Ransomware that hits organizations makes the headlines, but ransomware continues to hit consumers too. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to ransomware. Let’s look at the best ransomware protection methods.
- The Threat
- Best Ransomware Protection: How to Increase Your Security
- Additional Resources
- What You Should Do
In a hurry? Here’s the best anti-malware software for Windows, which includes ransomware protection. Read on for more details.
- BitDefender Internet Security: Protect Your Devices Against Online Threats
- Norton Security: All-In-One Antivirus
- F-Secure: Cybersecurity Solutions for your Home and Business
- Eset: Antivirus, Antimalware, and Internet Security Solutions
- Avira Pro: Next-Generation Antivirus Protection
- Avast Free: Award Winning Antivirus And VPN
- Avast Premium: Complete Online Protection
- Kaspersky: Cyber Security Solutions for Home and Business
- McAfee: Security Solutions For Cloud, Endpoint, and Antivirus
BitDefender Internet Security offers the best security against all Internet threats. Includes a privacy firewall to block intrusions and filter traffic, and secure VPN for complete online privacy.
Norton Security offers multiple layers of protection for your Cyber Safety. Protect all your devices against viruses and malware.
F-Secure helps protect your devices against online threats. It also ensures that your identity is protected while you browse the web.
ESET provides advanced security for all your Windows, Mac, Android, and Linux devices. It blocks and eliminates even the most advanced threats.
Avira Pro protects your devices from malware, spyware, ransomware, and adware. It lets you bank, shop, pay, and email with complete confidence.
Avast Free is packed with the largest threat-detection network, machine-learning virus protection, and home network security that will not slow down your PC.
Avast Premium is more than just an antivirus. It offers complete protection against cybersecurity and privacy threats.
Kaspersky guards your devices against viruses, secures and stores your passwords and private documents, and encrypts the data you send and receive online with VPN.
McAfee provides virus protection against the latest malware, spyware, and ransomware attacks. It also has a password manager and a VPN for a safe web browsing experience.
Ransomware is malware that prevents you from accessing the files on your device (often by encrypting them) until you pay a ransom. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get your files back if you pay the ransom; that’s up to the attacker behind the ransomware. And do you trust them?
Note: You can find more Internet security definitions in the glossary.
You’ve probably heard about ransomware wreaking havoc for businesses, schools, hospitals, and even cities (more reports). Individuals are also hit by ransomware, though those attacks rarely make headlines.
Kaspersky researchers detected 16,017 new ransomware modifications in Q2 2019 – including ones belonging to eight new malware families. According to the company’s IT Threat Evolution Q2 2019 report, this is more than double the number of new samples detected a year ago, in Q2 2018 (7,620). … According to Kaspersky data, 232,292 unique users were targeted by such attacks – 46% more than a year ago, in Q2 2018 (158,921).Kaspersky (kaspersky.com)
The consumer still represents a potentially lucrative market, because many people do not take the correct steps to secure their systems after an attack. Only 26 percent of consumers started to back up data, and 22 percent began backing up data more regularly, which suggests that more than half of consumers don’t back up regularly.Symantec (broadcom.com)
Ransomware primarily affects Windows, though it can also affect Macs and Android devices.
Ransomware could enter your device because you click a link to an infected website or open an infected attachment. These links and attachments can come in by email, SMS/text, social media, or another messaging system.
Another way ransomware could enter your device is because you install infected software. For example, you want a fitness app or an antivirus tool on your phone, so you find one on a website and install it, not realizing that the app contains ransomware.
Some of the most recent ransomware attacks involved the following:
The COVID-19 crisis has caused a lot of turmoil in the world, and some hackers are taking advantage by trying to steal even more. A study from Comparitech showed that these cyber-attacks had an enormous impact on the healthcare sector with over $20 billion lost in revenue because of lawsuits and ransom payments alone this year. There were 92 ransomware attacks, mostly caused by malicious software or unauthorized access, against hospitals, clinics, or other health organizations impacting 600 facilities worldwide during the course of the year.
The Colonial Pipeline attack, which involved the DarkSide group and caused widespread shortages in multiple states after targeting the company’s billing systems and business network. To avoid further disruption, Colonial Pipeline eventually gave in to their demands and paid them over $4 million dollars worth of bitcoin.
Another DarkSide group attack happened in May 2021, against Brenntag, a chemical distribution company. After stealing 150 GB of data and sensitive files from them, the hacker group asked for $7.5 million. The company settled and sent $4.4 million of bitcoin to the hackers.
Best Ransomware Protection: How to Increase Your Security
There are several steps you can take to keep ransomware off your device and recover from it if it strikes. Let’s take a look.
Don’t Invite Ransomware in
To guard against ransomware entering your device through a link or attachment, don’t click suspicious links, don’t open suspicious attachments, and entertain any suspicious behavior.
To guard against ransomware entering your device through infected software, don’t install suspicious software. On mobile devices, install apps only from the official app stores (Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore). On computers, use the official app stores whenever possible (Mac App Store, Microsoft Store), and download software only from trusted websites.
Software updates often include security enhancements. Updates can protect a device against malware, including ransomware. For example, Microsoft patched Windows to defend against WannaCry ransomware, and Apple patched macOS to defend against KeRanger and Filezip ransomware.
I highly recommend that you set your devices and software to update automatically. When an update requires you to do something, such as approve the update or restart a program or the device, do it as soon as you can to avoid a ransomware attack.
Not all devices and software can be automatically updated. You should regularly update these manually.
If you get ransomware on a device, you’ll need to remove it, then restore your encrypted files. Although it’s sometimes possible to decrypt files that have been encrypted by ransomware, don’t count on this being an option. Instead, back up regularly, so you can restore a clean copy of your files.
There are two main categories of backup:
- Online backup (aka cloud backup): backup over the Internet, to remote storage
- Offline backup: backup that isn’t done over the Internet, usually to storage you have nearby
It’s important that whatever backup system you use has versioning (sometimes described as previous versions). This means that the backup keeps track of how a file has changed over time so that you can choose which version to restore. This is critical because if your files get encrypted on your device and then backed up, your backup will contain encrypted files that are unusable to you, so you’ll need to roll back to a previous, unencrypted version of them.
Mobile devices often have online backups built-in. For example, iPhones and iPads can back up to iCloud, and Android devices can back up to Google. You can also use third-party backup software.
You can also back up mobile devices offline. For example, you can back up your iPhone or iPad to your Mac.
Computers may have online backup built-in (such as Macs backing up some data to iCloud), and you can also use third-party backup software.
It’s also easy to back up a computer offline, to an external hard drive. I recommend that you disconnect your backup device when the backup finishes. That way, if your computer gets ransomware, it won’t be able to encrypt your backup.
I use online and offline backups. I back up my phone online and to my computer. I back up my computer online, using IDrive, and I also back it up to an external hard drive, which I disconnect as soon as the backup completes.
Take the time to set up your backup systems, or review your current systems. You may thank yourself later!
Use Anti-Malware that Stops Ransomware
Over the last few years, many anti-malware (aka antivirus) products have added the ability to detect, stop, and sometimes remove ransomware.
Paid anti-malware usually includes anti-ransomware, but not all free anti-malware does. When considering anti-malware, look for the word ransomware, such as anti-ransomware and ransomware protection.
No security software is capable of blocking all malware and potential threats, and that’s true for ransomware too. Don’t become overconfident in your anti-malware and overlook the behaviors described earlier, or fail to set up backups.
Let’s look at anti-ransomware software for Windows, Mac, and Android.
Best Ransomware Protection for Windows
Windows Defender, the anti-malware built into Windows 10 and other versions of Windows, includes the Controlled Folder Access feature, which is good protection against ransomware. However, it’s turned off by default.
If you enable it, it will protect common folders, such as Documents and Pictures, from unauthorized changes. If ransomware tried to encrypt files in your Documents folder, it would be stopped. However, as with any security software, this isn’t a perfect solution. Also, you’ll see a lot more permission requests, as legitimate programs ask for access to your folders.
I recommend enabling Controlled Folder Access and paying attention to the permission requests.
Whether or not you enable it, you may want to consider third-party anti-malware. Here’s the Windows anti-malware that has the best test results from the independent test labs AV-Comparatives, AV-TEST, Virus Bulletin, and SE Labs. These all include anti-ransomware. These antivirus programs are in alphabetical order.
- Avast Free Antivirus
- AVG Internet Security (and AVG Free Antivirus)
- Avira Antivirus Pro
- Bitdefender Internet Security
- ESET Internet Security
- F-Secure SAFE
- Kaspersky Internet Security
- McAfee Internet Security
- Microsoft Windows Defender (included in Windows)
- Norton Security
- VIPRE Advanced Security
These are all paid, except for Avast Free Antivirus and AVG Free Antivirus.
Bitdefender has consistently earned high ratings from multiple organizations over the years, and I recommend it for those looking for good anti-ransomware software.
BitDefender AntiVirus protects you against existing or new e-threats. It's easy to install and light on your computer resources. The only free antivirus you'll ever need.
Best Ransomware Protection for Mac
Ransomware is much less common on Macs than on Windows, but it does exist and you should always be wary of any ransomware threats. I previously wrote about the reality of Mac malware, and anti-malware options. If you have a Mac, I recommend reading that next.
If you’re careful, you probably don’t need software to protect your Mac against ransomware. But if you want it, here’s the Mac anti-malware that has the best test results from independent test labs AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST. These all include anti-ransomware. These are in alphabetical order.
- Avast Security for Mac
- Avira Antivirus Pro for Mac
- Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac
- Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac
- Norton Security for Mac
- Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac
These are all paid, except for Avast Security for Mac.
Bitdefender has consistently earned high ratings from multiple organizations over the years, and I recommend it.
BitDefender For Mac gives you protection against Mac malware. Quick to install and light on your computer resources. The only free antivirus that you will ever need.
Best Ransomware Protection for Android
Ransomware is much less common on mobile devices than on computers. Ransomware exists on Android, but I didn’t find reports of ransomware or ransomware attacks on iPhones or iPads.
You usually need to take deliberate action to install ransomware on a mobile device. It’s harder to accidentally do it than on Windows. If you’re careful, you probably don’t need anti-ransomware software to protect your Android device against ransomware. But if you want it, here’s the Android anti-malware that has the best test results from the independent test labs AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST. These all include ransomware protection software. These antivirus tools are in alphabetical order.
- Avast Mobile Security
- AVG AntiVirus for Android
- Avira Antivirus Security for Android
- F-Secure SAFE
- Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
- McAfee Mobile Security
- Trend Micro Mobile Security
These are all free antivirus software, except F-Secure SAFE and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android.
How to Remove Ransomware
If you still get ransomware despite your efforts to prevent it, try to start your device in safe mode and use the anti-malware installed on your device to remove it. If it can’t, use other anti-malware software.
If your anti-malware software can’t decrypt your files, use the No More Ransom Project to try to decrypt your files. If it can’t, you’ll need to restore your files from a backup.
I strongly recommend that you not pay the ransom, because not only does it not guarantee that your files will be encrypted, it’s also funding criminal activity. The FBI “does not advocate paying a ransom.”
- Ransomware (us-cert.gov)
- Prevention Advice (nomoreransom.org)
- AV-Comparatives test results (av-comparatives.org)
- AV-TEST test results (av-test.org)
- Virus Bulletin (virusbulletin.com)
- SE Labs (selabs.uk)
What You Should Do
- Don’t invite ransomware in and avoid entertaining any suspicious activities. Don’t click malicious links, don’t open suspicious attachments, and don’t install suspicious software. On mobile devices, install apps only from the official app stores (Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore). On computers, use the official app stores whenever possible (Mac App Store, Microsoft Store), and download software only from trusted websites. As much as possible, you must avoid any unauthorized access since it’s the most common way hackers gain control of your device.
- Stay updated. Set your devices and software to update automatically. When an update requires you to do something, such as approve the update or restart a program or the device, do it as soon as you can. Regularly manually update devices and software that can’t be automatically updated.
- Back up regularly. Use online and/or offline backups for all important devices.
- Use anti-malware that stops ransomware and minimize any unauthorized access. Use the antivirus software included in your operating system, or use third-party anti-malware. Whatever you use, ensure that it includes anti-ransomware, and that it’s enabled.
With IDrive, you can backup unlimited PCs, Macs, iPhones, Ipads, and Android devices into a single account securely. Files and folders will be synced in real-time across all the devices.
BitDefender is the best protection for your Android smartphone and tablet. Includes secure VPN for a fast, anonymous, and safe experience while surfing the web.