Can a VPN Protect You Against Ransomware?
Ransomware is a pretty serious problem: a single hack can cost you dearly or your data, both if you’re unlucky. It’s important to guard against this threat, and we’ve seen some VPNs claiming they can help. But can a VPN really protect you from ransomware?
VPN protection against ransomware
The answer is simply no, a VPN cannot help you with, prevent or resolve ransomware attacks. Anyone who claims they can is trying to sell you something. Untrustworthy VPN providers are guilty of marketing their products as a panacea for all problems on the Internet, and “ransomware” is just another keyword for them. Even a VPN is not a panacea for internet privacy. You also need to change your browsing habits.
The reason a VPN can’t block ransomware is that they are very different things. In real terms, it’s a bit like replacing your car’s tires to fix a chip in the windshield. It’s not directly related. To understand a little better how it works – or rather not – we need to take a closer look at both ransomware and VPNs.
How ransomware works
The way most ransomware works is that it somehow infects your system, usually through a file you download or even a targeted attack. Once on your system, it spreads and encrypts parts of your hard drive, if not all of it. To unlock and decrypt your data, you have to pay money, a ransom, to the attackers; hence “ransomware”.
As you can imagine, ransomware is a bad thing to be a victim of, and what makes it worse is that there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get your files after paying the ransom. Quite often attackers will simply get away with the money without giving the key to the encrypted files. So it’s no surprise that anti-ransomware software has become a booming business.
How VPNs Work
Obviously, when business is booming, people will want a slice of it, and in a way, it makes sense to think that VPNs could be a way to protect against ransomware. After all, they can protect you online, and many providers promise security of one sort or another.
The fact is, however, that VPNs only affect how you appear on the web. When you use a virtual private network, you redirect your connection through a server owned and operated by your VPN provider. It makes you feel like you’re somewhere other than your actual location, which is great if you’re trying to circumvent regional restrictions.
However, it does nothing to deter ransomware. A location change doesn’t mean you’re suddenly undetectable to criminals, especially if you’re the one who downloaded the malware in the first place.
However, rerouting your connection isn’t the only thing VPNs do, they also encrypt your connection in a so-called VPN tunnel. This is great if you want to avoid being spied on by your internet service provider, government, copyright watchdogs, or anyone else who wants to monitor your connection.
Again, however, this does not apply to ransomware: the software is already on your system and VPN software cannot do anything about its presence. It is also unable to prevent you from downloading it or protect you from hackers entering your system.
Threat detection systems
That said, some VPNs bundle security software with their description, which can help fight ransomware. Good examples are ProtonVPN’s NetShield and ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager. These act much like similar systems offered by most top antivirus software in that they block access to suspicious sites, including those known to infect you with ransomware.
In these cases, a VPN can be useful in the fight against ransomware, but only thanks to these additional modules; the core technology is still quite powerless. You are better off with the protection offered by your antivirus program, which also extends to scanning your computer for dangerous ransomware before it runs, which a VPN cannot do. .
VPN and ransomware
VPNs are not defensive armor that you can put on and be protected from all the evils of the internet, no matter how much VPN providers would like to convince you otherwise. This is a protective measure you can take to avoid being tracked, as well as a tool that can bypass blocks.
There are many good ways to prepare for a ransomware attack, but getting a VPN subscription isn’t one of them. If you come across a vendor who claims otherwise – or even suggests they may – you may want to avoid them and their dubious claims. There are many VPNs out there that try to win over customers without claiming magical powers, stick with them; our selection of the best VPNs is a good place to start.