services installed on your NAS? It’s time to disable and/or remove them to not only free up space but also avoid any unknown vulnerabilities providing unwanted party access to your data. There’s no need to have content on your NAS you won’t be using any time soon.

Employ good LAN security practices

If you do have to use a LAN with outside access, it’s paramount you load up the router admin panel and play with all the available security measures. Most modern routers should have port controls, a firewall, device restrictions, and more. The better your network security, the safer your NAS and data will be.

You have the control and power

Synology DSM 7
Synology DSM 7 home screen. (Source: NAS Master)

Contrary to how everything is run through cloud platforms, the beauty of using a physical NAS server at home and/or in the office is localized control. Should something go wrong, you’ll have immediate access to address the issue. You’ll also be able to use your own security measures and not rely on a third-party company.

Just like building your own DIY NAS, it can be empowering to go it alone and run your own streaming and cloud storage services. Manufacturers such as Synology even offer their own security solutions to lend a helping hand.

Richard Pinnock-Edmonds Avatar

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