Difference Between Firewall and Antivirus

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Firewall and Antivirus

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Every love story has glitches and most of the time it is the fact that the lover is afraid to let their guard down. Some past emotional trauma haunts them to the day and they are worried that the same thing will happen again in the future should they indulge in the current love match. So, they don their chainmail of emotional apathy and face the world as if they could care less. Thus, the wall keeps their emotions in check and prevents the potential lover’s emotions at bay. This might not be healthy in the long run for the individual but who are we to judge. They, of course, require help.

Another analogy for these security walls fences. Fences surround our homes and keep all sorts of predators away. Of course, some threats do enter but such threats are kept in check via the gate. Here, when they enter, we are made aware of their entrance and can monitor their approach and accordingly mount our defence. For example, if we see the nosy neighbour approaching with a determined sway in their walk, we can check our resources – the amount of patience we have – and deal with the neighbour either by opening the door and listening to them babble all they wish to or we can simply stay super quiet and let them assume there is no one at home.

Much like these physical and metaphorical walls, we build around ourselves to keep our physical and mental health safe albeit, at the cost of relationships, our computers require safety walls. Only, these walls come without a metaphorical cost. They do have a physical cost.

Why do we need them? Well, online security is an important necessity because private content can find its way on the world wide web for the world to see with just a click of a button. Cybercriminals lurk in the shadows of the web and are only waiting to strike by exploiting one of their valuable private properties – be it incriminating pictures or the secret sauce recipe that has been handed down through generations. Not only are cybercriminals a threat, but there are also malware and viruses that are constantly circulating. Quite like real-life viruses, these viruses infect the software and cause an instant disaster.

To keep the computer safe, we need protective walls or fences. These come in the form of firewalls and anti-virus programs. While they both offer protection to the computer that is connected to an open network like the internet, they are not the same thing. The anti-virus program is simply a software program whereas the firewall performs a few varied additional functions. It is more elaborate and can shield not just one but a whole network of computers from dangerous threats.

Differences Between Firewall and Anti-virus in a Tabular Form

Use Firewall can be used in both hardware and software or a combination of both. Anti-virus has only a software application. It does not require a hardware.
Threats faced A firewall faces only the external threats to the computer arising from an open network. An anti-virus program faces both the external threats as well as the internal threats of the computer.
Counter-attacks In the firewall, counter-attacks like IP spooning and routing attacks are possible. In the anti-virus program, no counter-attacks are possible. It only focusses on removing the malware.
Targets A firewall works on monitoring and filtering of threats and the data. An anti-virus program works on scanning the infected files and the infected software.
Monitoring A firewall monitors the incoming data packets for threats. An anti-virus program monitors the infected software from external sources as well as within the computer.
Diversity A firewall has the capability to save the entire system from all kinds of threats. An anti-virus program can save primarily from the threat of viruses.
Complexity The programming of a firewall is very complex. Much more than an anti-virus program. The programming of an anti-virus program is rather simpler in comparison to the program of the firewall.
Cost A firewall is expensive. Compared to a firewall, an anti-virus program is not as expensive.
Comprehensiveness A firewall program is rather comprehensive as it protects the entire system of networks involved from various kinds of external threats. An anti-virus program is mostly useful only for an individual system.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a hardware or software or if it’s really good, it can be a combination of both. The prime function of the firewall is to protect and keep safe the computer or the network. The way this protection act comes about is by monitoring all the internet traffic. It acts as the first line of defence between the internal computer data and the external source of information like the internet. It is responsible for the interception and blocking of the data packets that do not conform to the rules.

In addition to its benefits as the primary gatekeeper, a firewall also prevents hackers and people who can have remote access. It also protects the data that is on the computer. A higher, more complex network-based firewall like a router can also protect multiple systems thus, this makes the firewall more comprehensive. It protects the computer from even trojans (malware that presents as a legitimate program). With all these benefits, the firewall ultimately offers privacy and security to the computer and network.

The firewall employs various tactics to detect incoming internet traffic. Here are a few of those tactics:

  • Packet filter: First and foremost, the firewall inspects all the data that is received. The inspection is close and thorough, scanning for various details such as the IP address of the sender. Upon inspection of all the information, the firewall accepts or rejects data depending on the configuration of the program.
  • Application gateway: This is a more selective method of filter used by the firewall. Mostly employed where the applications and systems are needed to allow communication between computers and networks like in Telnet servers. Here, the firewall acts as a security component that admits the security criteria in certain applications only.
  • Circuit-level gateway: This firewall is mostly used in the virtual private network set-up like the TCP or UDP. When these are applied, there is no restriction on the data. A circuit-level gateway here acts as a kill-switch i.e., it automatically turns the software off when it detects any threat to it.
  • Proxy server: If the identity of the user needs to be anonymous, a proxy server can be used. When a firewall uses a proxy server, all the internet traffic is monitored as usual but also the identity of the user is kept hidden – to a certain extent.

It is not uncommon for a firewall to use more than one of the above-mentioned tactics to improve its efficiency as a protector of data.

What is Anti-virus?

An antivirus is most often a software program that has been installed on the computer to detect malicious software. The anti-virus scans and detects harmful viruses and malware from both external and internal sources. A firewall, alone cannot normally protect the computer from a vicious attack by a virus. For this purpose, it is essential to install an anti-virus program.

There are 3 basic steps in the functioning of the anti-virus program. They are as follows:

  1. Detection: It is when the anti-virus software detects a virus that has the intent to corrupt or infect the system. For this purpose, a scanner is used. This can be a real-time scanner or a periodic or manual scanner.
  2. Identification: Once the virus is found, the anti-virus program attempts to figure out the type and characteristics of the virus. The detected virus is compared against a blacklist that contains all the programs or viruses that pose a threat to the computer.
  3. Removal: Post the detection and identification of the virus, the anti-virus program tries to remove the virus from the computer. If this is not possible, it quarantines the virus so that further harm to the computer cannot be done.

Mostly suitable for individual systems, the anti-virus program, helps keep multiple threats at bay. In addition to protection from viruses that could crash the computer, the anti-virus program serves to protect from other threats like trojans, spyware and malware. It can also detect an unidentified virus by monitoring activities on the computer. They can even sniff out all the causes of decreasing the performance of the computer thereby enhancing its efficiency. When attacked by spam emails or fake websites, the antivirus program kicks into action and sends alerts to the computer. Anti-virus programs also help keep passwords safe and prevent leakage.

Thus, when you compare the two, they can both be analogous to the security detail at an apartment. The firewall in such a scenario would be the security guard who monitors all the external arrivals. The anti-virus program would be the caretaker of the apartment who mostly loiters the hallways but keeps an eye on threats from within the apartment as well as outside the apartment.

Differences between firewall and anti-virus in points

Following are the main differences between firewall and anti-virus:

  1. Most importantly, a firewall consists of software or hardware or both whereas an anti-virus program only consists of a software application.
  2. A firewall examines all threats to the network or computer by monitoring the incoming internet traffic. An anti-virus program only scans for viruses.
  3. The main function of the firewall is to monitor and filter data threats while the main function of the anti-virus program is to scan the malicious software.
  4. The firewall monitors only external data threats while the anti-virus program monitors both external and internal data for viruses.
  5. The programming for the firewall is way more complex in comparison to the rather simpler programming of the anti-virus program.
  6. Counter-attacks like IP spoofing and routing attacks are possible with the firewall. There are no counter-attacks possible with the anti-virus.
  7. A firewall is more expensive due to its complex programming and multiple uses when compared to an anti-virus program.
  8. A firewall is more comprehensive, in that it can cover the entire network from malicious threats while the anti-virus program is more suited to an individual system.

While it might sound excessive, it is imperative for the protection of one’s computer that both anti-virus software and a firewall be established. A firewall might seem ideal and sufficient to protect from all threats in a perfect scenario but this is not always the case. As much as we would like it, a firewall is not always impenetrable. There could be faults in the configuration that could allow threats to sneak in. In such a case, it is always beneficial to have additional support. This additional support can be provided by the anti-virus programs.

The same argument can be applied to the need for a firewall. An anti-virus program alone cannot detect all the threats and keep the computer safe. New viruses are constantly being created and however much one keeps updating the anti-virus program, there might be leaks. Here, the additional support is the firewall.


In conclusion, both firewall and anti-virus programs work for the safety and protection of the computer and the network. They function differently and have their benefits, for example, the firewall monitors all kinds of threats from external sources and denies them access to the computer. Similarly, the anti-virus program scans and defines the viruses found in the computer as well as from external sources and prevents their infection of the computer system. It is of utmost importance that either or better yet, both these security checks be employed to make certain that the computer and the user remain safe. The threats are evolving just as well as the technology and it is always better to be safe than sorry. While in relationships the extent of safe-keeping needs constant moderation, when it comes to personal safety, physically, at home and virtually, on the computer, safe-keeping must always be given a priority. The strongest fence is always preferred for the house and also the computer.


  1. https://www.jigsawacademy.com/blogs/cyber-security/anti-virus-and-firewall/
  2. https://vpnoverview.com/antivirus/difference-antivirus-firewall/
  3. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-firewall-and-antivirus/

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"Difference Between Firewall and Antivirus." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sun. 12 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-firewall-and-antivirus-123>.

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