Understanding and Recovering from Google Drive Ransomware Attacks

MSP Guide to Google Drive Ransomware Recovery for Your Clients

Enabling your client’s to know the security dangers and liabilities when you take them on as clients can be critical to your ongoing relationship. Please reference this article for users using Google Workstation and Google Drive. 

Introduction to Ransomware and Google Drive

Ransomware is a form of malware that blocks access to a victim’s device or files until a ransom is paid. Ransomware encrypts essential files, leveraging robust algorithms, and in some cases, can lock down the entire system or even spread to other connected systems. A ransom note provides instructions on how to unlock the device, typically by paying a sum of money in cryptocurrency. Some modern variants may also steal data, threatening to leak it if the ransom isn’t paid.

Google Drive, along with its parent platform Google Workspace, is one of the leading cloud storage solutions among individuals, businesses, and educational institutions due to its user-friendly interface, compatibility with multiple devices, and robust security features. As such, Google Drive and the files stored within have become a popular target for ransomware attempts.

With more businesses using Google for their data storage needs, keeping that data safe is critical for both end users and Managed Service Providers (MSPs). For end users, Google Drive often hosts personal or professional documents, photos, and other vital data. As a result, falling victim to a ransomware attack can lead to significant loss and disruption.

The topic is even more critical for MSPs whose clients are storing their data on cloud storage platforms like Google Drive. Understanding and implementing Google Drive ransomware recovery strategies can mean the difference between losing a client’s invaluable data and restoring it seamlessly.

The Reality of a Ransomware Attacks on Google Drive

Google Workspace employs strong security measures, so how can ransomware infect Google Drive? Attackers can encrypt files and documents stored on the platform if they gain access to a user’s Google account through compromised user credentials. They can also exploit an infected local machine that syncs with the cloud, automatically replacing original files with encrypted ones.

The impact of such attacks on businesses can be severe. The immediate consequences are loss of critical data, substantial financial costs, and reputational damage. For businesses, ransomware-infected files can halt operations, causing downtime, legal compliance issues, and diverting vital resources to recovery efforts.

While there are no widely reported cases of ransomware directly attacking Google Drive, ransomware affecting local systems synced to cloud drives is still a cybersecurity risk. So much so that Google now warns users about suspicious files that could infect their systems. Recent exploits, such as Ryuk ransomware, which targeted several organizations, underscore the potential risks of ransomware infecting Google Drive. These types of malicious exploits can extend their reach to the cloud if the infected systems are set to sync with those platforms.

Protecting against this threat means implementing cybersecurity measures, like maintaining secure credentials, implementing proper backup and recovery procedures, and recognizing the connection between local systems and the cloud. Awareness and preparation are key to mitigating this risk and ensuring that data is protected from potential ransomware.

Google’s Built-In Security Features

Google Drive has several built-in security measures for end users, including:

  • Two-Step Verification. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter a verification code from an authenticator, in addition to their password.
  • Advanced Machine Learning Models. Google employs algorithms to detect suspicious activities and alert users, blocking known threats.
  • Version History. Google Drive maintains previous versions of files for a certain period, allowing users to revert to an earlier, unencrypted state if files are altered by ransomware.
  • Secure Encryption. Files are encrypted both in transit and at rest, providing robust protection against unauthorized access.
  • App Permissions Management. Users control which third-party apps can access their files and data, limiting potential avenues for ransomware infection.

These features provide a robust defense against many common threats. However, there are limitations, with the most common being user error. Common exploits, like phishing scams or hacking weak passwords, can allow bad actors to bypass Google’s built-in security measures.

These limitations highlight why many businesses require professional help. An MSP can provide tailored security solutions, efficient incident response, user education, and comprehensive backup strategies.

While Google Drive’s native security features form a strong foundation, many businesses require professional help to add another layer of protection. An MSP can provide a more nuanced and complete approach to guarding cloud drives against ransomware, including tailored security solutions, efficient incident response, and comprehensive backup strategies.

How to Protect Your Google Drive from Ransomware

Here’s how users can keep their Google Drive safe, using Google’s built-in security features and basic cybersecurity practices:

  • Use Strong Passwords. Create complex and unique passwords for your Google account, combining letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Enable Two-Step Verification. Activate this feature for an additional layer of security, requiring a secondary code from an authentication method.
  • Keep Software Up to Date. Ensure that your operating system, browsers, and antivirus software are regularly updated to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Avoid Suspicious Links and Emails. Be cautious of an unexpected email, link, or email attachment, and don’t provide personal information on untrusted websites.
  • Manage App Permissions. Oversee and control third-party app permissions, revoking access to unnecessary or suspicious applications.
  • Educate Yourself and Others. Ensure you and your staff know common phishing tactics and ransomware methods to recognize potential threats.
  • Implement Regular Backups. Regularly back up important files to another secure location, not synced with your Drive, to enable Google Drive ransomware recovery if needed.
  • Use Reputable Security Software. Consider using recognized antivirus or security software that can detect and block ransomware.

Steps for Recovering Google Drive Files After a Ransomware Attack

Google Drive ransomware recovery involves several steps. While the built-in features of Google Drive can aid in the process, it may also be prudent to involve IT professionals if the attack is particularly complex or widespread. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Disconnect the Affected Device. If the ransomware originated from local files or systems synced with Google Drive, disconnect it from the internet to prevent further spread.
  2. Notify Relevant Parties. If this is a business-related computer or account, notify your MSP immediately. For personal accounts, consider seeking professional help if needed.
  3. Change Passwords and Credentials. Update your Google account password and enable two-step verification if not already active to secure the account.
  4. Identify Affected Files. Determine which files have been affected by the ransomware.
  5. Utilize Version History: See the frequently asked questions section below for a step-by-step guide on how to restore corrupt or lost files after a ransomware attack.
  6. Check Third-Party App Permissions. Review and revoke permissions for suspicious or unnecessary third-party apps with access to your Google Drive.
  7. Scan Local Systems. If you have a synced local system, run a reputable antivirus or anti-malware tool to ensure that the ransomware is removed.
  8. Restore from Other Backups. If the affected files exceed the history limit or if a previous version are unavailable, restore files from other backups if you have them.
  9. Review Sharing Settings. Check the sharing settings of your files to ensure they haven’t been altered.
  10. Monitor for Suspicious Activity. Monitor your account and connected devices for any signs of suspicious activity.
  11. Implement Further Security Measures. Consider additional security measures, such as regular backups and professional security assessments to minimize future risks.
  12. Report the Incident. Consider reporting the ransomware attack to your local authorities and any applicable regulatory bodies.
  13. Do Not Pay the Ransom. It’s generally advised not to pay a ransom, as this does not guarantee the return of your files and may encourage further criminal activity.

This guide offers a general procedure for recovering from a ransomware attack on Google Drive. The specific steps may vary depending on the particular nature of the ransomware and the affected files.

When to Consider Bringing in Professional Help

MSPs are critical in helping businesses protect against ransomware attacks, particularly for businesses with substantial data protection needs or complex cybersecurity requirements.

Just a few ways that MSPs can help include:

  • Proactive Protection. MSPs analyze a business’s specific risks and requirements and design security protocols to ward off ransomware preemptively.
  • Continuous Monitoring. 24/7 monitoring helps detect and respond to threats promptly, minimizing potential damage.
  • Customized Recovery Plans. MSPs create and implement robust recovery plans, ensuring minimal downtime and data loss in case of an attack.
  • Compliance and Regulation Management. They help businesses adhere to legal requirements, maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive data.
  • Employee Education and Training. Regular workshops to train staff on recognizing and dealing with ransomware threats increase overall security.

Google Drive Ransomware Recovery Services for MSPs

While there are a variety of solutions on the market that provide Google Drive ransomware recovery solutions, Axcient x360Cloud is one of the top services available today.

With x360Cloud, MSPs can automatically back up Google’s suite of products, including Gmail, Google Sites, and Google Drive. With just one solution and one vendor, MSPs can provide effortless backup and disaster recovery (BDR) for Google Workspace.

Application data protected by x360Cloud is backed up to the encrypted, tamper-proof Axcient Cloud with access verified, logged, and protected through multi-factor authentication. This extra layer of security ensures essential business information remains accessible and safeguarded against threats.

For MSPs, aligning with Axcient represents an opportunity to offer clients a gold-standard ransomware protection and recovery solution. The blend of proactive protection, advanced recovery solutions, cloud security, and expert support ensures your clients’ businesses remain agile, secure, and resilient against ever-growing ransomware threats.


The importance of having a ransomware protection and recovery plan in place for Google Drive users cannot be overstated. A robust defense strategy is essential in an era where data is both highly valuable and highly vulnerable.

While Google Drive provides foundational security measures, ransomware’s complex and evolving nature necessitates professional support. Solutions offered by MSP leveraging Axcient’s tailored products represent the next level of security. Combining individual responsibility, professional expertise, and cutting-edge solutions, this comprehensive approach ensures that users navigate the digital landscape with confidence and resilience. The stakes are high, and the time for decisive action is now—because when it comes to ransomware, prevention isn’t just a choice; it’s a necessity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Google Drive protected from ransomware?

Google Drive itself doesn’t inherently become infected with ransomware, but ransomware infects Google Drive through files stored on it if it’s a connected device is infected. Google’s infrastructure and Google Drive’s design aim to be secure and to prevent unauthorized access, but they cannot protect files from ransomware that has infected a user’s local system.

Can I recover files after a ransomware attack?

Yes, recovering Google Drives files after a ransomware attack is possible, although the success of recovery depends on many factors, including the type of ransomware, the backup solutions in place, and the promptness of response. A proactive approach, including regular backups and a well-thought-out recovery plan, will significantly increase the likelihood of a successful recovery of infected files.

How do I recover corrupted files from Google Drive?

To recover infected files, you can use the built-in version history feature:

  1. Open Google Drive and locate the corrupted file.
  2. Right-click the file and select “Version history”> “See version history.”
  3. Browse the different versions and click on the one you wish to restore.
  4. Click “Restore this version” to replace the corrupted file with the selected version.

Make sure to act promptly, as version history might be limited to a specific time frame or several revisions, depending on your Google Drive settings.

How to protect Google Drive from the CryptoLocker virus?

Protecting Google Drive from the CryptoLocker virus involves safeguarding your local system, as Google Drive itself can sync corrupt files if your local system is infected with ransomware:

  • Use antivirus software
  • Avoid suspicious links and emails
  • Keep your systems and software regularly updated
  • Regularly back up important files to an isolated system

By focusing on your local system’s security, you indirectly protect the files synced with Google Drive from CryptoLocker and similar threats.

About the Author: Carissa Johnson // Product Marketing Manager, Axcient

Carissa Kohn Johnson AxcientCarissa Kohn-Johnson has a background in healthcare technology and information technology, and is now the Product Marketing Manager for Axcient. She has a lot of MSP Channel experience from planning and attending hundreds of conferences and tradeshows, and found her passion in IT. Carissa is also an elected official in Cary NC, a town chock full of technology-forward people. Connect with her on LinkedIn – perhaps you can contribute to the Axcient blog?

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