Can a VPN Protect You from Malware or Ransomware?

It could help, but it won't prevent you from clicking on fraudulent links...

mobile malware

While it’s not an anti-virus, a VPN could help keep you protected on the Internet. For one thing, it will make it virtually impossible for anyone to snoop into your web traffic, thus potentially revealing your personal information. It is not a replacement for other anti-malware software, but it is an important tool in your security arsenal. But can it protect you against malware and ransomware?

Defining malware and ransomware

First off, let us quickly define malware and ransomware. The former is a broader term, and it includes ransomware — even though the two are often used in the same sentence.

Malware includes all kinds of computer code that aims to “harm” your device or steal the data from you — including files, sensitive (personal) information, credit card numbers, and so on.

That “harm” to your device could include locking your device up in a process that would encrypt your hard drive, making it impossible to reach without a password. Typically, the attacker then contacts its victim and asks for a ransom to reveal the password. And that’s why it’s called ransomware.

How are people infected by malware (and ransomware)?

In most cases, devices are infected by malware (and ransomware) by downloading some apps. This could happen in the background without the user even knowing what’s going on. They may just click on a link in their email, and the download would start immediately. Then, the app may prompt them to install it, offering some kind of incentive, and the nightmare is set to begin.

At first, the user may not even notice anything, with the malware doing its thing in the background. And that “thing” could include collecting personal information, credentials to important services, and even disk encryption. Again, it is this last scenario that is involved in ransomware. Cause, once the encryption is over, the user will no longer be able to access his/her own device. That’s when they may receive a message asking them to pay to get the password. These transactions, in case you wonder, are usually conducted in cryptocurrency — making their tracking that much harder.

How can a VPN protect you against malware?

As you’re using a VPN, all traffic — including every web page you open — goes through VPN servers. There, it may be processed to detect and remove the malicious code potentially. This could come in the form of JavaScript that wants to know a thing or two about you or redirect you to a suspicious web page. A VPN could prevent this by removing the suspicious redirection.

In a different scenario, a VPN will make it harder for attackers to initiate the attack as they may not get that many details about your device in the first place. A VPN could remove or tweak the browser headers to make it harder to track down online.

What VPN can’t do, however, is prevent you from clicking on suspicious links in your email. Therefore we always say that everyone’s best defense against malware is to use their brain. If the offer (special promotion, discount, coupon, etc.) sounds too good to be true, chances are that is indeed the case. It’s just a hacker trying to lure its victims into clicking on a link to do its nefarious thing.

A VPN includes additional benefits

Arguably the most important of which is to help you be more anonymous on the Internet. A VPN does this by providing you with a different IP address that is allocated to a different location, sometimes even a different country. Heck, with a VPN – you get to choose your virtual location, with the best services offering a choice that spans a few dozen locations.

It is this same capability that will let you unlock the Internet in its entirety, allowing you to access sites and services that could otherwise be outside of your reach. This could include access to content that is offered only to locals.

Or, it can get you access to special offers that are reserved only to people living in certain areas. Or, it can help you bypass filters in high-censorship countries, which is why it is often used in the Middle East, China, and other parts of the world.

We have just scratched the surface here, but I guess you get the idea. As we’ve said at the beginning of this article, a VPN is a must-have tool in everyone’s security arsenal these days; and if you still haven’t found a good VPN for yourself, now’s the time to change that. Hop over to our page with the Best of the Best VPNs and take it from there.