Use Ubuntu virtual machines to protect against Windows ransomware

We've previously blogged (here and here) about the benefits of running Microsoft Windows as a virtual machine (VM) within Ubuntu. To recap, VMs enable a best of both worlds scenario for businesses: the incredible productivity and cost advantages of Ubuntu, combined with the ability to easily retain Windows-specific software where needed.

The sustained, disruptive fallout from Windows-based ransomware (including Wanna Cry) highlights another invaluable application for VMs. Ubuntu is known for being a highly-secure operating system—completely impervious to Windows-based virus infections. When Windows is installed as a VM, it is securely isolated from the host Ubuntu computer. This means that if the Windows VM becomes infected, the resulting disruption is confined to the VM only. The host Ubuntu computer is unaffected and continues to function normally.

In addition, the snapshot feature of VM software (such as VirtualBox) provides an additional layer of resilience. A snapshot freezes the state of a VM at a precise point in time. As many snapshots as needed can be taken, and every snapshot can be restored—effectively resuming Windows to the time when the snapshot was created. This includes all installed software and settings, like a time machine for Windows. If the VM becomes infected (with ransomware or other types of malware), it can simply be restored to a previous snapshot. The process is instant and incurs no downtime.

Similarly, a Windows VM in combination with snapshots is a safe, secure method for opening potentially unsafe files and email attachments. If the VM becomes infected through such means, simply restore from a snapshot and continue working. There is practically no interruption in workflow—compared to the days of downtime involved for folks trapped by using full infected Windows PCs.

The sustained flood of ransomware attacks simply continues Windows' historically poor security track record—and with no end in sight, it's the perfect time to investigate using virtual machines to help safeguard your business.

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