The Best Ransomware Protection for 2022
Many years ago, malware programmers produced viruses and other malicious software for the sake of gaining geek cred rather than for financial gain. Perhaps their creations would compel computers to mention a girlfriend’s name, or they might force computers to display some sort of amusing message. Those were the days, and they are long gone. Today, malware coding is just another type of business. Some cyberattacks are designed to steal personal information that can then be sold on the Dark Internet. Others gain control of a large number of computers, which their “bot herder” can then rent out for various purposes, such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks. There is no buying and selling associated with ransomware, on the other hand. Ransomware is a type of malware that goes straight for the money, encrypting your important data and demands that you pay a fee to recover them. True, your antivirus programme should be able to protect you against ransomware just like it does from other sorts of malware, but if it fails, even for a small period, you’re out of luck.
If a virus or Trojan infects your computer, wreaks havoc for a few days, and then is erased by an antivirus update, it’s not ideal, but it’s not impossible. When ransomware is involved, though, things are a little more complicated. Because your files have already been encrypted, killing the culprit will do nothing and may even make it more difficult for you to pay the ransom if you want to do so in the future. Some security systems feature ransomware-specific protection layers, and you may also add ransomware-specific protection as an add-on to your existing security as a backup measure.
When your company is targeted by ransomware, the situation becomes even direr. It is possible that every hour of missed productivity could cost thousands of dollars or even more, depending on the nature of the firm. Ransomware assaults are on the rise, which is good news because tactics for combating those attacks are also on the rise. The tools that you can employ to protect yourself from ransomware are discussed in this section.
What Is Ransomware, and How Do You Get It?
The basic notion of ransomware is straightforward. The assailant finds a way to obtain something of yours and then demands payment in exchange for returning it. The most frequent sort of ransomware is encrypting ransomware, which prevents you from accessing your crucial documents by replacing them with encrypted duplicates. If you pay the ransom, you will be given the key to decode the papers (you hope). Another sort of ransomware is one that prevents you from using your computer or mobile device in any way. This screen locker ransomware, on the other hand, is less difficult to fight and does not represent the same amount of harm as encrypting ransomware. Malware that encrypts your whole hard drive and renders your computer unusable is maybe the most heinous example. Fortunately, this last variety is relatively rare.
If you are the victim of a ransomware assault, you will not be aware of it at first. It does not display any of the typical symptoms that you have malware on your computer. Encrypting ransomware operates in the background, intending to complete its nefarious task before you become aware of its existence. Once it has completed the job, it will get in your face, presenting instructions on how to pay the ransom and reclaim your files from the attacker. Naturally, the criminals demand untraceable payment, and Bitcoin is a popular alternative for this purpose. In addition, the ransomware may tell victims to purchase a gift card or prepaid debit card and provide the card details to the ransomware.
When it comes to how you become infected with this infection, it is most typically through the receipt of an infected PDF or Office document in an email that appears to be legitimate. It may even appear to be coming from an IP address within your organization’s domain name. That appears to have been the case with the WannaCry ransomware attack that occurred a few years ago. If you have even the slightest concern about the legitimacy of the email, do not click on the link and immediately notify your company’s information technology department.
Of fact, ransomware is just another type of malware, and it may be sent to you by any malware-delivery mechanism available. For example, a drive-by download hosted by a malicious advertisement on a seemingly safe website could be harmful. The virus can also be contracted via plugging an infected USB drive into your computer, albeit this is a less typical method of transmission. If you’re lucky, your malware security software will detect it and remove it right away. If you don’t, you could find yourself in danger.
Encrypting malware such as CryptoLocker and its variants
CryptoLocker was perhaps the most well-known ransomware strain until the devastating WannaCry outbreak in May 2017. It first appeared on the scene a few years ago. Although an international consortium of law enforcement and security agencies brought down the group responsible for CryptoLocker a long time ago, other criminal organisations have kept the name alive by using it to brand their destructive works.
CryptoLocker and Other Encrypting Malware
A Diminished Playing Field
You could choose from a dozen or so standalone ransomware protection programmes from consumer security companies some years ago, and many of those tools were available for no cost. The vast majority of those have now vanished, for a variety of reasons. Examples include Acronis Ransomware Protection, which used to be available as a free standalone application, but which is now only available as a component of the company’s backup programme. Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware, on the other hand, is now only available as part of the entire Malwarebytes Premium package. Regarding Heilig Defense RansomOff, the company’s website previously stated that “RansomOff will be back at some point.” There is no longer any mention of the product.
There are a few ransomware protection programmes available for free from business security companies who have decided to do the world a favour by providing simply their ransomware component as a freebie for consumers. Additionally, quite a few of them have also fallen by the wayside, as corporations have discovered that the free product consumes significant amounts of support time. The software CyberSight RansomStopper, for example, is no longer available, and Cybereason RansomFree has also been discontinued.
Because of this, Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware has been discontinued for a more practical reason. While it was in existence, it took a novel approach to the problem. To prevent a ransomware attacker from encrypting the same files more than once, many ransomware programmes put some form of the marker on the files they encrypt to prevent double-dipping. Bitdefender would mimic the markings for numerous well-known ransomware varieties, thus advising them, “Beware of this malware.” “Let’s get this party started! You’ve already spent some time here!” This strategy proved to be far too narrow to be useful in practice. CryptoDrop appears to have vanished as well, leaving the CryptoDrop domain name available for purchase.
A Dwindling Field
Even if ransomware manages to sneak past your antivirus, the chances are strong that an antivirus update will remove the attacker from your machine within a short period. Simply deleting the ransomware will not restore your data to its original state. Maintaining a protected cloud backup of your key files is the only surefire way to ensure that your data is never lost.
Despite this, depending on whatever ransomware strain has encrypted your files, there is a slim probability of restoring your data. The fact that your antivirus (or the ransom note) provides you with a name can be really helpful. Many antivirus manufacturers, including Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Avast, keep a variety of one-time decryption software on hand for customers to use when needed. Sometimes, the programme will require the unencrypted original of a single encrypted file to correct the situation. When using a master decryption key, such as in the case of TeslaCrypt, the data is protected.
But, in reality, the best defence against ransomware is to prevent it from encrypting your files and encrypting your data. There are a variety of various ways that can be used to achieve this purpose.
A well-designed antivirus programme should be able to detect and destroy ransomware on the spot, but ransomware designers are notoriously difficult to detect. They put up considerable effort to circumvent both traditional signature-based malware detection and more flexible contemporary approaches. Once your antivirus software makes a mistake, a fresh and unknown ransomware assault can take advantage of the situation and leave your files inaccessible. Even if the antivirus software receives an update that removes the ransomware, it will not be able to restore the files.
A type of behaviour monitoring is now included in most modern antivirus software to enhance signature-based detection. Some people rely solely on the observation of malicious behaviour rather than on the detection of known hazards. Furthermore, behaviour-based detection, which is primarily targeted at ransomware behaviours involving encryption, is becoming more widespread.
Ransomware often targets files that are kept in common locations such as the desktop and the Documents folder on the computer. Some antivirus software and security suites prevent ransomware attacks from taking place by blocking unauthorised access to the infected computers. The majority of the time, they pre-approve well-known decent products like word processors and spreadsheets. When an unknown software attempts to gain access, they will prompt you, the user, to decide whether or not to accept access. You should block any notifications that arrive at you out of the blue and are not the result of your actions.
Without a doubt, employing an online backup programme to preserve a current backup of your vital files is the most effective method of protecting your computer against malware. First, you must locate and eliminate the malicious software, potentially with the assistance of your antivirus company’s technical support. Once that procedure is completed, you can simply restore the files that were previously backed up. It should be noted that certain ransomware will attempt to encrypt your backups as well. Backup systems in which your backed-up files are stored on a virtual disc drive may be particularly susceptible to compromise. For more information on ransomware protection, speak with your backup provider or see the product documentation.
Its free RansomFree tool served only one purpose during its existence: to identify and avert ransomware attacks, which Cybereason did not charge for. One particularly noticeable aspect of this programme was its ability to create “bait” files in locations that are commonly targeted by ransomware. Any attempt to make changes to these files resulted in a ransomware takedown being initiated. It also made use of other types of behaviour-based detection, although its inventors were understandably reticent to divulge too much information about it. What’s the point of telling the bad guys what behaviours to avoid? Unfortunately, keeping this free offering for consumers proved to be unfeasible for the company, which focuses on Enterprise customers.
Kaspersky Security Cloud Free, as well as a slew of other products, employ behaviour-based detection to detect and eliminate ransomware that manages to get past your usual antivirus. He or she does not rely on “bait” files; rather, they pay great attention to how applications interact with your genuine papers. When they detect ransomware, they place the threat in quarantine.
This is an important point to consider. Bait files are also used by ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware, however, they are not as noticeable as those used by RansomFree. In addition, it employs additional levels of security. It was able to beat all of our real-world ransomware strains in testing, restoring any files that had been corrupted and even erasing the bogus ransom notes that one of the instances had presented.
All sorts of malware, not just ransomware, are detected by Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, which uses behaviour patterns to do so. It does not interfere with known good processes and destroys known malware. When an application falls into neither of these categories, Webroot keeps a close eye on its activities. It prevents unknown individuals from establishing internet connections, and it records every local action. The unknown application is being investigated in depth at Webroot central throughout this period. It will use the journaled data to undo every action taken by the software, including encrypting files, if the application is determined to be malicious. The business does warn that the journal database is not limitless in size, and it also recommends that you back up all of your key files regularly. In our latest round of testing, Webroot successfully rolled back the actions of several real-world ransomware samples but let a couple of others slip past.