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Turning on Ransomware Protection for Microsoft Windows 10

Ransomware attacks are typically delivered to a user via a malicious but legitimate looking email link or attachment. When the user opens the ransomware it will typically encrypt a user’s files, then demand a ransom to restore access – typically payable using cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin.

What

Certain malware that locks down your computer and files until a ransom is paid

Ransomware attacks are typically delivered to a user via a malicious but legitimate looking email link or attachment. When the user opens the ransomware it will typically encrypt a user’s files, then demands a ransom to restore access – typically payable using cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin.

Why

Money

Ransom, an age-old and effective crime, is now being committed online. Ransomware offers cybercriminals a low-risk, high-reward income. It is easy to develop and distribute. Also in cybercriminals’ favour, most small businesses are unprepared to deal with ransomware attacks.

Never pay a ransom

You are not guaranteed to regain access to your information and may be vulnerable to a second attack.

Who

Everyone

Many individuals and small businesses are often less security conscious, are less likely to implement cyber security measures, and spend less on cyber security measures. While medium and large businesses may have some considerations for cybersecurity measures, they too can benefit from inbuilt system security features – such as Microsoft’s ransomware protection.

Microsoft’s ransomware protection

Ransomware protection is a control on computers to stop a ransomware attack from encrypting access or files that are important to you. Microsoft has a built-in control to help protect devices from ransomware. It ensures folders you choose cannot be altered which prevents them from being encrypted down by a criminal. This guide will demonstrate how you can configure and use this control to protect your files from a ransomware attack.

While ransomware protection can be useful, having a backup stored offline is important in case you need to retrieve important files or information. 

Setting up Ransomware Protection for Microsoft Windows 10

  1. Select the Windows icon in the bottom left of your screen and then click on the Settings Cog icon.
     
    Screen shot of settings icon on windows 10

  2. Once in Settings, click on the Update & Security icon.
     
    Screen shot of updates and security icon in windows 10

  3. Click Windows Security tab.
     
    Screen shot of windows security icon in windows update screen

  4. Under the Protection areas list, click on Virus & threat protection.
     
    Screen shot of virus and threat protection icon in windows security screen

  5. Click on Manage ransomware protection under Ransomware protection.
     
    Screen shot highlighting manage ransomware protection link

  6. In many cases, the Controlled folder access will be toggled off. If so, click on the toggle to turn it on.
     
    Screen shot highlighting controlled folder access toggle button

  7. Once controlled folder access is turned on, click on Protected folders.

    Note: You can only use this functionality if you are an administrator. If you are a local account user, you will be prompted to login using the Administrator account.

    For more information regarding administrator and local user accounts, please refer to Managing User Accounts on Microsoft Windows 10.


  8. Click on Add a protected folder to select the folder you want to be added to the protected list.

    By default, the following folders are already included in the Protected List:

    • Documents
    • Pictures
    • Videos
    • Music 
    • Favourites

    Note: This will restrict applications from accessing any folders in the protected list.
     

    Under the 'Protected folders' heading, the 'Add a protected folder' button is highlighted

  9. Optional: To allow applications to access files inside folders on the protected List, go back to the “ransomware protection” window and click on Allow an app through Controlled folder access. Then click Add an allowed app.

    Screen shot of allow an app through controlled folder access link

    Note: This step is only recommended for users who are comfortable navigating the Windows folder structure. By default, Microsoft has a list of apps that are trusted and included behind-the-scenes. You may have applications such as MYOB or Adobe that are not part of this list.

    Only allow apps that are reputable and trustworthy to access your folders in the Protected List, as this is similar to allowing a technician into your house without supervision.