VPN vs. Antivirus – What Makes Them Different?
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
An antivirus is an essential tool that protects you against malware that can infect and harm your device. Like a VPN that protects your data on the internet, an antivirus is a safeguard that actively monitors threats and stops them from executing. Both may share the reputation of being a security tool, but they are far alike. VPN vs. Antivirus is a debate that often pops up, and the question is which one is better is often seen on various forum boards.
Thus, the objective of this blog is to give you a clear understanding of the differences between VPN and antivirus.
How Does an Antivirus Work?
An antivirus is a program that is built to detect and remove malware from a device. Malware is a term to describe malicious software. A program is malicious when the code it runs on contains harmful instructions. For example, a program written to infect data on a device and replicate itself is one of the many characteristics of malware.
As malware has become increasingly resilient and found new ways to attack, antivirus programs have upped the game accordingly. You now have antivirus programs that scan memory for fileless malware, scan web links and email attachments, and even machine learning for improved threat detection.
One of the common ways of detection is through signatures. Antivirus programs come with known malware signatures that they use as references during the detection process. And they continue to receive new malware signatures through updates as new threats emerge. It is why it is so important to keep an antivirus updated.
VPN vs. Antivirus
A Virtual Private Network establishes a private network over the internet. It connects you to a VPN server that handles your network traffic. It acts as a proxy for your internet requests, thus allowing you to browse the web privately. The destination server only reads the IP address of the VPN server, which is what allows you to spoof your location. You could be sitting in one part of the world and connect to a VPN server in the United States, and your geo-location will show up as the United States.
In comparison, an antivirus fortifies on-device security. It acts as a cop that monitors everything running on the system and trying to execute. It quarantines anything if it finds something malicious or potentially harmful. Once installed, an antivirus will do its best to prevent any such programs or data from entering your system by keeping a close eye on the network traffic and the stuff you download from the web.
But it cannot protect network traffic when it’s in transit – that’s a job for a VPN. A VPN encrypts network traffic so that a third party, like an ISP, cannot monitor the traffic and see what websites you are looking up.
Why You Should Use Both VPN and Antivirus
A VPN and antivirus work independently in function, but combined, they can offer a strong level of protection. As explained above, an antivirus cannot protect data when it’s in transit, which is why you need to use a VPN.
Digital surveillance is rampant. Governments spy on people and restrict the internet experience by blocking websites and services, thus severely limiting freedom of speech. In China, many social media platforms such as Facebook are blocked, and even resources like Wikipedia are inaccessible. Any criticism against the government can land you in trouble.
VPN is easy to set up and allows you to bypass the government’s firewall. Its encryption capability secures data while it’s in transit. Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks are particularly vulnerable to eavesdropping, which is where a VPN comes in to save the day, adding a layer of protection that is impossible for the hacker to break.
On the other hand, an antivirus goes a long way in ensuring that your device is protected from malware. Ransomware is on the rise. It’s malware that encrypts your data and demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. The best antivirus are equipped to fight against ransomware and many other types of malware.
The Best Antivirus for 2021
The best antivirus must have robust features and advanced detection capabilities. It’s absolutely critical to invest in an antivirus that can deal with various types of malware and receives regular updates for new malware signatures.
Check for features, pricing, number of devices per subscription, and the company’s track record. Notable antivirus makers include:
The best antivirus programs will have some variances in features and capabilities in detecting malware. Ultimately, whichever you choose, it will be far better than not having antivirus at all.
The collective cost of owning both an antivirus and a VPN might be discouraged, but FastestVPN offers incredible value. You can start monthly at just $10. And for a limited time, you can grab 1 year of Internxt’s 2TB cloud storage plan absolutely free by subscribing to FastestVPN.