VPN vs Firewall vs Antivirus - Which Does Best for Your Online Security?Updated: June 02, 2019
VPN, firewall, and antivirus are three pieces of software essential to protect you in the online world. And each of them has its own usage and each adds a layer of protection to your online security and privacy.
When it comes to online security, there are three pieces of software that always come in the spotlight - VPNs, firewalls, and antivirus programs.
But which one is best to protect your security between VPN vs firewall vs antivirus?
What's the difference between the three?
Well, there might be discussions about which is best between VPN vs firewalls vs antivirus, but the reality is that none is better than the other for protecting your files, privacy, sensitive data, and for online security overall.
In fact, each of the three does its own job and they work best when they are in conjunction.
To better understand what's the difference between a VPN, a firewall, and antivirus and why you should use all of them to achieve the highest level of protection, we'll explain how each of them works, what they do, and what are the key differences.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a piece of software that masks your IP address by routing your network connection through a remote server. VPN providers usually have servers located in multiple locations over the world so you can choose to which one you want to connect to based on your needs.
Because you'll be connected through a different server, it means that your ISP, the government, or the websites you visit won't be able to see pinpoint your real location as they'll see the IP address of the VPN server.
Besides making you anonymous online, the VPN client also encrypts all the network data by creating a secure tunnel. So even if someone manages to get access to the data transmitted between your device and the internet, they won't be able to read it.
With a VPN service, your ISP, the government, or other snooping eyes cannot see what you're doing online. Even though a VPN doesn't protect your computer against malware or viruses, it does improve your online security by hiding your presence and activity from hackers, making it more challenging for them to steal your private information and use it for identity theft or other fraudulent activities.
A firewall, simply explained, is a shield between the internal network (your computer) and the external network (the internet).
The firewall can be either software or hardware and, in both cases, it keeps an eye on the ongoing and outgoing traffic and decides what data packets to let in or out based on a set of rules. The firewall is the first line of defense for your computer as it will block the traffic coming from suspicious sources to communicate with your computer.
With a firewall, you can set up your own security rules. You can choose to block the traffic from certain websites or services or whitelist programs and websites as firewall exceptions. You have probably noticed that in places like offices and schools, you're not able to access specific platforms (such as social media platforms). This is because the firewall was set up to restrict users' access to those specific pages.
While the firewall creates a pretty strong layer of security for your computer, it cannot do it all. For example, it might decide some data packets are theoretically safe to pass through because they come from a source that's not blocked by the rules, but it's not able to tell if those packets are malicious.
Starting with Windows XP, all Windows operating systems come with a pre-installed firewall. It was upgraded to Windows Firewall with Advanced Security as of Windows Vista and, even though the revised version offers more protection, there are still other firewalls out there with a better interface, configuration, and which provide a higher level of security.
Antivirus software is a program designed to detect and remove malicious software such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses, adware, ransomware, and other types of malware. You might also come across the term "antimalware programs", which is basically the same thing as an antivirus.
Hackers and cybercriminals use different types of malware so they can infect their victims' computers with the purpose of damaging the devices, stealing private information, and even for identity theft or other fraudulent activities. The antivirus prevents you from becoming a victim of such attacks.
Antivirus software scans the data your computer comes in contact with - the web pages, the files you download, the applications, the pieces of software. It searches for known malware and monitors to see if there's any suspicious behavior going on. If it spots something unusual, the antivirus blocks and removes the malicious files as quickly as possible.
Because new types of malware are created every day by prolific cybercriminals, antivirus software relies on updates. They are continuously updating their database so they can detect as many types of malware possible for the best protection for their users.
Windows 10 comes with a built-in antivirus software called Windows Defender which has seen great improvements compared to the older versions of Windows' antivirus. There are still other antivirus software out there that perform better in terms of detecting malware and that also come with extra features. It's best to invest in a paid program to get the highest level of security, but there are also free alternatives which provide you a basic layer of online security.
The differences between VPN vs firewall are pretty obvious.
- A VPN secures your internet connection, making sure no one is able to monitor your online activities and steal your private data such as account credentials or credit card information. However, it does not secure your computer.
- A firewall lets you configure the way your computer communicates with the internet by setting your own set of security rules, which prevents malicious traffic from entering your device.
- A VPN is not able to set up security rules and restrict data packets from entering your computer. On some VPN clients, you might find the Killswitch feature which kills the internet access if there's a problem connecting to the VPN server. But this only prevents you from having your real IP address exposed by mistake.
- While a VPN will help you bypass geographical restrictions so you'll be able to access any content online even if it is not available in your country, a firewall cannot do this. The firewall can only create restrictions on websites that can be accessed from your computer.
While both VPN and antivirus have the same purpose of protecting your data, they do it in completely different ways.
- A VPN keeps you private when browsing online so hackers are not able to monitor your online activities.
- An antivirus protects your computer from getting infected with malware by scanning every file you download from the internet and removing the malicious files if it detects something suspicious.
- A VPN is not able to protect your computer from malware. It does encrypt your online traffic and data, but if you download or click on something malicious, the VPN is not able to detect it.
- With a firewall, you configure how your computer communicates with the internet by blocking specific websites that might be harmful to your computer.
- An antivirus scans your computer, and each file that's being downloaded, for viruses and malware so it secures your device.
- The firewall is not able to protect you against malware if you, for example, click on a malicious link in an email.
After seeing the differences between VPN vs firewall vs antivirus, it's clear that there's no right choice between the three of them. Each of them has its own usage and each adds a layer of protection to your online security and privacy.
You get the best results for protecting yourself against online attacks by using an up to date antivirus to detect any malicious file on your computer, properly configuring a firewall so you don't access malicious websites, and using a reliable VPN service that will protect your privacy and data when surfing online.
If you're looking to give VPN a try and see how it can improve your online experience, we got you covered.
The DrSoft VPN provides a reliable software that will give you back the privacy and freedom you deserve when browsing online. Upon installing our software you'll:
- Have your data encrypted with a secure 256bit encryption.
- Make sure your real IP address is never exposed because of the built-in killswitch. Pretty useful especially if you're looking to download torrents anonymously.
- Be able to bypass geo-restricted filters and access all the content you want online even if it's normally not available in your country.
- Get an affordable price that's worth paying every penny for the online freedom and the privacy you'll get online.
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