How to protect yourself from ransomware using Windows 10

Microsoft offers built-in ransomware protection for Windows 10. Here’s how to make sure you’re protected.

Ransomware is a particularly vicious type of malware that not only denies access to your computer system and data but demands a ransom be paid to unlock files.

And the amount of ransom demanded keeps going up. A multimillion-dollar demand to an organization isn’t unusual anymore.

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Ransomware typically spreads through phishing emails or by visiting an infected website.

Turn on ransomware in Windows 10

Microsoft has a feature under Virus and Threat Protection that allows you to enable ransomware protection.

Here’s how to turn it on: Type in “Windows Defender settings” or “Windows Security” in the Windows 10 Cortana search bar (typically in the bottom lower left of the screen).

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Then click on Virus and Protection settings and scroll down to “Ransomware protection” and select that.

Note that you may not be able to access Ransomware Protection if you have another third-party antivirus program running. Microsoft will warn you that you’re using multiple antivirus programs and will recommend that you uninstall other antivirus programs if you want to enable Microsoft’s Ransomware protection.

After you’re in Ransomware protection, toggle on Microsoft’s “Virus and Threat Protection.” Then go to “Controlled Folder Access” then “Protect folders.”  This will protect files and folders you select from unauthorized changes.

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For example, if you have Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft’s file hosting service, you can turn on protection for the entire drive. Then you can recover files if they get encrypted by a ransomware attack.

The goal, of course, is to block suspicious software but if an app is blocked that you know is safe, you can build a white list. Use the Controlled Folder Access to whitelist apps. You can do this by going to “allow an app through Controlled folder access.”

Another useful feature is “Block History” that shows what’s been blocked.

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Note that access to Ransomware Protection settings may vary depending on your PC and what version of Windows 10 you’re using.

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And be warned: if you’re not using a cloud-based file hosting service with automatic backup, you should make sure you’re regularly backing up files so a ransomware attack doesn’t lock you out of critical local programs and data on your PC.