2017 seems to be the year of VPN.
With new orders from President Trump slashing privacy in the USA allowing ISPs to collect and sell user data at their own volition, there’s been a huge uptick in VPN in the USA since people want to protect their privacy. Other countries like Australia are finally reenacting some of the biggest metadata collection policies around, and the UK is also throwing privacy out the window. Places like Russia and China–meanwhile, having been collecting, censoring, and controlling user data for years now thanks to nation-wide firewalls.
With all of this bad news, there’s also been other forms of chaos in 2017 like the FBI leaking thousands of security tools and malicious code that potentially leaked into the hands of hackers. All in all, it’s been a pretty rough year for both security and user privacy. So which side of the equation is more of a concern to people in 2017? Privacy or computer security? Well, it just might be privacy.
If we take a look at Google Trends, we can see a good indication that computer security tools like Antivirus have been steadily declining. This is due in part due to operating systems having better security tools automatically installed, like Windows Defender. However, searches for VPN are increasing. In fact, VPN has passed Antivirus as a search term since July 2016. Since them, searches for Antivirus have been going down whereas VPN searches have steady bumps whenever controversial news comes out that scares people into using VPN.
So why is this happening? Well, I have a few theories:
#1 Antivirus is too Expensive, VPN is Cheap
More and more people are investing into VPN since it’s pretty cheap. With services like Private Internet Access going for $5.99 a month, and services like TorGuard going as low as $5 for a 6 month subscription, it’s not too much of a wallet breaker.
Whereas Antivirus subscriptions can easily cost $20 a month in some cases. It’s also a bit confusing with some Antivirus apps since they have so many add-ons, configurations, and use cases that I think users get confused–whereas a VPN is easy to setup and simple with more than one use.
#2 Windows 10 / Apple OS Are Secure + Antivirus Companies are Scammy
Windows defender, in many cases is all that you need. It’s reasonably light, doesn’t have popups, and doesn’t sell your data or try to get you to upgrade your plan. Apple Computers have always had decent virus protection as well. But one of the biggest reasons I think Antivirus is dying is due to the questionable history and development of these programs. Some of the biggest Antivirus companies out there have questionable histories, and even the creator of McAfee Antivirus, one of the biggest in the world, hates it.
“You have no idea how glad I am about that. It’s become the worst piece of SW on the planet. You cannot uninstall, scans all the time, slow as sh*t, I’d have fired them, thank goodness I’ve freed from association with that,” John McAfee said.
In fact, Google’s Project Zero found numerous bugs in leading Antivirus software. Back in June last year, Google’s Project Zero found 25 high-severity bugs in Symantec/Norton security products. “These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets,” said Tavis Ormandy, a Project Zero researcher. “They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible. In certain cases on Windows, vulnerable code is even loaded into the kernel, resulting in remote kernel memory corruption.” Over the past five years, Ormandy has found similar vulnerabilities in security software from Kaspersky, McAfee, Eset, Comodo, Trend Micro, and others.
#3 Rise of Mobile + Tablets + 2 in 1 Computers + Chromebooks
You don’t really need Antivirus on your mobile phone, tablet, or Chromebook. But if you’re browsing the internet at Starbucks, or at the Airport, you should definitely be using a VPN.
VPNs are multi-platform and can be used on phones easily to secure your online browsing or use. iPhones don’t really let you download malicious software from the iOS store, and Androids are getting better about that too. But phones and tablets aren’t quite as good about securing your data online since when you browse unsecure Wi-Fi–that responsibility is on you. This is one reason why public Wi-Fi always warns you before you start using it.
#4 VPN has more Uses than Antivirus
VPNs can be used for torrenting, securing your internet from ISPs, staying anonymous on the internet, bypassing game beta restrictions, bypassing region restrictions with Netflix (check out TorGuard for that), and even for remote work to secure sensitive work data.
Antivirus programs really only detect viruses, and with today’s softwares from Microsoft and Apple that get patched more and more with fast updates to remove vulnerabilities–more often than not, these Antivirus programs don’t really find anything to delete. This is one reason why you’ll find many Antivirus apps now having things like password managers, integrated VPNs, and other secure password storage. They know that they need to make their programs “more useful”.
#5 Antivirus Hinders Computer Performance, VPN Doesn’t
One reason Antivirus can be such a big pain is that it hinders computer performance. It makes your computer start up slower, and when the program is scanning, you’ll notice considerable slowdown. Former Firefox Developer agrees, “Worse still, if they make your product incredibly slow and bloated, users just think that’s how your product is … You can’t tell users to turn off AV software because if anything bad were to happen that the AV software might have prevented, you’ll catch the blame.”
Back when Antivirus was booming, I have very fond memories of Norton completely killing load times. Nowadays, we live in a world where we want everything right away, and if a computer is slow, people just turn to better platforms or leave them altogether.
Best VPNs to Use in 2017 Instead of Antivirus?
So if you are going to use a VPN, which one should you use? Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of bad VPNs out there. However, our top 5 rated VPNs for 2017 are all quite good with various strengths each.
Check out this table!