Does a VPN Protect You from Viruses and Malware? (2023)
When you’re browsing the internet, your device’s security is always at risk. Viruses and malware are persistent threats that can compromise your data and privacy.
Many wonder whether a VPN can provide a shield against these digital dangers. A VPN can be a strong line of defense in your cybersecurity arsenal, but it’s essential to understand its capabilities and limitations.
Online threats are always changing. It is important to understand how a VPN can protect and if it can replace antivirus software.
In this article, we will examine if a VPN can protect you from viruses and malware. We will discuss how it compares to antivirus and which VPNs have protection from malware.
Get NordVPN – a VPN with Threat Protection!
Or check other VPNs with antivirus software included.
Test Your VPN Knowledge – Take A Quiz!
Can You Get a Virus If You Are Using a VPN?
Yes, you can get a virus while using a VPN. A VPN protects your internet connection by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address. This does not stop a virus directly.
Viruses can infect your device when you download a compromised file or click on a malicious link. A VPN cannot prevent this action. It does not scan files for malware or block them from being downloaded.
While a VPN offers privacy and security from hackers trying to see what you are doing online, it does not protect the files on your device. If a device has a virus before you connect to a VPN, the VPN won’t remove the virus.
So, using a VPN should be one part of your internet security practices, not the only part.
Can a VPN Prevent Virus and Malware Infections?
A VPN itself cannot stop viruses and malware. However, a VPN can help prevent virus and malware infections by including features that restrict access to malicious sites.
These features often involve databases of known threat sources and prevent your device from connecting to these potentially harmful sites. By doing so, the VPN acts as a barrier between your device and malicious content that could lead to an infection.
However, it’s important to be clear that a VPN is not a direct form of protection against malware or viruses. Unlike antivirus software, which actively scans and removes malicious code, a VPN does not clean or stop malware that has already made its way onto your device. Instead, it offers a form of prevention. With a few exceptions being NordVPN with its Threat protection and Surfshark with its anti-virus app.
What Are The Ways to Get A Computer Virus Even With a VPN?
Even when using a VPN, there are several ways your computer can still become infected with a virus:
- Downloading Infected Files: If you download a file that contains a virus, the VPN cannot stop it from infecting your device. This includes email attachments or files from untrustworthy websites.
- USB Drives and External Devices: Connecting infected devices such as USB to your computer can introduce viruses. A VPN does not scan or protect against this physical transfer of data.
- Phishing Scams: Phishing scams can trick you into installing malware on your computer. They often look like real emails or websites. VPNs do not check the legitimacy of emails or websites.
- Software Vulnerabilities: Using software or operating system vulnerabilities can cause a virus infection. A VPN cannot fix these vulnerabilities. It takes regular software updates and security patches to fix them.
- Misleading Ads and Pop-ups: Clicking on malicious ads or pop-ups can lead to virus infections. Some VPNs have ad-blocking capabilities, but not all do, and some ads may still slip through.
- Physical Security Breach: If someone physically accesses your computer, they can install malware. A VPN operates over network connections and cannot protect against this.
- Social Engineering: A VPN does not protect against deceptive tactics that trick people into giving access to their devices.
What Types Of Cyber Threats a VPN can Prevent You From?
A VPN can safeguard you from various cyber threats by encrypting your data and hiding your online activities. Below is a table showing common cyber threats and whether a VPN can prevent them:
|Prevented by VPN?
|IP Address Hacking
Please note that while a VPN can prevent some cyber threats, for others it provides partial protection or is not equipped to deal with the threat at all.
For instance, while a VPN encrypts your data to prevent packet sniffing, it cannot prevent phishing attacks, where users are tricked into giving away sensitive information.
Similarly, malicious downloads and ads may still pose a risk unless the VPN includes specific features to block such content.
Antivirus vs. VPN: What’s the Difference?
Antivirus and VPN serve two different purposes in cybersecurity. An antivirus program scans your device for known viruses and malware and tries to remove it. It provides real-time protection by analyzing files and programs to detect malicious behavior.
A VPN, on the other hand, encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address. Its main function is to create a secure tunnel for your data to travel through. It protects your online identity by masking your location.
|Limited (URL filtering)
|Cyber Threat Prevention
|Partial (on specific threats)
|Device Infection Removal
Which is Better: VPN or Antivirus Software?
Is a VPN or antivirus software better? It’s like asking if a lock on your door is better than a smoke detector. They both serve essential but different purposes. You should not replace one with the other. A VPN cannot detect or remove viruses as it only encrypts data and protects your identity online. Antivirus software is necessary to protect your device from malicious software.
Do You Need an Antivirus If You’re Using a VPN?
Yes, you need an antivirus even if you’re using a VPN. It’s essential to have antivirus software. A VPN doesn’t protect your device from viruses. These viruses could be downloaded or already exist on your machine. Antivirus will work to detect and eliminate these threats.
Check out VPNs with Antiviruses.
How to Use VPN and Antivirus Together Effectively?
To effectively use VPN and antivirus software together:
- Ensure your antivirus software is installed and kept up-to-date on your device.
- Activate your antivirus’s real-time scanning feature.
- Connect to a VPN before browsing the internet to hide your online activity.
- Keep your VPN on while using public Wi-Fi networks to protect you from network threats.
What are the Benefits of Running Both VPN and Antivirus?
Running both VPN and antivirus software offers you comprehensive cybersecurity protection. The antivirus secures your device from internal threats like viruses and malware. The VPN keeps you safe online. It protects your data from hackers and identity thieves on unsecured networks. This reduces your vulnerability to cyber threats. It keeps your online activities and devices secure.
|Redirects Internet traffic through secure servers.
|Warns against or blocks known malicious websites.
|Encrypts data to prevent interception.
|Encrypts files to safeguard data.
|May notify about insecure connections.
|Provides alerts when a virus or malware is detected.
|Automated Threat Detection
|Limited to network-based threats.
|Scans and detects a wide range of viruses and malware.
|Removal of Infected Files
|Cannot remove or clean files.
|Can quarantine and remove infected files from the device.
|Protection Against Specific Threats
|Can prevent some network snooping and untrusted connections.
|Targets all forms of malware, including ransomware and spyware.
How To Tell If Your Device Has Been Infected With Malware
To identify if your device has contracted malware, watch for these signs:
- Slower Performance: If your device is unusually slow, it might be a sign of infection.
- Frequent Crashes or Freezes: Sudden crashes or a frozen screen could indicate malware.
- Unusual Pop-ups: Unexpected or frequent pop-up ads are often a sign of adware.
- Changed Homepage or Search Engine: Unauthorized changes to your browser settings may be the work of malware.
- Suspicious Hard Drive Activity: Excessive hard drive or network activity not caused by user actions could signify a malware infection.
- Ransom Messages: Demands for payment to unlock files are a clear sign of ransomware.
- Unrecognized Files or Programs: If new programs appear without your installation, it could be malware.
What to Do if You Think Your Device Has a Virus?
Take the following steps if you suspect your device has a virus:
- Get an antivirus software. We recommend Surfshark Antivirus.
- Disconnect from the internet to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Switch to the device’s safe mode before running an antivirus scan.
- Use your antivirus software to scan your system and follow its prompts to deal with the threats.
- Update your software and operating system to the latest security patches.
- Change your passwords, as your data could have been compromised.
- Back up your important files, if possible.
- Remove the malware with an Antivirus.
How to Prevent Viruses from Infecting Your Devices?
Implement these practices to minimize the risk of virus infection:
- Keep Software Updated: Regularly update your operating system and software to close security vulnerabilities.
- Use Antivirus Software: Install and maintain reputable antivirus software like Surfshark Antivirus.
- Be Cautious with Emails: Don’t open attachments or click on links from unknown senders.
- Enable Firewall: Use a firewall to block unauthorized access to your device.
- Safe Browsing: Avoid visiting unsecured or suspicious websites.
- Downloads: Only download files from trusted sources.
- Use Strong Passwords: Create complex passwords and change them regularly.
- Backup Your Data: Regularly back up important data to a secure location.
- Educate Yourself: Stay informed about new threats and how to avoid them.
- Use a VPN: While a VPN can’t stop viruses, it can protect you from visiting phishing and malicious sites.
By combining safe habits, updated security measures, and tools like VPNs and antivirus software, you can significantly bolster your defense against malware and viruses.
What Security Features Should You Look For in a VPN Against Malware?
When selecting a VPN to help protect against malware, consider these security features:
- Ad and Tracking Blocking: Ad-blockers can prevent malicious ads from loading and tracking blockers prevent websites from monitoring your online activities.
- Additional Antivirus: Some VPNs come with built-in antivirus software that provides an extra layer of protection by scanning for and removing malware.
- DNS Leak Protection: This prevents DNS queries from being exposed to your ISP or potential attackers, reducing the chance of manipulation or rerouting to phishing or malware sites.
- Automatic Kill Switch: A kill switch halts all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly, safeguarding against unsecured data transmission that could expose you to malware.
- No-Logs Policy: VPNs with strict no-logs policies don’t store your browsing data, minimizing the risk of data breaches which can also lead to malware infections indirectly.
These features, combined with general cybersecurity practices, provide a strong defense against various forms of malware.
Do all VPNs include virus protection features?
No, not all VPNs include virus protection features. While some offer additional security measures like ad-blocking or malware databases, others may not. It’s important to check the features of each VPN before subscribing.
Do VPNs clean or remove existing viruses?
VPNs do not clean or remove existing viruses. For that, you will need dedicated antivirus software.
Can a VPN protect against ransomware attacks?
A VPN cannot protect against ransomware once it has infected your system. However, it can help prevent access to malicious websites that might distribute ransomware.
Do VPNs provide real-time virus scanning?
VPNs typically do not offer real-time virus scanning. This is a function usually served by antivirus software.
Can a VPN detect and block phishing attempts?
VPNs on their own cannot detect and block phishing attempts. However, some VPNs have additional security features that may warn you about suspicious websites, which can indirectly help prevent phishing.
Do VPNs protect against spyware and adware infections?
VPNs can reduce the risk of spyware and adware infections by blocking access to known malicious websites and through the use of ad-blockers, but they cannot remove such infections should they occur.
Are there free VPNs that offer virus defense?
Free VPNs rarely include advanced security features like virus defense. Free VPN services are usually limited compared to their paid counterparts and may not provide the same level of protection against malware or other cyber threats. It’s advisable to be cautious when considering a free VPN for virus defense.
VPN Expert, BEng in Network Engineering