How to protect your computer from ransomware using Windows’ built-in protection

Ransomware – malware that prevents you from accessing your files unless you pay the hacker who infected your computer – has been a problem that has plagued computer users and businesses for years. Given the prevalence and the risk that ransomware infection can result in the loss of valuable files such as documents or family pictures, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re protected. Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft has added features to its built-in Windows Security software that can help protect your computer from ransomware.

When it comes to ransomware, Windows Security has two levels. The first consists of malware scans, which are turned on by default and you can learn more about it here. While this will work to prevent ransomware from being installed on your computer, if a malware is present make If you pass, the scans cannot protect your files.

The second level is Windows’ ransomware protection, which you have to turn on manually. But before doing that, it’s worth mentioning that this feature isn’t turned on by default for some reason. It only works by allowing approved applications to make changes to your files; This theoretically prevents ransomware from encrypting and locking your files. However, this can cause some unexpected problems with apps, so if you have ransomware protection turned on, you may need to do the occasional troubleshooting.

In conclusion, when reviewing how to enable ransomware protection, it’s worth keeping in mind that there will probably be some tampering involved in this process.

How to turn on ransomware protection

Windows’ built-in ransomware protection is included in the security app. To get it, search for “Windows Security” from the start menu or go to “Settings” > “Privacy & Security” > “Windows Security”.

Once in Windows Security, go to “Virus & threat protection” by clicking the tile or the button in the left sidebar.

To turn on ransomware protection, go to “Virus & threat protection” and click “Manage ransomware protection”.

Click the “Manage ransomware protection” link to go to the ransomware protection page.

From here you can turn on a feature called “Controlled folder access” so that unapproved apps cannot make changes to your document, picture, video or music folders.

Turning on the “Controlled folder access” feature ensures that unauthorized applications do not make changes to files in certain protected folders.

How to set up controlled folder access

When you turn on Controlled folder access, you will see three more control panels: “Block history”, “Protected folders” and “Allow an app through Controlled folder access.” By default, Controlled folder access only allows a list of approved apps to make changes to files in the Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music folders on your computer. These apps allow you to adjust how the system works.

For example, you can add other folders you want to protect using the “Protected folders” screen, and manage which apps are allowed to make changes to protected folders using the “Allow an app through controlled folder access” screen.

Here’s what you can do.

“Ransomware protection” panel.

block history

According to the description on a Windows security page, apps “designated as friendly by Microsoft” will always be allowed to make changes to your protected folders, but that doesn’t mean every app you want to use will be allowed by default. . If you’re seeing a strange error that occurs after turning on controlled folder access (a common mistake I found during testing was getting the message “This file was not found” when trying to save a file), you might want to check the “Block history”. To see if Windows Security is preventing this app from making changes.

The block history screen shows which apps are trying to write to protected folders.

“Block history” lets you see which app was blocked and which folder it was trying to write to. If it’s the app you’re having trouble with, you’ll want to add it to the list of programs that can make changes. (We’ll cover how to do this shortly.)

An example of the types of errors you might encounter: FireFox’s download screen said the file I was trying to save could not be found.

Protected folders

If you want to protect additional folders such as your desktop folder (not protected by default) from ransomware, you can select “Protected folders” and click the “Add a protected folder” button.

Adding a folder to the protected folder list prevents applications from writing to it without permission.

From here you can navigate to the folder you want to protect and click the “Select Folder” button.

Select the folder you want to protect and then click the “Select Folder” button.

You can remove protection from custom added folders (not the default ones) by going back to the “Protected folders” screen, clicking the folder you added and clicking the Remove button.

Allow an app through controlled folder access

If you’re having trouble using an app and want to add it to the list of allowed apps, go back to the “Ransomware protection” page and select “Allow an app through Controlled folder access”.

After clicking the “Add an allowed application” button, you can click “Recently blocked applications” to see a list of applications that have recently tried to write to your protected folders.

Click “Recently blocked apps” and you’ll get a list of apps that have tried and failed to make changes to your files.

Then click the plus button next to their name to unblock them.

Clicking the plus button next to an app’s name will allow it to make changes to files in your protected folders.

Although you only need to do this once per application, it can be frustrating. You can turn off Ransomware Protection at any time, but if you think the risk of infection is high and you don’t have backups, you should think carefully before doing so.

Additional ways to protect yourself

While Windows’ ransomware protection is a powerful built-in tool, it’s probably not a good idea to rely on it as your only defense – as with all anti-malware systems, it should be treated as a safety net rather than your first line. defense. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent a ransomware infection in the first place and make sure your data is safe even if it’s the worst.

Be careful online

As with any malware, ransomware can spread in a number of ways, including connecting to phishing emails, exploiting vulnerabilities in outdated software, or pretending to be a really useful program. It’s important to be vigilant when you’re online – be very careful if someone is trying to get you to download a program from an untrusted source that seems too good to be true.

It is also important to check the extensions of the files you send. If someone claims that the attachment is a document, but the file has an .exe or .msi extension, that file is most likely dangerous. If you don’t see the file’s extension already, you can right-click the file and then click “Properties”. Windows will tell you what type of file it is next to the “File type” header.

Microsoft’s Guide to protecting yourself from ransomware lists some things that can cause your computer to become infected:

Visiting unsafe, suspicious or fake websites.

Do not open file attachments from unexpected or unknown people.

Opening malicious or malicious links in emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts, or instant messaging or SMS chats.

Keep your software up to date

It is also important to make sure that your operating system and the software you use regularly have the latest security patches. Most browsers update themselves automatically, and Windows usually installs updates as they become available. To manually check for updates, go to “Settings” > “Windows Update” and click the “Check for updates” button.

You can update apps installed via Windows’ built-in store by going to the Microsoft Store app, clicking the “Library” button in the lower left corner, and then clicking the “Get Updates” button to find available updates. You can also click the “Update” button on individual apps or the “Update all” button at the top of the page.

Make sure you have backups

Using ransomware protection and having safe browsing habits can help keep you safe, but no system is perfect. It’s important to make a backup of the files on your computer so you don’t lose your most precious photos, videos or documents if you get infected with ransomware. Backups can also prevent you from losing data if your computer is physically damaged, lost, or stolen.

You can read our guide on how to back up your computer here. If possible, it’s best to have two different backup formats, one locally and one in the cloud. However, having any backup is much better than having nothing.

What should you do if your computer is infected with ransomware?

If all your protections have failed and you discover that your computer is infected with ransomware, there are three important steps to take:

  1. Disconnect your computer from Wi-Fi or ethernet; some ransomware can spread to other computers connected to your network and it is important to limit the damage.
  2. Don’t pay the ransom – it may be illegal to do so depending on where the hackers are trying to blackmail you from and where the payment is made. immortality guarantees that you’ll actually have access to your files back.
  3. If you have backups, don’t plug them in – the ransomware will most likely try to destroy those files as well.

recommended by Microsoft trying to do A full scan of your computer using Windows Security. (Another good app to try is Malwarebytes, which is known for its ability to clean a computer of malware and is free for personal use.) If none of that works, you might have to. Reset your PC completely.

Finally, if you’re not sure you can remove the ransomware on your own, take your computer to a professional – it’s best to make sure it’s completely clean before trying to recover your backups.

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