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Microsoft Tackles Ransomware with Controlled Folder Access

In the wake of global malicious attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya, Microsoft this week announced a new feature meant to keep users’ data safe from ransomware and other type of malware.

In the wake of global malicious attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya, Microsoft this week announced a new feature meant to keep users’ data safe from ransomware and other type of malware.

Dubbed Controlled folder access, the feature was included as a new option in the Windows Defender Security Center in Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16232 for PC, and should become available for all users in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update release, set to arrive sometime in October-November 2017.

This week, Microsoft also announced that the Fall Creators Update will make the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) native to Windows 10, providing users with additional protection against exploits and other types of threats.

“In [Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16232], we’re making it easier for you to protect valuable data from malicious apps and threats, such as ransomware. To enable the feature, search for and open the Windows Defender Security Center from Start, go to the Virus & threat protection settings section, and set the switch to On,” Dona Sarkar, Software Engineer, Windows and Devices Group, notes in a blog post.

The new feature, Sarkar explains, is meant to monitor the changes applications make to files in certain protected folders and blacklists any app that attempts to make such modifications, while also notifying the user on the action taken.

There will be a default list of folders included in the option (such as Documents, Pictures, Movies, and Desktop), but users will have the possibility to add more locations to the list. However, they won’t be able to modify the default list.

Users who don’t store their files in the default Windows libraries will certainly find the option to add more folders to the protected list a handy option.

“Click Protected folders in the Controlled folder access area and enter the full path of the folder you want to monitor. You can also enter network shares and mapped drives, but environment variables and wildcards are not supported (for right now),” Sarkar notes.

Controlled folder access should provide users with an extra layer of security in addition to the defenses already built into Windows 10. However, it users shouldn’t rely solely on it when it comes to data protection. Using a multi-layered approach to security is a better practice, as cybercriminals are constantly adapting in an attempt to bypass even the most sophisticated defenses.

Related: Microsoft to Make EMET Native to Windows 10

Related: Next Windows 10 Release Brings Improved Control of Updates, Privacy

Related: Windows 10 Option to Block Installation of Win32 Apps

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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