The Best Ransomware Protection in 2021
Cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more subtle all the time. They’re refining their attacks from a scattergun “phishing” approach – with many targets but a low success rate – to a “whaling” or “spear-fishing” approach, honing in on fewer targets but with precise, carefully tailored scams that really do catch people out. And when they succeed in getting ransomware onto these targets’ devices and encrypting their precious files, these criminals are demanding a lot more money than before to give them back.
Without a decryption key, there’s no way to get your files back after a ransom attack. So if you do get targeted, it’s vital that you’ve already backed up all your important files securely on an external hard drive or in the cloud – somewhere disconnected from your main device, where the ransomware can’t penetrate.
It’s also crucial that you have robust, reliable anti-ransomware software installed on your device to identify and quarantine the threat before it has a chance to wreak havoc. Some tools are powerful enough to identify threats in progress and change the user privileges of the malicious program automatically, stopping it in its tracks even if you inadvertently granted the malware permission to make changes to your system.
Here are our top 5 recommendations:
Best Ransomware Protection at a Glance
|ZoneAlarm||All around protection||Starting from $14.95||Visit ZoneAlarm|
|BitDefender||Battling Mac-attacks||Starting from: $19.99||Visit BitDefender|
|Kaspersky||Small and medium-sized businesses||Starting from: $75.00||Visit Kaspersky|
|Sophos||Best enterprise-level ransomware protection||Starting from: $41.99||Visit Sophos|
|Acronis||Secure cloud backup and recovery||Starting from: $34.99||Visit Acronis|
How To Prevent Ransomware Infection
First line of defense is using a ransomware protection program with real-time protection to keep yourself safe from ransom attacks. Like any anti-malware or antivirus software, these tools will work by constantly scanning your downloads, programs you use and any website links you click on for malicious content.
At the simplest level, the ransomware tool will check everything it finds against its own, regularly updated list of known threats. However, ransomware tends to operate in a different way to most malware, so the most sophisticated tools will go further.
First of all, the anti-ransomware tool must be powerful enough to identify zero-day threats, i.e. malware that is so new it’s not on their database yet. That means that it has to be able to analyze and predict for itself whether a downloaded program is showing the hallmarks of ransomware, based on its traits and the kinds of actions it attempts to perform. This is called behavior-based monitoring.
It also needs to know what specific kinds of behavior to look out for when dealing with ransomware – for example, by paying close attention to how the downloaded program tries to interact with other files, or by how it scans and searches for particular file types on the system.
Many of the best ransomware protection tools also come with additional features that are specifically designed to protect files on your system from ransom attacks. For example, it might ask you to designate certain files and folders as sensitive (or it might decide for itself to mark your documents/other key folders as protected) and then prevent any downloaded program from making changes to these without your explicit permission.
You can find more on this in our in-depth reviews of our top anti-ransomware programs below:
Best Ransomware Protection Programs of 2021
To make sure your device is safe from Ransomware, it’s important to utilize the best Ransomware protection available. Here is our list of the very best:
1. ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware – best ransomware protection overall
Price: Starting from $14.95
ZoneAlarm does an incredible job of blocking zero-day ransomware attacks and reversing any changes made by ransom programs that do get into the system, such as removing ransom notes, before any real damage is done. It does this using a combination of malware signature-matching, heuristic analysis, and behavior-based detection. This involves creating “bait” files to see if a downloaded program tries to target them before it’s let loose on your computer.
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2. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac – best ransomware protection for Mac
Price: Starting from $19.99
Macs are often an afterthought for anti-ransomware providers, since the lower risk of infection means there’s less demand overall. Bitdefender is a rare exception. While the ransomware isn’t sold separately, it’s included in this top-end internet security suite, which also offers features like malicious URL-blocking, thwarting phishing attempts, and password encryption. Bitdefender blocks unauthorized programs from modifying files in your Documents, Desktop, Pictures, and Videos folders, or from accessing cloud-hosted file-storage folders like DropBox. You can use the mobile app to manage the software on all other devices you use, too.
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3. Kaspersky – best ransomware protection for businesses
Price: Starting from $75.00
Kaspersky’s anti-ransomware tool for small and medium-sized businesses provides constant monitoring of the network, using behavior-based detection to flag suspicious activity and nip dangerous downloads or programs in the bud. It’s a great addition to the Kaspersky antivirus platform, using a ransomware-specific tools approach to detecting this type of malware.
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4. Sophos Home Premium – best enterprise-level protection
Price: Starting from $41.99
If you’re super clued up on the technical side and feel comfortable monitoring all the ins and outs yourself, Sophos Home Premium is a great fit. Sophos develops enterprise-level anti-ransomware protection, and has adapted this sophisticated technology for home users as part of its standard antivirus package. As a result, you get a bird’s eye view of the whole network with remote management of up to 10 PCs and Macs. It also offers specialized exploit mitigation and risk reduction tools to help protect you against malware and ransomware that works by exploiting system vulnerabilities.
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5. Acronis – secure cloud backup and recovery
Price: Starting from $34.99
As well as using behavior-based detection to flag and give you the chance to block malicious (and suspicious) programs, Acronis also comes with 5GB of secure cloud backup space, just in case a ransom attack does manage to break through. You can then run file recovery from the cloud backup and the local cache. This is great for peace of mind; the only downside is that you need to remember to keep your files backed up.
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Best Ransomware Removal Software
Ransomware is a form of malware, so rebooting in safe mode, downloading any top antivirus software, and running a scan should be enough to pinpoint the offending program and remove it. The trouble is that removing the malware alone doesn’t undo the damage; your files will still be encrypted and therefore unusable. Fortunately, there are some tools out there that can help:
1. AVG – Free ransomware decryption tools
I mentioned above, once ransomware encrypts your files, it’s only possible to regain access if you get hold of the decryption key. In many cases, only the attacker knows this. However, AVG has managed to crack the codes for a handful of common, generalized strains of ransomware. This means there’s still hope if you’re looking to outsmart one of the following: Apocalypse | BadBlock | Bart | Crypt888 | Legion | SZFLocker | TeslaCrypt.
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2. Trend Micro – Anti-ransomware tools
This is another targeted tool for dealing with the aftermath of ransomware. While it can’t decrypt individual files, you can use Trend Micro specifically to get around ransomware that works by locking your screen and preventing you from going any further without paying the ransom.
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3. SpyHunter – Free malware removal tool
Another handy, lightweight tool for making sure the offending ransomware has been stripped from your device is Spyhunter’s Malware Remover tool. This does a great job of locating and deleting all traces of even the nastiest programs, including WannaCry. You can download it for free for use on one remediation/removal task within a 48-hour period, so it’s a handy, easy-to-use option if you know you’ve been hit by one ransom attack trojan and don’t want to install an entire AV/internet security suite just yet. However, you won’t be able to decrypt your files. It will just clean up your device so it can be used again.
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If you’re a victim of a ransom attack, the time and cost of dealing with the problem far outweigh that of protecting yourself against ransomware in the first place. If that is, you’re even able to decrypt your files at all.
Be cautious. Don’t trust every link or attachment you see, even if it’s been sent in an email addressed to you that seems legitimate. Don’t grant permissions to programs if you’re not 100% sure what they are or what you need them for. Back up your files. Install a dedicated ransomware protection tool or antivirus software that specifically includes features like anti-exploit technology or anti-ransomware protection, and performs well against zero-day threats. A little effort now will go a long way in a crisis.