Protection file

Windows has built-in ransomware protection: here’s how to protect your PC

With ransomware on the rise, individuals, businesses, schools, and corporations need layers of protection and a bit of awareness.

Unknown to many Windows users, Microsoft offers a built-in ransomware protection feature in Windows 10 and later versions to protect your PC. Here’s how to use it.

How to Enable Windows 10 Ransomware Protection

To access security, go to the start menu and type “the Windows Security” in the search bar. Or you can go to “Settings“, Click on “Update and security», and select «the Windows Security.” (If you can’t find the option, there’s still the search bar at the top of the window.)

From there, go to “Protection against viruses and threats” and press “Manage ransomware protection under the “Ransomware Protection” heading.

Once you have opened the “Ransomware Protection“, you will see an option called “Controlled access to files”.

When you enable it, no untrusted application can access or make changes to your files and data. This will prevent any malware from encrypting or deleting your data.

If third-party antivirus software is installed and Windows real-time protection is disabled, you will not be able to access ransomware protection features or controlled folder access.

Custom ransomware protection

You can customize your options and choose which apps you want to allow while others remain blocked.

You can also add folders of your choice to the protected list. Three options appear when you turn on the Controlled access to records.

Block History

Block history gives you a list of apps that tried to access your protected folders and were blocked.

If you have problems running certain apps after enabling “Controlled access to files“, you might want to check the block history to see if these are the ones that were blocked.

Protected folders

When you go to “Protected Folders”, you get a list of folders that blocked apps can’t access without permission. You can add more folders to this list by clicking “+ Add Protected Folder” and selecting folders in the File Explorer window that appears right after.

You can navigate further and choose folders containing sensitive files or data that you cannot afford to lose. An example might be the Desktop folder as it is not in the protected list by default.

Authorize an app through controlled folder access

If you trust some apps and don’t want to block them, you can click “Authorize an app through Controlled Folder Access”.

From here you can select “Recently blocked apps“if your app is in block history. If it’s not there, you can find it by clicking”Browse all apps”.

Go through the list of applications and click on the “+” next to your favorite apps. This adds these apps to the whitelist or list of apps allowed to access your data.

OneDrive backup

If you are a registered Microsoft user, you can get a cloud backup of your files on OneDrive.

Go to the Start menu search bar, type “OneDrive” and open it. Log in using your credentials and it will guide you through the process of saving and sorting your online and offline records.

When you sync OneDrive with your computer, you can access your files from anywhere.

More advice on how to protect against ransomware

Although Windows offers two layers of protection (anti-malware scans and ransomware protection features), that won’t be enough if you’re not vigilant.

Here is a list of preventive measures you can take against malware or ransomware attacks.

Create backups

Perform multiple online and offline backups via cloud services and external storage devices. In case hackers know of one of your backups, you’ll have others to fall back on. When choosing a cloud service, make sure it syncs with your devices or automatically updates the backup.

All online backups are accessible, and the work hackers are willing to do depends on the value of your data. Therefore, we also recommend that you back up your data to external storage devices that are inaccessible to hackers.

Separate your devices

The work-from-home culture has pushed many of us to use the same devices for work and for personal use. It’s convenient, but it can be dangerous.

Your personal data can fall into the hands of ransomware attackers intent on terminating your business. Such incidents can lead to greater losses, more blackmail and the loss of files with sentimental value.

Update your software and applications

Malware evolves. Almost every app and software update is like a security patch on a newly discovered flaw.

If you don’t update your Windows, software, and apps regularly, chances are you’re leaving these vulnerabilities open to be exploited.

Never download these things

  • An attachment sent from an unknown email

  • Files sent by strangers via SMS or social networks

  • So-called documents with .exe or .msi extensions

You can check a file’s extension by right-clicking on it, selecting Propertiesand looking at the details mentioned under the “File type” heading.

Any suspicious extension that does not match what the sender claims to be is a no-go zone. This is why becoming familiar with different types of extensions can be very useful.

You will come across all kinds of links online. Some of them end up being scripts that trigger actions on your behalf, like forwarding something to all your contacts or granting permissions on your behalf.

Other links may be spyware or other malware. None of this is good news. You have to know how to spot it.

Don’t click on links that don’t fit the context. Check URLs before clicking. Although URLs can be shortened or renamed, checking them is still a good practice.

What to do in case of a ransomware attack

No system is foolproof and we all make mistakes. If you find yourself in a situation where your device or PC is infected with ransomware, here’s what to do:

  • Disconnect your device from shared networks

  • Report ransomware to law enforcement authorities

  • Disconnect backups until a complete system cleanup

  • Search for decryption tools

  • Reset passwords

Stay safe and stay alert

Online extortion seems scary to many vulnerable individuals and small businesses that cannot invest much in cybersecurity.

Simple measures such as updating your software, using Windows built-in ransomware protection, knowing best practices, and being vigilant can keep you safe.

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