Firewall vs Antivirus Software: What’s the Difference?

Firewalls and antivirus software are two of the most popular and widely used cybersecurity solutions. While both are designed to protect against cyber threats, however, they aren’t necessarily the same. So, what’s the difference between a firewall and antivirus software? To better understand the purpose of each of these cybersecurity solutions, including how they differ, keep reading.

What Is a Firewall?

A firewall is a cybersecurity solution that’s designed specifically to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic on a network. It uses specific rules, which it applies to the network’s traffic. If a network packet doesn’t comply with a rule, the firewall may flag it for suspicious activity while simultaneously blocking the respective Internet Protocol (IP) address.

The term “firewall” is also used to describe a partition that prevents or slows down the spreading of fire. For computers, a firewall works in a similar way. It serves as a barrier between a network and its traffic. Most operating systems have built-in firewalls, though you can also download and deploy a third-party firewall.

What Is Antivirus Software?

Antivirus software, on the other hand, is software that scans for, as well as fixes, viruses and other forms of malware on a computer or device. Unlike firewalls, antivirus software doesn’t scan incoming and outgoing traffic. Rather, it only scans the computer or device.

There are dozens of different types of antivirus software, each of which uses a specific database to identify cyber threats. While scanning your computer, the software will look for signs of the cyber threats listed in its database. If it detects a cyber threat, the software will issue a notification while also either quarantining or removing the problematic file or files.

The primary difference between firewalls and antivirus software is that the former is designed to block suspicious activity on a network, whereas the latter is designed to protect against viruses and other forms of malware.

Which Should I Use?

Rather than choosing between a firewall or antivirus software, consider deploying both cybersecurity solutions on your small business’s network. If you only use a firewall, malware may sneak onto your computer undetected. Conversely, if you only use antivirus software, your network could be compromised with malicious traffic.

Deploying both cybersecurity solutions ensures a higher level of protection against cyber threats. So, don’t assume that either a firewall or antivirus software is sufficient. If you only use one of these cybersecurity solutions, you’ll place yourself at a greater risk of cyber attack.