What is the Difference Between a Firewall and Antivirus?

Antivirus and firewall are mechanisms for providing security to your systems but the vulnerabilities in both these cases are different.  Talking about the major difference, Firewall acts as the barrier for incoming traffic to the system while Antivirus protects against internal attacks such as malicious files etc.

Both of them functions on 2 entirely different approaches such as Firewall focus on the inspection of data flowing from the internet to computer. On the other hand, Antivirus emphasizes upon faulty program inspection steps like detection, recognition, and removal. The firewall is like gatekeeper between the outside world and your computer while antivirus software is the resident detective.

What is the Firewall?

One can consider the firewall as the standard approach which safeguards local computer assets from the external threats. It is designed for filtering out IP packets coming from network to computer. A firewall is also regarded as an effective way of protecting local system and against a network, as well as simultaneously one can access WAN or internet.

What is Antivirus?

It is application software that offers security against malicious programs which are coming from the Internet. The approach of Antivirus includes the process of detecting, identifying, and then finally eliminating the virus from your device.

The function of Antivirus and Firewall

You can also refer to the Firewall as the “packet filter”. It monitors outgoing and incoming traffic as well as analyzes the data packets which travel along with a network and hence plays the role of a barrier between the network and your system. The packets are filtered before the sending procedure or if anything suspicious gets identified, the packets are discarded. Antivirus is considered as the set of programs which are designed to look for system vulnerabilities and then take the required action.

The basis of contrast is given below –

1.    Antivirus

•    Implementations are only found in the software

•    Scan software and corrupt files

•    The main concerns are external and internal threats

•    After the malware removal, there is no possibility of counter attacks

•    The basis of attack inspection is faulty software that is living on the computer

2.    Firewall

•    Implementations are found both in the software and hardware

•    Filter and monitor (more like IP filtering)

•    The concern here is only external threats

•    Counterattacks in the form of routing attacks and IP spoofing

•    Basis of an attack inspection is incoming packets

In the antivirus v/s firewall dissimilarities, primary distinguisher is a mechanism that these software use for safeguarding systems from the malicious attacks and what they can safeguard.

Security v/s inhibition

The virus protection of firewall observes traffic in network hence inhibiting the entry of malicious data into a network thereby thwarting viruses. But, the virus can still enter your system through download, spam link, or even from the flash drive. Furthermore, once the virus bypasses firewall protection, the role of antivirus comes into the picture.

Antivirus scans as well as spots malware from barring it so that it cannot disperse further either by segregating or obliterating corrupt file. Besides, even though firewall halts viruses and malware from entering your system, complete elimination of cyber threat infecting a system is not possible by the same.

The difference in the problem approach

Firewall and antivirus protection utilize different methods for protecting systems from any damage. Antivirus uses a heuristics approach for spotting and eliminating an assortment of malware from the computer, and the firewall secures it from malicious threats and interference. The firewall allows entry of the good packets into the system and negates entry of the bad packets. Hence, the antivirus removes any virus or malware from the computer through detection however, the firewall protects snooping eyes and imposition of hackers.


The firewall basically works at the network protocol level for safeguarding both private and public networks from the unwanted intrusion. The setting up of a firewall comes with its own benefits and downsides. It has the capability of only preventing unauthorized access between the computer networks as per the pre-defined set of the network protocols. In case of antivirus, it works at file level which means software program will scan only for those harmful programs which are installed on the computer like Trojans, worms, spyware, adware, rootkits, keyloggers, and malware etc.

Antivirus and firewall both seem a bit similar that offers the mechanism for protecting the computer from internal and external threats. However, a type of attack might differ in both cases. The firewall blocks unauthorized and untrusted programs for gaining access to communicate with a computer, but detection, recognition, and removal is not what it performs. Rather, it prevents and restricts outgoing/incoming traffic so that it does not reach the system. But, Antivirus identifies, detects, as well as removes malware (malicious program) from a computer.

With the above-mentioned information, a person will wonder how he can get the instructions on locating firewall and antivirus software. The cyber world is now expanding at an astonishing rate. Thereby, it becomes really confusing when it comes to identifying the best antivirus and firewall as a part of the cybersecurity strategy. Furthermore, one cannot opt for an antivirus along with the firewall software because the operations performed are different that are exceptional.

In a nutshell, there is an important difference between firewall and antivirus software. The antivirus removes the corrupt files by detection through deleting or isolating them but the firewall safeguards the malicious information from entering a system. Knowing the difference between both the software will enable a person to understand what they will need for their system.

A lot of people are unaware of the dissimilarity between a firewall and antivirus and are often confused between these 2 terms. Yes, both of them are part of Cyber Security methods that safeguard the system, but they are poles apart in terms of their work and operation. It is relevant for you to gain some knowledge about it in order to make a well-informed decision and buy the best cyber security solution for home or office.