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Ransomware protection is built right into Windows. How to start.
Ransomware gangs have turned pro. DarkSide, the group responsible for a spate of ransomware attacks including Colonial Pipeline, is now operating on a business model that mirrors legitimate companies.
It’s called Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) and it uses partners to carry out cyberattacks. For individuals, small businesses and schools, attacks by RaaS groups carry the risk of losing access to all critical data in addition to the financial burden of paying a ransom.
The small steps you take to prepare for a possible future ransomware attack will also protect you from other malware and viruses.
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It is not common knowledge for consumers and small business users that Microsoft offers built-in ransomware protection.
Turning it on is pretty simple: type “ransomware protection” in the Windows 10 Cortana search bar (usually at the bottom left of the screen), then select the “ransomware protection” screen.
Turn on “Controlled Folder Access”. Then you have the option to choose which folders you want to protect.
Click on Protected Folders. The Protected Folders screen should already be filled with folders that are protected by default. You can also add other protected folders.
You can also add folders from Microsoft’s OneDrive file hosting service if you subscribe to this service.
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“In a ransomware attack, your files can be encrypted and taken hostage. With controlled folder access … a notification appears … when an app tries to make changes to a file in a protected folder, “says a Microsoft document that describes the function.
You can also whitelist applications. While the goal of Windows Ransomware Protection is to block suspicious software, Microsoft allows you to whitelist when it blocks an app that you know is safe. Use controlled folder access to whitelist apps. You can do this by selecting “Allow the app to have controlled folder access”.
Use a secure, cloud-based file hosting service with automatic backup so that you back up files regularly.
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Another strategy is called an “air gap”, in which the external storage device is completely (ie offline) separated from your computer and the Internet. Back up your files, then disconnect the storage device.
Another piece of advice from cybersecurity experts is to keep work and personal devices separate. While attackers typically target businesses, schools, and hospitals, attackers can also target consumers who work from home.