The scourge that is ransomware has been making all sorts of headlines recently. For those infected by this most insidious form of malware, the consequences can be catastrophic, expensive, and more than a little bit embarrassing. But there are ways to protect yourself from the criminals using this technique to make a quick buck.

There are three primary ways to avoid ransomware:

  • Be careful: Don’t just click every link that crosses you path and don’t share authentication information with anyone. Social engineering is still the primary way criminals gain access to your devices.
  • Apply security patches: New security vulnerabilities for just about every operating system and just about every application are being discovered nearly every single day. Applying patches and fixes immediately upon release is just the cost of living in a connected world.
  • Install ransomware protection: Anti-malware security applications are now available to combat this latest threat and should be installed and activated. In fact, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update includes Microsoft’s latest anti-ransomware application as a built-in part of the operating system.

SEE: 17 tips for protecting Windows computers and Macs from ransomware (TechRepublic PDF)

You must turn it on

Oddly enough, you must proactively turn on this new ransomware protection feature since it is off by default. It’s not difficult to do, but as is Microsoft’s way, the option is buried fairly deep in the configuration settings. Here are the steps to turn it on, along with a simple explanation of some of its features.

Remember, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update must be installed before these settings will apply.

SEE: Cybersecurity spotlight: The ransomware battle (Tech Pro Research)

The easiest way to get to the Windows Defender Security Center on your PC is by typing defender into the Cortana search box. The first application in the results should be the Windows Defender Security Center app, and it should look like Figure A.

Figure A

Click the Virus & Threat Protection link to get the proper configuration screen, which should look similar to Figure B.

Figure B

Scroll down this screen until you reach the Controlled Folder Access section. You’ll find that the slider button is off by default. Slide it to On, as shown in Figure C, and you should be prompted to approve the change.

Figure C

Once you turn this feature on, two new links will appear under Controlled Folder Access. The Protected Folders link allows you to specify which folders should be included in the protected list. On my PC, the original list did not include the Download folder, for example, so I added it (Figure D).

Figure D

If you ever have a trusted application blocked by this ransomware protection application, you can add it to the trusted list via the Allow An App Through The Controlled Folder Access link (Figure E).

Figure E

SEE: How to get the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update early (TechRepublic)

Be proactive

Ransomware is more than an annoyance for those dealing with aftermath of being infected. The best way to prevent any malware attack is by being cautious, skeptical, and, above all, proactive. Activating the anti-ransomware app built into the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is one simple and effective way to add protection to your computing devices.

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