Here’s some good news for the countless businesses getting ready for the migration to Windows 10: Microsoft recently announced that its Windows 10 Anniversary Update features security updates specifically targeted to fight ransomware. No defense is completely hack-proof, but it’s great to see the biggest names in the tech world are putting ransomware at the top of their list of concerns.
Patching holes, preventing users from “clicking the link”
Microsoft released a guide on how the latest Windows 10 Anniversary Update specifically enhances protection against ransomware. The company focused on eliminating the vulnerabilities hackers have exploited in the past, and says its updated Microsoft Edge browser has no known successful zero-day exploits or exploit kits to date.
The company says its smart email filtering tools helped identify some 58 million attempts to distribute ransomware via email—in July 2016 alone. But what if a phishing email does reach gullible and mistake-prone end users? Microsoft says it has invested in improving its SmartScreen URL filter, which builds a list of questionable or untrustworthy URLs and alerts users should they click on a link to a “blacklisted” domain.
Thanks to security upgrades, Microsoft says Windows 10 users are 58 percent less likely to encounter ransomware than those running Windows 7.
Better threat visibility for IT
On the response end, the Windows 10 Anniversary Updates also sees the launch of the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service. The basic idea behind Windows Defender ATP is to use contextual analytics of network activity to see signs of attacks that other security layers miss. Microsoft says the new service gives “a more holistic view of what is attacking the enterprise…so that enterprise security operations teams can investigate and respond.” Better visibility of your users’ activities—now that’s something we at Code42 can get behind.
Using the intelligence of the “hive mind” to fight ransomware
One impediment to the fight against ransomware has been organizations’ reluctance to share information on attacks, both attempted and successful. We already know that new strains of ransomware emerge daily, but without this shared knowledge, even older strains are essentially new and unknown (and thus remarkably effective) to most of the enterprise world. The sheer size and market share of Windows puts Microsoft in a unique position to solve this problem. Its threat detection products are now bringing together detailed information on the millions of attempted ransomware attacks that hit Windows systems every day. With Microsoft now focused on fighting this threat, we’re eager to see the company leverage the intelligence of this hive mind to beat back the advance of the ransomware threat.
What does Microsoft say about ransomware recovery?
It’s important to note that responding to a ransomware attack is not necessarily the same as recovering from an attack. In other words, Windows 10 says it can help you detect successful attacks sooner and limit their impact—but how does it help you deal with the damage already done? How does it help you recover the data that is encrypted? How does it help you get back to business?
The Windows 10 ransomware guide makes just one small mention of recovery, urging all to “implement a comprehensive backup strategy.” However, Microsoft offers a rather antiquated look at backup strategies, leaving endpoint devices uncovered, focusing on user-driven processes instead of automatic, continuous backup, and even suggesting enterprises use Microsoft OneDrive as a backup solution. As we’ve explained before, OneDrive alone is insufficient data protection. It’s an enterprise file sync-and-share solution (EFSS), built to enable file sharing and collaborative productivity—not continuous, secure backup and fast, seamless restores.
Making the move to Windows 10? Make sure your backup is ready
Most enterprises are at least beginning to plan for the move to Windows 10, as they should be. The new OS offers plenty of advantages, not least of which are security features that undoubtedly make Windows 10 more hack-resistant. But as security experts and real-world examples continually show, nothing can completely eliminate the risk of ransomware. That’s why your recovery strategy—based on the ability to quickly restore all data—is just as critical as your defense strategy.1
Moreover, as more organizations make the move to Windows 10, they’re seeing that the ability to efficiently restore all data is the key ingredient to a successful migration. Faster, user-driven migrations reduce user downtime and IT burden, and guaranteed backup eliminates the data loss (and resulting lost productivity) that plagues the majority of data migration projects.
(About the author: Jeremy Zoss is managing editor at Code42 and a member of the Cloud Security Alliance. This post originally appeared on his CSA blog, which can be viewed here).
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