Sunday December 04, 2022

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

Ransomware, a type of malware that blocks you from accessing your files unless the hacker infected your computer, has been a problem for computer users and businesses for many years. Ransomware is a common problem and can cause the loss of important files such as documents or family photos. It’s important to ensure your computer is protected. Windows 10 has two levels of Windows Security. The first is malware scans. These are automatically turned on by default and you can read more about them here. Although this will prevent ransomware from installing on your computer’s hard drive, it won’t protect your files if malware is discovered.
Windows’ ransomware protection is the second level. This must be turned on manually. This feature is not enabled by default. It only allows approved apps to make changes to your files. This prevents ransomware, which could encrypt them and lock them away, from doing so. This can cause problems with apps that don’t expect it. You may need to troubleshoot if ransomware protection is turned on.
As such, we will be covering ransomware protection. It is worth noting that this process will likely involve some tweaking.
How to disable ransomware protection
Windows has a built-in ransomware defense. It is available in the security app. You can search for “Windows Security” in the start menu, or go to “Settings> Privacy & Security> Windows Security.”
Once you are in Windows Security, click the tile or button in the sidebar to the left to turn on ransomware prevention.
To access the Ransomware Protection page, click on the “Manage ransomware” link. This will take you to Controlled Folder Access, which will prevent unapproved apps from making changes to your documents or pictures.
How to set Controlled folder accessibility
After you turn Controlled folder accessibility on, you will see three additional control panes: Block history, Protected folders, and Allow an app through Controlled file access. Controlled folder access by default will allow only approved apps to make changes to files in your Documents, Pictures and Videos folders. These apps allow you to modify the way the system works.
You can add folders to protect with the “Protected Folders” screen. You can also manage which apps have permission to modify protected folders with the “Allow an App through Controlled Folder Access” screen.
Here’s what you can accomplish.
The “Ransomware protection panel.” Block history
According to one Windows security page, any app “deemed friendly” by Microsoft will always be permitted to make changes in your protected folders. However, that doesn’t mean every app you want to use will be granted permission by default. If you get a strange error after turning on Controlled Folder Access (one common error I encountered while testing was the “This file cannot been found” message when trying save a file), then you might want to check “Block History” to see if Windows Security is preventing that app from making any changes.
The block history screen displays which apps tried to write to protected folders. “Block history” allows you to see which app was blocked and to what folder it tried to write. You can add the app to the list of programs that are able to make changes if it is the one you have been having problems with. (We’ll show you how to do this in a moment.
FireFox’s Download Screen said that the file I tried to save was not available.
You can choose “Protected Folders” to add additional folders to be protected from ransomware.
Apps won’t be able to write to protected folders if you add it to your folder list. Click the “Select Folder” button.
Select the folder that you wish to protect and click the “Select folder” button.
Allow an app to access a restricted folder
If you are having trouble using an app, or want to add it to your allowed list of apps go back to the “Ransomware Protection” page and click “Allow an App through Controlled Folder Access.”
Clicking on the “Add an authorized app” button will take you to the “Recently blocked applications” page. This will display a list of recent attempts to write to your protected folders.
Clicking on “Recently blocked applications” will bring up a list of apps that tried to make changes to your files but failed. Next, click on the plus button to unblock the app.
Clicking the plus button next an app’s name will allow it to make changes to files within your protected folders. This should not be necessary, but it can be frustrating. Ransomware Protection can be disabled at any time. However, if you feel you are at high risk of infection or don’t have backups, it is a good idea to think before you do this.
Additional ways to protect yourself
Although Windows’ ransomware protection can be a powerful tool, it is not the best way to rely on it. As with all anti-malware systems it should be considered a safety net and not your first line of defense. These are some things you can do to prevent ransomware infections from ever happening.
Be careful online
Ransomware, like all malware, can be spread in a variety ways. It can be attached to phishing email, exploited security holes in out-of date software, or masquerading itself as a useful program. It’s important to be vigilant when you’re online. If someone tries to convince you to download a program from an untrusted source, you should be extremely cautious.
It is also important to verify the extensions of any files you send. It is possible for someone to claim an attachment is a document but it has a different extension such as.exe or even.msi. This file could be dangerous. If you don’t see the extension of the file, right-click on it and click “Properties”. Windows will show you the type of file next to the heading “Type of File”.
Microsoft’s guide for protecting yourself against ransomware lists some things that could lead to your computer becoming infected.

o Visiting suspicious, unsafe, or fake websites.
o Opening attachments you didn’t expect or from people you don’t know.
o Opening malicious links in emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts or in instant messengers or SMS chats.

Keep your software up-to-date
It is also important to ensure that your operating system, and any software you use frequently, have the most recent security patches. Most browsers automatically update, and Windows will usually install updates as soon as they become available. Go to “Settings”>”Windows Update” and click on the “Check for Updates” button.
To update any app installed through Windows’ built in store, go to the Microsoft Store app and click the “Library” button in the lower left-hand side. Then click the “Get Updates” button to locate any updates. You can also click on the “Update” button for individual apps or the button at the top to update all.
Backups are essential
Although ransomware protection is a good idea and safe browsing habits can help you stay safe, it’s not perfect. You should have a backup of all your files to ensure that you don’t lose any important documents, photos, or videos if your computer is infected with ransomware. Backups can also help you avoid losing data in the event that your computer is physically damaged or lost.
Our guide on backing up your computer can be found here. It’s best to have at least two backups: one local and one in cloud. However, any backup is better than none at all.
What to do if your computer has been infected by ransomware?
If you find that your computer has been infected by ransomware and all your security measures have failed, there are three steps you can take.
Disconnect your computer form Wi-Fi and ethernet. Ransomware can spread to other computers on your network. It’s important to limit the damage.
Paying ransom is illegal and could make you a criminal depending on where hackers are trying to extort your funds. Also, paying doesn’t guarantee that you will get access to your files.
If you don’t have backups, the ransomware will most likely try to delete them.
Microsoft recommends running a complete scan of your computer with Windows Security. Malwarebytes is another good option that can scan your computer for malware. It is free and easy to use. If none of these options work, you might need to reset your computer completely.
If you aren’t sure you can remove ransomware from your computer, you should take it to a professional.

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