Difference between Anti-Virus and Firewall: 9 Important Points


While both Anti-Virus and Firewall applications are intended for use in securing a computer or a network of computers from internal and external threats, the two are very different from each other. One of the main differences between Anti-Virus and Firewall is that anti-virus is only a software application while a firewall can be software or hardware or a combination of both. Individual and standalone computers are normally protected by readily available anti-virus applications from threats from within.

The firewall is a more elaborate form of protection that encompasses computers or a network of computers along with the entire system configuration and infrastructure by providing a barrier against a variety of malicious attacks on the network from outside. A firewall is configured to act as a wall or barrier against any attempt by unsolicited users to connect to the system to steal data, corrupt data, or disrupt service. So it can be seen that the answer to the question is the anti-virus and firewall the same is a clear NO.

In this article let us look at:

A) What is a Firewall

A firewall is a hardware or software or a combination of both to protect and secure a private computer or a network of computers. This protection is achieved by allowing only legitimate traffic and filtering out all unauthorized users from accessing private computers and networks. A firewall in a computer is a type of Cybersecurity tool for information security by detecting and blocking out all attempts at unsolicited access.

The firewall is acting as the first line of defense in network security for the last 25 years. A firewall can be defined as a network security system that acts as a barrier between internal network and external sources like the internet to intercept and block data packets that don’t conform to its set of rules.


  •  A firewall prevents hackers and remote access.
  • It protects data.
  • It ensures better privacy and security.
  • It protects from Trojans.
  • A network-based firewall, like a router, can offer protection to multiple systems, while an OS-based firewall can protect individual systems.

Functions of a Firewall

  • The main function of a firewall is packet filtering.
  • It acts as an application proxy, commonly referred to as an application-level gateway.
  • Stateful firewalls which are dynamic, stateless firewalls.
  • Deep packet inspection, DPI, firewalls.
  • Management functions.

The level of sophistication used depends on many factors like the risk profile, vulnerabilities, the criticality of the area of operation of the organization, resources required, and many other factors. There is no one size fits all solution for a firewall.

List of Firewalls

Some of the popular suppliers of firewalls are listed below.

  • Palo Alto
  • Watchguard
  • Checkpoint
  • Fortinet
  • Sophos
  • Forcepoint
  • Juniper
  • Fortinet

B) What is Anti-Virus

An anti-virus is a software application installed in a computer to protect it from malicious viruses and malware from internal and external sources. A firewall cannot normally protect a system from a malicious virus attack which might be capable of disrupting or corrupting the system. Hence, it is always advisable to install anti-virus software in computers to take care of this aspect of security.

Functions of Anti-Virus

An anti-virus works on the following three-step principle.

  • Detection: The software detects a virus or an attempt to infect the system with a malicious virus which can cause some damage to the system.
  • Identification: The application then tries to identify the virus, type of virus, and its characteristics.
  • Removal: After detecting and identifying a virus, the software tries to remove the virus from the system. It can also quarantine the virus so that it can cause no further harm.

Advantages and functions of Anti-Virus

An anti-virus application has its own set of advantages in securing a computer or a network. It can be used on individual computers to protect it from malicious attacks from

  1. Various types of computer viruses are designed to indulge in malicious acts. Some might even totally erase all data and crash a system.
  2. Trojans.
  3. Malware.
  4. Phishing attacks.
  5. Spyware.
  6. Suspicious fake website links that indulge in several frauds.
  7. Email related frauds after hacking into email systems.
  8. Spam emails.
  9. They can protect passwords and prevent their leakage.
  10. They can sniff out suspicious activities which affect the performance of a computer.
  11. It can sniff out even a new undefined virus by its activities and signature before it can cause any harm, even though it might not be able to identify it. The application then will be able to quarantine the virus and protect the computer.
  12. It blocks spam messages distracting advertisements.

In this advanced electronic age, hackers and virus developers on the one hand, and Cybersecurity experts on the other are engaged in a race to keep ahead of each other. As new viruses are being developed and released into the internet every day, anti-virus companies have a huge task to track, identify, and develop codes to tackle them. So, any anti-virus software installed on a computer needs to be constantly updated to secure the systems against emerging threats.

C) What is the difference between Anti-Virus and Firewall?

As is clear by now, anti-virus and firewall are different Cybersecurity tools used for securing the computer systems. Now let us see what is the difference between anti-virus and firewall

  1. A firewall can be software or hardware or a combination of both. An anti-virus is only a software application and no additional hardware is required.
  2. All data packets coming into the system are vetted by the firewall which looks for authenticity. Only data from authorized users are allowed access. Anti-virus is not meant for such authentication of users or data.
  3. A firewall deals with external threats from unauthorized users while anti-virus protects threats from within and camouflaged files sent from outside in various forms.
  4. A firewall works by monitoring and filtering while anti-virus works by detecting a virus in infected files and deleting them.
  5. A firewall is much more complex and costly than a simple anti-virus application, especially for large organizations that require multi-layer information security.
  6. Firewalls are more comprehensive and protect the entire network from threats related to malicious data packets from unauthorized users. Anti-virus normally is at the individual system level.
  7. A firewall protects both the hardware and software in the system by blocking unauthorized suspicious users while anti-virus protects the software and system data by detecting and deleting or quarantining infected files.
  8. A firewall is outer layer security to filter malicious data and it is possible sometimes to bypass a firewall, for example, when data is accessed from a flash drive. In such cases, anti-virus can protect the system by scanning for infected files.
  9. Despite the many anti-virus and firewall differences, for a robust and comprehensive Cybersecurity system to be in place, organizations go in for the installation of both the tools to plug all vulnerabilities.


From the Anti-Virus and Firewall comparison, it is clear that both are important tools in Cybersecurity and when used in tandem, they can have a significant advantage in securing a system network from multiple threats.

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