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Does Antivirus Protect Against Ransomware?

Installing antivirus software (or AV) is often considered an important ransomware protection measure. But Does Antivirus Protect Against Ransomware?

Here’s the catch! Antivirus users often experience ransomware attacks.  They consider it to be a good enough measure to prevent them from paying an average of $36,295 to hackers or face significant financial and reputational damages.

So why antivirus is not enough to protect against ransomware and what is a more effective ransomware protection solution? Let’s figure out together.

How Does Antivirus Software Work and Does Antivirus Protect Against Ransomware?

The first step to understanding why antivirus is not effective is to understand how it works. In a nutshell, AV scans websites and files to compare their code to the code of known malware. If there are similarities, AV will notify you that the scanned site/file/app is dangerous.

Can antivirus detect ransomware? It can, but only if this particular type of ransomware is in their database. To detect new ransomware, AV should be updated by its developers. Gathering and implementing ransomware protection functionality is time-consuming, as tens of new ransomware families appear each year. In other words, months may pass before AV will be updated to detect new ransomware. During that time, AV users remain vulnerable.

Can antivirus stop ransomware? Antivirus just helps to identify potentially dangerous links or software, but it can do nothing after you click them.

In fact, even if an attack was detected, it doesn’t mean that it will be beaten. Users often ignore warnings from AV software. No wonder, as ransomware attacks are well-planned and designed not only to trick antivirus software but users as well.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware encrypts data in your system with a purpose to get money for decrypting them. Unlike other viruses, ransomware is not just a piece of malicious code, but a complex social engineering work behind it.

AV’s work is to detect the ransomware code and notify you about the potential risk. However, ransomware attacks are often disguised to trick you and make you ignore the notification from antivirus (even if an AV detected the danger).

How? Ransomware may look like emails from your manager or service provider. Or you may catch an infection by clicking a malicious link on a seemingly normal website, allowing ransomware to enter the corporate network.

No matter the form, all ransomware attacks are based on the same principle: users themselves allow the ransom code to infiltrate into the system.

To make this happen, hackers come up with various ransomware infection methods. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Phishing Emails

Let’s say you got an email like this. Would you click the link?

Does Antivirus Protect Against Ransomware. Phishing email with ransomware

It’s just one of the countless examples of how ransomware authors may spread the corrupted link. You probably have dozens of similar emails each day, and each of them can contain a malicious link.

Phishing remains one of the most popular ways for ransomware to infect your system.

AVs can hardly prevent you from clicking an infected link. Only some antiviruses scan emails, but even then there is no guarantee that the ransom code is detected. That’s why phishing remains one of the most popular ways of ransomware infection.

Websites and Malvertising

Ransomware can be spread by links you find everywhere over the Internet, including links in ads. Each banner you click may potentially contain a link to a ransomware-infected website. For example, Sodinokibi ransomware used malvertising as an infection method.

Antivirus software, in many cases, detects infected websites and blocks your access to them. However, not all ransom code will be detected, so even with AV browsing possess a threat of ransomware infection.

Besides, there is one more important factor. Any user can ignore the notification and go to the website. Remember, ransomware is designed to look like content from a trusted source, and users fall for the bait. Why? People believe that antivirus may be mistaken in a particular case, so they click and get an infection.

Fake Apps

Ransom code may be embedded in an app you use. Antivirus software is hardly helpful in protecting you from ransomware-infected apps. While downloading an app, your system (even without AV software) always asks you if you want to give this app a permission to access your data.

Usually, you give it. Because why not? The process of giving a new app access to a system looks like a formality needed to install the app. Hardly anyone denies. That’s how ransomware can find a way in. Even seemingly safe app can be corrupted from the beginning or updated with ransom code later.

AV is not a reliable protection from ransomware-infected apps, because you download an app and allow it to access your data.

Corrupted Devices

Another way to spread ransomware is infecting USBs and hard drives. For example, imagine visiting an industry conference. Someone gives you a flash drive with a presentation you just saw. You decide to share it with your colleagues and insert the drive.

And that’s how you can get a ransomware infection. You don’t even need to click anything, as the autoran file initiates ransomware infection right after the drive was inserted. If you have antivirus software, it will scan the drive, but it may not detect ransomware signature to warn you.

Antivirus Ransomware Protection Summary

There are four main reasons behind AV’s ineffectiveness against ransomware:

  • By design, antivirus software can detect only known ransomware. The newest ransomware families will likely be left undetected.
  • Antivirus may or may not detect ransomware code, but it can not prevent human error, as users can click infected link or insert corrupted USB drives.
  • Antivirus detects the potential danger, but doesn’t block an initiated ransomware attack, nor recovers damaged files.
  • Antivirus is not effective against ransomware-infected apps, as users themselves grant the apps with permissions to access their system-critical data.

As you see, antivirus solutions can detect some ransomware attacks but are unable to completely prevent ransomware from infecting your system. No AV is even close to protecting you from 100% of ransomware attacks. However, there is a solution.

What Is The Best Ransomware Protection?

Can antivirus stop ransomware? Antivirus decreases the probability of ransomware attack by notifying you about encounters with known ransomware. And that is better than no ransomware protection at all.

However, it’s not enough to install and update antivirus software to protect your files against ransomware. How to protect against ransomware? Here some anti-ransomware measures:

  • Always think about links or ads you click.
  • Avoid visiting suspicious websites, especially sites with the URL not starting with https.
  • Implement a strong password policy.
  • Monitor apps for abnormal behavior.
  • Use backup and cybersecurity tools.
  • Never use USB devices or hard drives, unless you are sure that they are safe.

To ensure your safety from ransomware you may want to try…

SpinOne: End-to-End Ransomware Protection Solution

Using antivirus is recommended to avoid ransomware infection. However, there is a better way to protect your files from ransomware.

SpinOne is an advanced cybersecurity and ransomware protection platform, that includes ransomware detection using machine learning. How does SpinOne for G Suite make your Google files safe?

  • 24/7 Monitoring of your Google Drive for abnormalities to identify ransomware attacks.
  • If an attack happened, the attack source is blocked automatically. Also, system notifies you about the attack.
  • Full scan of Google Drive to locate encrypted files.
  • All damaged files are restored from the safe backed up version automatically (or manually, if you wish).

SpinOne Ransomware Protection

The whole process of detecting and blocking the attack + recovering encrypted files is a matter of minutes.

With SpinOne solutions for G Suite and Office 365, you can ensure the safety of your data from ransomware, human error, insider threats. Get a free trial now!

Be sure to check out a free fully-featured trial of SpinOne for either G Suite or Office 365.

Sergiy Sergiy Balynsky VP of Engineering
About Author

Sergiy Balynsky is the VP of Engineering at Spin.AI, responsible for guiding the company's technological vision and overseeing engineering teams.

He played a key role in launching a modern, scalable platform that has become the market leader, serving millions of users.

Before joining Spin.AI, Sergiy contributed to AI/ML projects, fintech startups, and banking domains, where he successfully managed teams of over 100 engineers and analysts. With 15 years of experience in building world-class engineering teams and developing innovative cloud products, Sergiy holds a Master's degree in Computer Science.

His primary focus lies in team management, cybersecurity, AI/ML, and the development and scaling of innovative cloud products.