Microsoft unveils specialized anti-ransomware tool for next update

The new tool will be publicly available with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update later this year.
Image: Joffi / CC0 Public Domain

Microsoft announced a new feature dedicated to fending off ransomware via its Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16232 on Wednesday.

The newly revealed tool, known as Controlled Folder Access, is designed to assist the user in data protection from a variety of different computer viruses, especially ransomware, said Dona Sarkar, head of Microsoft’s Windows Insiders program.

Ransomware is malware that is typically designed to lock up a computer’s files until a payment is sent to a specific source. In most cases, this payment comes in the form of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, and it is sent to a bitcoin wallet address. Current private sector estimates for total ransomware losses in 2016 alone exceeded $100 million.

Once a user activates the Controlled Folder Access feature in the Windows Defender Security Center interface, an automated tool will begin monitoring files within certain protected folders. The user can manually whitelist trusted applications to edit these files autonomously. Any attempts made by non-whitelisted apps to change or edit protected files, however, will automatically be blocked and the user will be notified of the attempted intrusion.


Ransomware works by encrypting files stored on a victimized computer — effectively manipulating the device’s boot process to interrupt normal functions. 

The Documents, Pictures, Movies and Desktop folders in Windows will be protected on default with this feature, and Mapped Drive and Network Share can be manually designated as protected. Users also will be able to designate additional folders as protected.

Microsoft will wait to release the new tool to the public until its Fall Creators Update later this year between September and October. Until then, the feature will remain in a beta as part of the company’s Insider Program, which is limited to a group of internal testers.

“The Windows Insider Program was created to enable Microsoft to test different features and functionality, which will influence future versions of Windows.” a spokesperson told CyberScoop. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans.”

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