Ransomware is a particularly nasty kind of malware which encrypts your files and holds them ransom until you make a payment. In this article, we explain what ransomware is, how it works and which software can help you protect against it best.
What is ransomware and why should you protect against it?
Ransomware is a kind of malware which locks you out of your device or encrypts files on it, preventing access until a sum of money is paid. This tricky malware can be delivered via Trojan, which a user may download by accident thinking it is another file, or it can spread without any user action, as in the case of WannaCry.
WannaCry spread very quickly and was perhaps the most high profile recent example of ransomware. It affected 300,000 computers in over 150 countries by taking advantage of a vulnerability in Windows which was leaked from the NSA. Another example of ransomware is Cerber, which infects your system via Trojan horse, then encrypts your files and asks for payment.
You can commonly catch it by downloading pirated software or movies, and then only the hackers have the ability to decrypt your files. Other examples of nasty strains of ransomware include CryptoLocker, Petya, Bad Rabbit, AES-NI and Osiris, among others.
Individuals and businesses need to protect their data against this threat with anti-ransomware software, as it is growing more prevalent and costly each year. This year, there has been a 400% increase in new strains of ransomware. That means protecting against known threats alone is not enough. You also have to protect against emerging threats and zero-day attacks.
The average ransom demanded in 2017 was $1,100. Even if you already have an anti-virus software, it helps to have an extra layer of protection against this specific type of malware, because if you don't, it can cost you thousands of dollars in either ransom money or damage to your files and systems. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable and free solutions out there for preventing ransomware attacks and keeping your data safe. In the next section, we'll tell you which is our favorite and why it's the best one.
What is the best software to protect against ransomware?
There are a lot of options for protecting your PC against ransomware attacks, but we recommend Acronis Ransomware Protection. It's a free application with a wide range of benefits, including not just active prevention, but also file backup and recovery. It's meant to be used as an extra layer of protection in addition to your antivirus.
Here's how it works: By monitoring the behavior of your system in real time, it can stop attacks from known ransomware (like WannaCry, Osiris and Petya) and from new ransomware which hasn't ever been seen before, also known as zero-day attacks.
If a suspicious process starts trying to encrypt your files or infect your system, Acronis will stop the activity and notify you. It will then give you the option to either block the activity permanently or let the suspicious activity continue if it was a false alarm, for example, if you were encrypting your own files on purpose.
If malware does manage to damage or encrypt your files, they can be restored from a local cache on your computer. In addition, Acronis offers 5 GB of free cloud storage, which updates regularly, so you can keep your most critical files backed up securely in the cloud, too.
How to get Acronis Ransomware Protection for free
Here is our step-by-step guide to downloading, installing and configuring Acronis’ Ransomware Protection software. The first step is to download the installer, which is only 20 MB, from the official website. The application is compatible with PCs running Windows 7 SP1, 8, 8.1 or 10, it doesn't slow down your computer's performance, and you can use it alongside your other anti-virus or backup solutions without any problems.
1. After downloading, simply run the program to install the software. You'll need to create an account, but you won't have to give up any more information than your name and email address. After the installation and creating an account, you'll get a quick tutorial before being taken to the following main screen, which shows two sections: Active Protection and Cloud backup.
2. In the Active Protection section, it shows Monitored processes which you should keep an eye on as potential threats and Safe processes which you don't need to look too closely at. Monitored processes show up as blue in the timeline to the right, while Safe processes are green. Red obviously means a more clearly malicious process has been detected. Clicking Manage processes will bring you to a list of suspicious processes, and you can choose to either block or trust them from that screen.
3. In the Cloud backup section, you can click the Settings icon to select which files and folders you'd like to keep continuously backed up to the free 5 GB of cloud storage. Using the cloud backup is totally optional. If you're a fan of the service and you've used all of the free 5 GB though, you can upgrade to 250 GB of storage for $9.99 per year, 500 GB for $19.99 or 1 TB for $39.99. To see your backed up files, click Browse and you'll be taken to the Acronis Cloud website.
Ransomware is something you should absolutely protect your PC against proactively with an additional layer of protection alongside your antivirus. There's a lot to keep in mind when choosing the right anti-ransomware software, including cost and whether or not it includes data backup and recovery options offline and in the cloud. Acronis Ransomware Protection offers active monitoring and prevention, along with 5 GB of cloud backup storage just in case the worst happens, all for free.
Let us know your thoughts on PC security and ransomware defense in the comments!
This article was written in cooperation with Acronis.