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Does a VPN protect you from viruses? What is a virus?

Does a VPN protect you from viruses? What is a virus?


Well, here’s everything you need to know about it:

What is a computer virus and how does it work?

A computer virus is a type of malware (malicious software) that is programmed to change the way a device works. Viruses often self-replicate, and they can spread from one computer to another if the user performs certain actions.

Computer viruses usually spread through malicious attachments and links. If you interact with them in this way, they will infect your device. However, they do not usually activate immediately. Instead, they will remain idle until you open the program or file associated with the virus itself. When that happens, the virus will start infecting other files/programs in your system. It may even take your email address, and try to publish itself in your contacts.

Some of the things a computer virus can do include:

  • Propagation to other computers on the network.
  • Record your keystrokes.
  • Spam your contacts.
  • Ordinary files and system files are corrupted.
  • Collect login credentials and financial information.
  • Give the hacker remote access to your device.

What is the difference between viruses and malware?

Many people are often infected by mixing computer viruses and malware. Here’s the difference – a computer virus is a type of malware that can self-replicate if the user performs certain actions. On the other hand, malware is malicious software, and it includes a lot of other harmful categories besides viruses. If you want to learn more about this topic, follow this link.

Types of computer viruses

1. Direct Action Viruses

These types of computer viruses were very popular with hackers many years ago, but they are not used much anymore. This is mostly because they are not “reliable”.

Like most viruses, direct action viruses only start when a user opens an infected attachment or runs a malicious executable file. However, the moment the attachment or file is closed, the virus will stop working.

2. Polymorphic viruses

Polymorphic viruses can be very dangerous because they are difficult to detect – even with reliable antivirus software. It’s all because of the way they work – these viruses can actually encrypt and change their encoding, which is something most security software scans to locate a virus.

Once this type of virus infects a device, it will start to replicate itself. However, their duplicate versions may be changed to function differently.

3. Browser hijacker

Browsers are used by hackers to redirect victims to malicious phishing sites. Essentially, the virus takes control of your browser. Every time you type in a specific address, you are redirected to a phishing website.

While cybercriminals often use browser hacks, they are easy to detect and remove with antivirus software.

4. Web script viruses

Web script viruses attack website programming – usually the codec responsible for displaying links, page layouts, videos and images. The virus changes coding, making visual elements malicious. When a user interacts with them, their device is infected. Some viruses may run crypto-mining scripts, which can harm your device’s CPU.

These types of viruses are pretty much always present on phishing websites, but legitimate websites can also be infected with them. These antivirus programs easily detect these programs, though, and you can prevent them from running with script blockers.

5. FAT Virus (File Allocation Table)

These viruses mostly target Microsoft users, but they can also infect other operating systems. FAT is used to store information about the location of all files on the hard disk.

FAT viruses often hide themselves among system files, and will infect entire FAT as soon as they come into contact with the malicious file. FAT viruses delete or overwrite FAT files, effectively rendering the system unusable, and causing serious data loss.

6. Macro viruses

Macro viruses are often used to infect word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word. As the name implies, the virus is written in the macro language – the standard programming language used in word processing programs.

Macro viruses are configured to embed malicious code in word processor software, or in documents and spreadsheets. As soon as you open the infected program or file, the virus will start operating.

After the virus has finished infecting other files associated with the program, it can begin to modify the contents of documents, or grab email addresses to send malicious attachments to other people.

7. Viruses are multipart

These viruses (also called hybrid viruses) are very frustrating to deal with because they spread through the system in multiple ways. How they do it depends on how they are programmed,

In general, a multipart virus will infect the computer’s boot sector, which means that the virus will start every time the operating system is started. Moreover, the virus will be attached to the hard drive.

8. Virus contagious file

Standard type of virus. It’s programmed to attach itself to the files you open and use the most – like Word files, for example. Within a quick period of time, the virus will take over the entire file. Also, it will run every time you open and use the file.

9. Resident viruses

Resident viruses are very dangerous as they can hide themselves inside the device’s memory. For this reason, it can easily infect any file that is running on this system. Even worse, most resident viruses are able to load their own replica unit into memory. Basically, this is a great way of saying that they will be able to infect other files without having to run them first.

Resident viruses tend to run whenever the operating system starts. Some of them can attach themselves to the antivirus / anti-malware software to infect any files that are scanned by it.

10. Overwrite Virus

Overwriting viruses can be very frustrating. Basically, what they do is infect a file or program, delete all of its contents, and then overwrite the data in the system memory.

Many people think that overwriting the virus is not harmful, but the virus can actually destroy some of the original codec at times, making the program unusable. Therefore, it can do a lot of damage to the operating system.

How to detect computer viruses

If you have an antivirus installed, it will generally alert you when your device is infected. However, if you don’t have one, or you just want to learn more about it, here are the usual signs of a computer virus infection:

  • Strange sounds on the hard disk Many viruses like to target your computer’s hard drive. If you’re not currently using your computer but it’s on, and you hear loud hard drive activity (constant noises and spinning sounds), you’re probably dealing with a computer virus.
  • No hard disk space Viruses can also damage your hard drive by taking up a lot of space. If you suddenly notice that you are out of space, it is possible that the virus has installed a lot of malicious files on your device.
  • Intense CPU activity If your CPU temperatures are much higher than normal, and you are not using it to play any demanding video games, there is a chance that you are dealing with a computer virus mining cryptocurrency.
  • popup messages You start seeing random pop-up ads and messages on your browser and desktop. Do not interact with ads (this includes clicking the “x” to close them) as they may infect your device with more viruses and malware.
  • slow device behavior If your computer suddenly starts to run very slowly, it is most likely caused by a virus that is consuming system memory.
  • suspicious file activity – You start noticing that a lot of your files have been deleted or moved to a different directory, while new ones have replaced them.
  • High traffic on the network – If you notice that there is a lot of network activity happening while you are not using the web, there is a good chance that the virus is flooding your internet connection with downloads and uploads.
  • Malfunctions and errors – Your system randomly starts experiencing freezes, crashes, and error messages that open and close apps.
  • Browser problems Your web browser starts behaving strangely. It starts redirecting you to suspicious websites, showing different home pages, and new spammy-looking toolbars keep popping up.
  • Security software problems – When you try to run or install an antivirus, you will not be able to do so. You usually get weird error messages that don’t give you a specific reason why you can’t do it.
  • Hacked email(s) Your friends, family, and co-workers start telling you that they are receiving strange attachments from your email address. In this case, it is possible that the virus has taken over them, trying to spread to other computers through malicious attachments and links.

Keep in mind that most of these signs can also indicate malware infection.

Does a VPN protect you from viruses?

Simply, no. The truth is, antivirus and VPNs don’t go hand in hand.

A VPN is designed to protect your internet traffic and data, but it cannot protect your device from computer viruses. The encryption you’re using is simply not programmed to do this – not to mention that the VPN service needs an active internet connection to work.

On the other hand, a computer virus can wreak havoc on your device even if you are not connected to the web.

There are plenty of antivirus/antimalware providers to choose from, but our recommendations are Malwarebytes and ESET.

Of course, you should still use a VPN whenever you access the Internet. Using it in conjunction with antivirus software is a very smart way to stay safe on the web.

Do you need a reliable VPN to use with your antivirus?

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All you have to do to enjoy it all is to sign up and download our easy-to-use apps on the platform of your choice.

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How to prevent computer viruses from infecting your device

Here is a quick list of all the things you can do to reduce the chances of your device falling prey to computer viruses:

  • First of all, use one of the antivirus programs we mentioned above. Some software might be called anti-malware, but they are all the same thing – a virus is a type of malware, after all.
  • Ensure that your operating system and antivirus/antimalware software are always up to date. Even the smallest update can contain some security changes that will keep harmful viruses at bay.
  • If your operating system has a firewall, leave it running. Its default settings may not be very reliable, but it’s still an extra layer of security.
  • Do not respond to any phishing emails or messages you receive. They can redirect you to a malicious website, or trick you into downloading virus-infected attachments. If you would like to learn more about phishing and how to spot phishing attacks, follow this link.
  • Schedule regular scans with your antivirus software – preferably on a daily basis. Also, be sure to check any file you download before opening it.
  • Install script blockers in your browsers. We recommend using both uMatrix and uBlock Origin. It may take a little getting used to at first, but it will prevent even phishing sites from running virus-infected scripts and ads when you access them.
  • Enable click-to-play plugins in your browsers as well, as they will prevent Java and Flash scripts from running unless you specifically tell them to do so by interacting with a video or ad. Here’s how…

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