Malware is a growing problem and it was important to make sure I had suitable protection. Including whether my VPN itself was capable of providing protection against viruses, trojans and spyware infections.
Please Never Believe Your VPN Can Block Malware! VPNs cannot block malware from being downloaded but some VPNs do include some threat intelligence to check if a site is listed as having malware, thereby warning of potential malware risks and stopping connections. Antimalware programs combined with VPNs provide greater protection.
Let’s take a look at how you can reduce the chances of picking up malware and downloading it onto your device.
1. Avoid bad VPNs
Not all VPNs are created equal and some VPNs are just downright malicious bits of software designed to steal and damage. A lot of the FREE VPNs tend to fall into this category, as their whole monetization goal is stealing information by installing malware during their main program’s installation process.
Typically, these free VPNs install malware like spyware to steal confidential information like credit card details, banking details and other personally sensitive information.
Choose reputable VPN providers
By choosing a reputable VPN provider (check out latest list of reputable VPNs here) helps ensure infection from malware is avoided. As these reputable VPN providers goal is to make sure their reputation for providing quality VPN services is maintained and they are not out to make a quick buck.
2. Use Malware protection
I never just rely on the malware protection offered by the VPN I use; I also use malware detection program called MalwareBytes. This works alongside my VPN looking for malware and instantly blocking any malware from propagating my devices.
I also use Zone Alarms firewall with Anti-Virus protection built-in to provide additional protection. The Zone Alarms Anti-Virus are licensed from Kaspersky who have an excellent reputation for Anti-Virus signatures and detections.
Regularly update your malware programs
A malware protection program is only as good as the information it has about the potentially threatening malware out in the big wide world. This information is updated regularly with more information becoming available throughout the day as new threats are discovered.
With this in mind, it’s absolutely vital to ensure any malware detection programs being used are updated regularly, best of all they are set to automatically update as new malware threats emerge.
3. Enable Real-time Malware scanning
It’s vitally important any malware scanning is done in real-time, stopping any malware infection from actually infecting the device dead in its tracks.
There’s been a number of time when I’ve been connected using my VPN and my antimalware program MalwareBytes has blocked access to a website due to malware being hosted on the website I’m trying to visit.
Without MalwareBytes running, I would have just ended up going to the website and picking up the malware, instead by blocking my access in real-time, the opportunity to download the malware let alone infect my device is stopped completely.
4. Regularly scan for Malware
The antimalware program I use from MalwareBytes regularly scans my devices with a scan when I first use the device, if it’s my laptop or desktop computer and a nightly scan with my smartphone.
This is an important protection option, as new malware comes out all the time and what was considered innocuous one day, might be considered to be a dangerous piece of malware the next.
What I also like about MalwareBytes is its scanning options from ‘scan for rootkits’ to ‘Use artificial intelligence to detect threats’, both of which I have set to do.
MalwareBytes not only provides Web Protection and Malware Protection but also Ransomware Protection (hackers try to encrypt data and then ask for payment to decrypt) and Exploit Protection (where hackers try to take advantage of software vulnerabilities).
As you can see there is scheduled scanning, to make sure regular scanning for malware threats is done.
5. Use VPN Malware protection options
The VPN I use comes with some malware protection features and I use these alongside the antimalware programs I already have.
The CyberSec feature of NordVPN will try to block websites suspected of hosting malware or phishing scams. This provides some protection to its users from some forms of malware. It’s important to enable this feature as it’s not on by default, so NordVPN users need to enable it from the NordVPN control panel.
Private Internet Access MACE
Private Internet Access has a feature called MACE, that takes DNS requests, that is, when you enter the website name in your browser, the name is sent to a DNS server to work out the IP address of the location of the website.
Private Internet Access uses a special DNS process when the MAC option is enabled, and this special DNS process will check to see if the website being connected to is actually hosting any malware. Allowing the Private Internet Access to block the access if the website is listed as hosting malware.
6. Use trustworthy sites for downloading
It’s difficult to ensure the honesty and integrity of a lot of websites around internet, so it’s vitally important anything downloaded is checked first before it’s installed. I always scan anything I download with my MalwareBytes and ZoneAlarm Anti-Virus programs to make sure it’s safe to install.
MalwareBytes can detect if there are other programs bundled within the download, these are known as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ or PUPs for short. These PUPs can be laden with malware including spyware and by being able to detect these, I can avoid installing them inadvertently onto my devices.
On smartphones it’s important to install applications from the designated app stores, so iPhone users must always use the Apple AppStore and Android users, always use Google PlayStore.
Installing from other sources, especially if the smartphone has also been rooted, can leave the smartphone open to some serious malware infection.
7. Make sure your device has the latest patches
If you found out your front door lock had a security issue, where the lock mechanism could be easily picked but a simple fix was available to remedy the security issue, would you get it fixed or leave it?
Getting the security issue fixed would protect you from getting the lock picked but not getting the security fix applied to lock will leave your home vulnerable to thieves, as they could easily pick the lock and get inside. The lock has a vulnerability, and this could be exploited to get access to your home.
Now consider the device you use to connect to the internet with your VPN, if this device has a vulnerability, there could be malware out there that actively tries to find this vulnerability to exploit it.
Potentially allowing the malware to get access to information it wouldn’t normally be able to get access to if the vulnerability had been fixed but because the vulnerability hasn’t been fixed, the malware can exploit this is to it’s advantage.
It’s vitally important to minimize the chances of being exploited by malware looking for vulnerabilities by ensuring your devices are regularly checked for vulnerabilities and updated accordingly.
I recently changed my smartphone because my existing smartphone manufacturer was really bad at providing security updates. This left my phone open to being exploited, so I decided this wasn’t good enough and changed phones.
Likewise, I follow a regular schedule on checking for updates on my desktop computer, laptop and tablet devices to ensure they have the latest patches.
What is Malware?
The term “malware” or malicious software refers to any program or code that attacks the data on your device or attacks the security of your computer, such as spying on activities or transmitting ransom demands such as ransomware. This type of malware is the most common form of cyber attacks on computers and mobile devices.
Malware can affect the functioning of your device, steal data, stay on the device to spy on your activities, and even perform other illegal functions such as cryptocurrency mining without your knowledge.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent malware from causing nasty infections across your devices, simply by adhering to the tips highlighted in this article. This will help in reducing malware infections and hopefully eradicating them altogether.