Ransomware Protection Tips: Tools & Tips to Protect Your Business in 2021

Businesses have enough to worry about when it comes to protecting their data from cybercriminals. There is a thriving cybercrime industry on the dark web where hackers sell bundles of data stolen from company servers via malware and phishing techniques, so businesses pay a large price for not using adequate protections. Read on for our full ransomware protection tips and tools.

Max Pitchkites
By Max Pitchkites (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-10-04T10:55:34+00:00

If malware and phishing weren’t enough, ransomware is an even more dangerous and profitable threat aimed at businesses. While a phishing campaign may result in the theft and exposure of company data, ransomware stops the business’ operations completely until the data is restored. These ransomware protection tips can help protect against that.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ransomware is a form of malware that makes your files inaccessible by encrypting them. Not only is the data under the attacker’s control, but it will also stop targeted businesses from operating.
  • Antivirus, backup and cloud storage are important ransomware protection tools for preventing and recovering from ransomware infections.
  • Paying a ransom does not guarantee that you will get your data back.
  • People are the weakest link in cybersecurity. A workforce well trained in cybersecurity best practices is the first line of defense against cyberattacks.

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts all of the files on an infected computer system so that the data can no longer be accessed. The data cannot be decrypted unless the target pays a ransom, usually requested in the form of cryptocurrency — at least, that’s what ransomware operators want their victims to think.

The paralyzing effect of ransomware is so devastating that business owners often give in and pay the ransom, but they usually don’t get their data back. There is great pressure to pay up when the company grinds to a halt, especially when the business’ operations directly affect the lives of its constituents. This is why hospitals, fire departments, police departments and other civic institutions are such lucrative targets.

Keep reading as we help you understand ransomware attacks a bit more and provide you with seven ransomware protection tips that will help you and your business stay safe.

  • 09/27/2021 Facts checked

    Refreshed our list of anti-ransomware tips and updated the article’s information on Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Acronis True Image, IDrive, Sync.com and pCloud.

  • Bitdefender is our top recommendation for preventing and removing ransomware, but there are other ransomware protection programs to consider as well. Check out our review of our top antivirus programs for a full range of selections.

  • It depends on the antivirus solution, but all of the best ones can accurately detect and eliminate ransomware.

  • Windows Defender is capable of scanning for malware and promptly removing it, which includes ransomware. Because no program is 100 percent secure, we advise implementing several ransomware protection measures in advance, even if you have Windows Defender on your system.

Why Do You Need Ransomware Protection?

Ransomware is powerful enough to bring entire companies down or at least inflict billions of dollars in damage. Large companies might survive a ransomware attack, but small- to medium-sized businesses usually cannot withstand the devastation of a ransomware attack. This was the fate of Colorado Timberline, a timber supplier that had to shut down in 2018.

Additionally, many ransomware operators are unwilling or unable to decrypt the data and simply run off with the money once paid, leaving the business in an even worse position than before. The FBI urges ransomware victims to refrain from paying the ransom.

“The FBI does not support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back. It also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”

 FBI’s ransomware guidance webpage Tweet This

If you’re a business owner or just someone with valuable data (as we all are), keeping yourself safe with ransomware protection can separate you, your employees and your family from bankruptcy.

What Is Anti-Ransomware Protection?

Anti-ransomware protection can refer to antivirus programs that scan and remove ransomware infections, or preemptive ransomware protection measures like backing up your data. 

All the following tips are anti-ransomware protection that you can use to prevent ransomware, including best practices as well as free and paid tools for your devices.

7 Ransomware Protection Tips

The good news is that you can keep your data from being held ransom in the first place. We’ll go through seven ransomware protection tips for keeping your data secure in 2021. 

Ransomware operators are scheming day and night to create increasingly more sophisticated ransomware campaigns, but you will remain out of their reach as long as you stick to the fundamentals of ransomware protection.

1. Use Technology Wisely

First and foremost, your business’ data security depends primarily on you and your employees’ prudential use of technology. Simple security habits like being cautious of suspicious links, emails and websites will avoid the majority of malware threats. These are simple anti-ransomware techniques that everyone should be educated on to prevent ransomware attacks.

2. Use a VPN

nord vpn servers
NordVPN’s server network includes 5,200 servers across 60 countries.

Using a VPN is another great first step toward ransomware protection. A virtual private network is a security tool that keeps your internet connection private by securing it with encryption and routing it through an intermediary server. VPNs keep your online activities from being monitored by your ISP, advertisers, hackers and government agencies.

3. Update Software on Your Computer and Mobile Devices

windows update
Regularly check for updates to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Naturally, some ransomware operators are clever enough to thwart the efforts of the most cautious computer user. Outdated software leaves unaddressed vulnerabilities in your system that ransomware operators rely on to infiltrate targeted networks.

4. Manage Permissions

Keep your employees’ permissions restricted to only the systems they need for their work. Most of your employees probably don’t need installation permission to do their work, and almost all of them don’t need administrative-level permissions.

Excessive permissions expand the cybercriminals’ attack vector, as a single compromised employee is all an attacker needs to launch a devastating ransomware attack.

5. Change Default Credentials & Use Strong Passwords

Most devices are either secured with easy-to-guess default passwords or no authentication at all. No matter what kind of device it is, make sure to set up a strong password on each of your devices as soon as you get it.

6. Backup Your Data

Whatever you do, always backup your data: it’s the number one way out of a ransomware attack. Although the remediation process can be costly and time-consuming, you will be able to get your systems up and running again without paying the ransomware operators or alerting the authorities.

Beware of local backups. If copies of your data are stored locally, they will be within the ransomware’s reach and be of no use, so take care to store your backups outside your network.

7. Use File-Versioning

File-versioning goes hand in hand with backup. Retaining each iteration of a file or document between edits creates a paper trail documenting each change. It’s a common practice in workplaces for editing files without altering them permanently, as an earlier version can be retrieved to reverse undesirable changes, including ransomware encryption.

The Best Ransomware Protection Software

When all else fails, your ransomware protection software will keep you from falling prey to the ransom menace. The four major types of software services that we’ll be focusing on here are antivirus, online backup, cloud storage software and VPNs.

Antivirus Tools

Good cybersecurity hygiene will go far, but it won’t be enough on its own. Even when you have a secure backup in place, it is always preferable to prevent your devices from being compromised in the first place. That’s why having a reliable antivirus program at all times is an essential ransomware protection and anti-malware measure.

Modern antivirus packages come with a suite of features for protecting desktops, mobile devices and web browsers from a wide range of malware threats. Some deals are tailored for individual use, while fuller antivirus and anti-malware bundles are designed to secure an entire businesses’ IT infrastructure.

Because there are different antivirus programs designed for different purposes, there isn’t just one “best” antivirus, although we have some recommended antivirus suites your business can rely on. Check out our top antivirus software choices for 2021 for a more detailed analysis. For now, here’s a summary of some of our favorites.

Bitdefender

bitdefender dashboard

More Information About Bitdefender:

  • Pricing: Bitdefender Total Security starts at $36 per year
  • Website: bitdefender.com

Pros:

  • Detects most malware
  • Ransomware protection capabilities
  • Plenty of features
  • Anti-theft system
  • Rescue disk

Cons:

  • Detects false positives
  • Confusing pricing levels

Bitdefender consistently ranks among our favorite antivirus software for getting as close to a 100 percent malware detection rate as an antivirus solution can get.

While it does suffer from occasionally detecting false positives, Bitdefender is a solid antivirus protection featuring a long list of security features. This includes an anti-theft system, system optimization tools, file encryption, webcam and microphone protection, and even a rescue disk that will restore your device if it’s been fatally compromised.

Bitdefender’s standout features are its several anti-ransomware capabilities. Bitdefender automatically creates tamperproof backups of files most likely to be encrypted as soon as it detects a ransomware attack, and does so without creating shadow copies.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of ground to cover on everything Bitdefender can do, so check out our full Bitdefender review here for more information.

Bitdefender Free
  • : Unlimited devices, malware protection
Bitdefender Total Security
  • : Good for 5 devices
Bitdefender Internet Security
  • : Good for 3 Windows PCs
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
  • : Good for 3 Windows PCs

Kaspersky

Kaspersky-slider-1

More Information About Kaspersky:

  • Pricing: Kaspersky Anti-Virus starts at $29.99 per year for three PCs
  • Website: kaspersky.com

Pros:

  • Blocks malware & zero-day attacks
  • Few to no false positives
  • Vulnerability scan

Cons:

  • Privacy concerns regarding Russian government

Kaspersky is another high-performance antivirus service. In our testing, Kaspersky blocked 100  percent of zero-day attacks and malware without any false positives. Kaspersky Anti-Virus also includes a vulnerability scan.

This is an important feature for preventing malware attacks before they occur. Malware lives off of vulnerability exploits and can compromise an entire system even when the user is following cybersecurity best practices.

The Achilles’ heel in this antivirus service is the company’s founding in Russia. In 2017, the United States government dropped its connection with Kaspersky over security concerns regarding Russia’s data privacy laws. 

However, Kaspersky has taken steps to improve its trustworthiness by moving some of its data centers out of Russia’s jurisdiction to Switzerland and underwent an independent security audit as well. Read our full Kaspersky Review for more information about the tool.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus
  • : Three PCs, ransomware protection
Kaspersky Internet Security
  • : Three devices, banking protection, webcam protection, parental controls
Kaspersky Total Security
  • : Five devices, password manager, backup and restore, advanced parental controls

Online Backup

Backups are the bane of ransomware. Storing copies of your most valuable data will get your workplace up and running after an attack. Contacting the authorities or the ransomware operators won’t be necessary if you already have a backup of your most important data (read our full review of our favorite online backup services).

Acronis Cyber Protect (Formerly Acronis True Image)

acronis desktop app

More Information About Acronis Cyber Protect:

  • Pricing: Acronis Cyber Protect Essentials starts at $59
  • Website: acronis.com

Pros:

  • Secure backup for businesses of all sizes
  • Wide range of features
  • Ransomware protection
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Malware scanning

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Confusing pricing levels

Your most important data will be securely stored in the cloud with Acronis Cyber Protect, a feature-packed cloud backup service. Acronis Cyber Protect excels at storing backups of your most important data, and it also comes with a long list of extra security features such as ransomware protection, encryption and malware scanning.

Acronis Cyber Protect’s standout feature is its use of zero-knowledge encryption. It’s a type of encryption where you create your own encryption key so that no one else can decrypt your files, not even Acronis. The software also makes use of 256-bit AES encryption and the SSL/TLS protocol that protects your data in transit from man-in-the-middle attacks.

Acronis Essentials One Computer
  • : Unlimited GB
Acronis Essentials Three Computers
  • : Unlimited GB
Acronis Essentials Five Computers
  • : Unlimited GB
Acronis Advanced One Computer
  • : 200 GB
Acronis Advanced Three Computers
  • : 200 GB
Acronis Advanced Five Computers
  • : 200 GB
Acronis Premium One Computer
  • : 1000 GB
Acronis Premium Three Computers
  • : 1000 GB
Acronis Premium Five Computers
  • : 1000 GB

IDrive

idrive slider disk image

More Information About IDrive:

  • Pricing: IDrive Personal 5TB starts at $59.62 for the first year
  • Website: idrive.com

Pros:

  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Cloud & backup storage space
  • Plenty of security features
  • Free basic plan

Cons:

  • No monthly plan
  • No unlimited backup

IDrive gives you a lot of value for its modest price. Subscribers get an equal amount of backup space as cloud storage space, plus a host of security features on top of that. Like Acronis, IDrive features zero-knowledge file encryption so you are always in control of your data.

IDrive is a great option for businesses because of the additional functionality on top of its personal plans. For businesses, IDrive lets you create multiple user accounts for one plan that can be configured with different levels of permission — perfect for controlling each employee’s access to the network.

Cloud Storage

Replicating your data in case of emergencies serves a useful purpose if your local storage is encrypted by ransomware, but cloud storage can also come in handy for simply supplementing your local storage. Below are some of our favorite services for expanding your business’ storage into the cloud.

Sync.com

share files online sync.com

More Information About Sync.com:

  • Pricing: Solo Basic plan starts at $8 per month
  • Website: sync.com

Pros:

  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Strong security protections
  • HIPAA compliant
  • Unlimited storage in Teams Unlimited plan
  • Affordable pricing options

Cons:

  • No monthly payment option

Sync.com ranks high on our list of the best zero-knowledge cloud services. This service features powerful protection for data both in transit and at rest. The provider doesn’t store a copy of your encryption key, so no one other than you can access your files.

Sync.com uses the TLS protocol to defend your data while in transit and keeps it secure with AES 256-bit encryption while at rest, protected with RSA 2048-bit encryption.

Organizations involved in the healthcare sector are one of the most popular targets of ransomware attacks. These organizations are in good hands with Sync.com because its security and privacy standards are in compliance with HIPAA.

pCloud

pcloud web interface files slider1

More Information About pCloud:

  • Pricing: Premium Monthly Plan (500GB) starts at $4.99 per month
  • Website: pcloud.com

Pros:

  • Fast folder sync
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Custom security/accessibility for each file
  • Integrated media player

Cons:

  • Zero-knowledge encryption costs extra

Unlike most cloud storage providers we’ve reviewed, pCloud stands out for offering a Linux client in addition to its Windows and macOS client. Naturally, the combination of its Linux compatibility and its powerful security protections puts pCloud at the top of our list for the best cloud storage services for Linux.

pCloud is a useful all-purpose cloud storage provider that can meet the needs of personal and business users alike. pCloud is unique for countering some of the most common problems of using zero-knowledge encryption by allowing you to store both encrypted and unencrypted files in the same account.

Some files require more security than others, while others require more accessibility. Everything is secure when zero-knowledge encryption is applied across the board, but that makes accessing and transferring these files much more difficult. pCloud lets you control the security of your files and interact with them more fully while they’re in the cloud.

With that said, pCloud does not offer zero-knowledge encryption by default. You have to pay extra if you want that level of security, but pCloud is still a formidable cloud storage service even without zero-knowledge encryption.

Virtual Private Networks

Keeping your internet connection private will help you avoid being identified and targeted by cybercriminals in the first place. Even if a VPN doesn’t have built-in ransomware protection features, it will still be helpful for staying off the cybercriminals’ radar.

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are privacy tools designed to keep your internet connection private by securing it with encryption and routing it through the VPN provider’s servers. Without a VPN, your internet connection passes through your ISP’s infrastructure where they can see every website you visit, and cybercriminals can spy on your unencrypted internet traffic.

ExpressVPN

expressvpn android cta
ExpressVPN is available for all major desktop and mobile devices.

More information about ExpressVPN:

  • Pricing: $99 for 12 months, plus three months free the first year
  • Website: expressvpn.com

Pros:

  • One of the fastest VPNs
  • Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries
  • Powerful security & privacy features
  • Unblocks streaming platforms
  • Supports Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2 & L2TP

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • No dedicated IP address

ExpressVPN has always been one of our favorite virtual private networks. While many VPNs prioritize either speed or security at the expense of one or the other, ExpressVPN delivers the best of both worlds. Its major drawback is its relatively expensive price tag, but it’s a worthwhile investment for those who take their online security seriously.

ExpressVPN keeps your connection secure with 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol. The company operates a network of more than 3,000 servers all around the globe that are capable of circumventing most geographic restrictions.

Its unblocking ability and reliably fast speeds has made ExpressVPN a popular option for streaming, downloading and gaming. For a more detailed review, check out our full ExpressVPN review.

NordVPN

nordvpn servers
NordVPN operates one of the largest server networks on the market.

More details about NordVPN:

  • Pricing: $3.67 per month on the two-year plan
  • Website: nordvpn.com

Pros:

  • One of the most secure VPNs
  • Lots of privacy features
  • Over 5,200 servers in 60 countries
  • P2P servers
  • Excellent streaming capability
  • No-logs policy

Cons:

  • Somewhat inconsistent speeds
  • No live support via phone

NordVPN is a close runner-up to ExpressVPN. It’s been in the VPN business since 2012 and remains a market leader to this day. With over 5,200 servers to choose from, a proprietary protocol based on WireGuard and a wide array of features, NordVPN doesn’t force you to make trade-offs.

NordVPN’s server network includes a set of optimized servers for specialty purposes including P2P, double VPN usage, Tor-over-VPN and servers for streaming, downloading and gaming. 

NordVPN developed its own protocol based on WireGuard called NordLynx that meets OpenVPN’s level of security while affording faster connection speeds. There’s a lot more to be said about NordVPN, so read our complete NordVPN review.

Final Thoughts: Ransomware Protection Tips

As you can see, there are plenty of measures business owners and individual users alike can take to recover from ransomware attacks — or better yet, avoid the problem completely. 

Ransomware attacks can incur millions of dollars in damage and even destroy businesses entirely, so a well-informed use of technology along with full-featured security solutions will keep your enterprise fortified against opportunistic criminals.

What is your preferred ransomware protection service? Do you have any anti-ransomware tips to add? Do you use antivirus or malware protection tools? Are there better antivirus, cloud, VPN and backup solutions than the ones mentioned above? Leave your feedback in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading.