No, a VPN does not protect you from viruses and malware.
However, some VPN providers have additional features, such as a built-in ad and malware blocker in modern antivirus suites.
Although VPNs and antivirus software serve different purposes, a degree of overlap makes it beneficial to use both tools together.
For example, antivirus software scans and identifies malicious code on your system and removes it.
However, some VPNs like NordVPN identify and block sites hosting malware, so it never reaches your device to start with.
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Want to understand the differences between antivirus software and VPNs?
Keep reading, and you’ll find everything you need to know.
What Does a VPN Protect You From?
There’s a barrage of reasons that make a VPN useful for online security that a standalone antivirus can’t match up to.
Check out the types of activities that a VPN can protect you from below.
Although an antivirus can protect you by detecting malicious files downloaded from the internet, a VPN hides your identity at times when you need it most.
For example, if you’re downloading copyrighted torrent files, a VPN ensures your ISP and the copyright owner can’t see what you’re downloading.
VPNs can be used on multiple platforms such as games consoles, PC, Mac, smartphones, Firesticks, and Smart TVs to ensure encrypted connectivity regardless of the device you’re using.
Although antivirus software lets you install it on multiple devices, the supported platforms are a little more limited.
NordVPN gives you the freedom to use it on up to 5 devices simultaneously, so you can torrent anonymously on one device while unblocking geo-restricted media streams on another.
Some VPN providers allow you to install VPN encryption directly on a router, resulting in every device connected to the router having an encrypted connection.
This is useful for devices such as Smart TVs that don’t have VPN app capabilities, especially if you want to access geo-locked content.
On the other hand, an antivirus doesn’t allow this type of protection and is only available to install on the device itself, i.e., a computer or smart device.
Public Hotspot Snoopers
Accessing public wifi in your favorite cafe or restaurant?
Be warned, there’s rarely any encryption, meaning snoopers or hackers can see everything you’re up to while you’re connected to the hotspot.
Fortunately, activating a VPN as you connect to the hotspot adds a layer of encryption between your activity and the outside world, leaving hackers to prey on someone else.
What Does a VPN NOT Protect You From?
On the flip side of what a VPN can protect you from, there are some limits to how far your VPN can help you.
Check out the list below to understand the activities that a VPN won’t protect you from.
Data You Handed Over Willingly
Let’s say you have a password vault, and you share the master password with a friend or relative by email.
If that message somehow gets intercepted and falls into the wrong hands, all of your passwords are readily available to a hacker or scammer.
Regardless of how excellent a VPN provider is, there’s no way they can protect you in these instances.
Your password is for your eyes only.
A Compromised Website
To ensure the security of a website remains consistent, site admins need to follow best practices to secure the data you provide them.
If the website doesn’t store your information correctly, it could be stolen or used without your permission.
Unfortunately, regardless of whether your online activity is hidden using a VPN, anything stored online is out of the control of your VPN.
Malware Site Prevention
Not every VPN provider comes bundled with features that alert you when you’re about to access a dangerous site, so you should check whether your provider offers this if it’s a feature you require.
Torrents require clients such as uTorrent or BitTorrent to download movies, games, and software to your device.
These torrents can include viruses and other types of malware, and as VPNs are limited to detecting malicious websites, they cannot scan the files downloaded via the torrent platform.
You might get a warning that a site hosting torrent links, like The Pirate Bay, is dangerous, and while many files are infection-free, others may be bundled with malware.
This comes down to self-judgment of whether to proceed.
So long as you have an antivirus installed, this has the potential to detect infections once a torrent download finishes.
Social Engineering Attempts
Scammers rely on the trusting nature of unsuspecting users fooled into giving their sensitive information away without realizing they’ve done so.
While a VPN may deter you from visiting fraudulent sites, sophisticated scammers can set up websites that look identical to a legit site.
The scam may involve sending an email or text message to unsuspecting users saying it’s from an official banking provider.
It might contain a link that takes you to an official-looking site to enter credentials, but the browser URL is different, signifying the website is fake.
Best VPNs With Malware and Virus Protection
Many VPN providers include useful malware, adware, and sometimes virus protection as standard for paid subscriptions.
Below are some providers that offer additional protection features with their VPN plans.
NordVPN’s CyberSec feature is a security powerhouse.
It blocks access to malicious websites and those that have been detected for phishing scams.
It also has a built-in adblocker.
Plus, NordVPN has a wide range of server locations with supercharged speeds and offers full p2p support.
Private Internet Access includes a one-click ad-blocking feature.
Once activated, it’ll identify and block Flash banners, popups, and more.
It has fantastic server coverage across the globe and operates a no-logging policy.
Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature includes a built-in tracker detection tool, an ad blocker, and malware detection that warns you about malicious websites.
You’ll benefit from unlimited device connections, lightning-fast speeds, and geo-restriction unblocking.
Types of Malware That VPNs Can Prevent
By warning users of dangerous websites they’re unknowingly about to visit, VPNs stop a range of malware from reaching your system.
The malware types include:
- Hacking tools
- Conditional Redirects
- SEO Spam
- Phishing Scams
Do You Need an Antivirus if You're Using a VPN?
While you can technically forgo an antivirus if you’re using a VPN, I wouldn’t recommend doing so.
Browsing the web, checking for emails, or scrolling Facebook with a VPN presents no immediate threat without antivirus software.
Your connection will be encrypted, and you’ll unlikely encounter any malware threats.
However, the moment you begin visiting websites you’ve never been to before, opening email attachments from unknown senders, and downloading files from the web, you SHOULD proceed with caution if you don’t have an antivirus.
How to Test My VPN's Malware Blocker?
What use is a malware blocker if it doesn’t work?
If you’re wondering if the built-in malware detector is working, you can follow the steps below.
- Sign up for a massive NordVPN discount today. Alternatively, choose another provider from this article that offers malware detection.
- Download and install the NordVPN application.
- Run NordVPN and connect to a server of your choice.
- Click the gear icon at the top of the app to open the settings.
- Enable the “CyberSec: block ads and malicious websites” option.
- Open a web browser and navigate to Wicar (it’s a safe way to test if your malware detection is working).
- Click the MS14-064 2003 to Windows 10 button.
- If NordVPN detects a malicious website, it’ll display a blank page like the one below.
You can do this for Google Chrome by following these steps:
- Open your Chrome browser and head to settings.
- Navigate to Privacy and security > Security.
- Select the No protection option to turn off browser malware scanning.
Can You Get a Virus With a VPN?
It’s unlikely that you’ll get a virus with a reputable VPN, but it’s not impossible.
A VPN makes it much more difficult and time-consuming for a hacker to infect your connection with malware.
There are plenty of free VPN providers on the web promising to protect your privacy, however, these should be avoided as they can often disguise malware in the setup files without you knowing anything about it.
Although a VPN alone doesn’t prevent you from getting a virus, they are a step in the right direction to securing your internet activities.
Can You Get a Virus From a VPN?
No, you won’t get a virus from a VPN so long as you select a reputable VPN provider that uses 256-bit encryption and secure, reliable servers.
However, there are many places online advertising cracked VPN accounts or premium subs listed cheaply, and often the provider will issue a download link to the software.
The software you download will often include malicious code, a virus, or another type of malware that can harm your system without antimalware protection.
For this reason, I recommend steering clear of cracked VPNs.
Stick to downloading the apps directly from the official provider.
Additionally, free VPNs such as Archie VPN come bundled with malware to infect your device.
Thus, I also recommend staying away from free VPNs unless you’ve done research.
Can My VPN Remove a Virus?
No, your VPN cannot remove a virus that’s managed to sneak into the system files of your device.
Instead, a VPN can help you by warning you of a malicious website to prevent the malware from reaching your device.
How to Tell if My Device Is Infected With Malware?
If your device is running slow, you’ve noticed suspicious activity, or you see apps you never installed, you may already have malware on your system.
Smartphone malware is also common.
Here are some signs that your smartphone or tablet has an infection:
- Pop-ups appear more frequently
- Your battery depletes faster than usual
- Apps take longer to load
- Your phone takes longer to perform basic actions (like saving a photo)
- A delay or stuttering occurs when scrolling social media feeds
- Mobile data limits are reached faster
- Apps appear that you never installed
Follow these steps to check if your system is infected with malware:
- Install a free antivirus checker such as BitDefender or AVG Free.
- Run a system scan to check for known viruses.
- If malicious code is detected, you’ll typically have the option to attempt to clean the file or delete the infected file completely.
Does a VPN Protect You From Hackers?
Yes, a VPN can protect you from hackers.
Hackers rely on users sending their data over insecure network protocols and without sufficient encryption.
Wifi hotspots in public places are a prime target for hackers, as they provide little to no encryption.
Enable a VPN while connecting to public wifi, and you’ll eliminate the threat of snoopers prying on your sensitive data.
Similarly, websites that don’t use SSL encryption leave a door open for hackers who attempt to steal the data transferred over an HTTP connection versus a secure HTTPS session.
Use a VPN to ensure a robust connection and lockout opportunist hacking attempts.
A VPN doesn’t stop malware infecting your device, but those with built-in malware scanners warn you of malicious websites before proceeding.
An antivirus and VPN work as a team.
While the VPN warns of dangerous websites, the AV scans your system to remove any threats that slip through the net.
Already got an antivirus?
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