Difference between a Firewall and Antivirus

Although a firewall protects external networks form unauthorized access to your system, you need to protect your systems from the threats that are already present in the system. Antivirus software will detect, identify, and remove the malicious programs that are coming from the internet. Before we further go into the dissimilarities between the firewall and antivirus we will first discuss in detail what is an antivirus. If you haven't read about the firewall read it from here. So, let's get started.


Antivirus software is a cybersecurity mechanism that detects and eliminates threats that are a risk to system security. Antivirus usually deals with more established threats like viruses, worms, and trojans. It was originally designed to detect, protect and eliminate the viruses from the system, hence, the name antivirus. Some common examples of antivirus software are Norton, McAfee, BullGuard, etc.

A common path from where viruses enter our system is through emails. The attachments of the email may contain viruses. If the anti-virus detects any such programs which can be a risk for your system security then it can block, fix or completely remove that program from the system.

How does an antivirus work?

An antivirus follows the approach in which it performs the detection, identification, and removal of threats.

  1. Detection: The antivirus first detects the infected file or program.
  2. Identification: After detection, it identifies that if the threat is a virus, worm, trojan, etc.
  3. Removal: Depending upon the detected problem, antivirus takes action for removing the infected file. It can block, fix, or completely remove the program from the system and restore the original backup program(if there is any backup present).

An analogy can be considered for understanding the firewall and antivirus. A firewall can be considered as an army whereas the antivirus can be considered as police. An antivirus like police fights the threats that have already entered your computer or are going to be installed that may get the system slow or failure. In contrast, the firewall is like the army at the border which blocks the attack from any external network in the first place.

Difference between Firewall and Antivirus

  1. Implementation: A firewall can be employed using both software and hardware whereas the antivirus is employed using software only.
  2. Security Type: A firewall provides network-level security like IP blocking, Packet filtering, etc. whereas antivirus provides application-level security like detection and removal of viruses, worms, etc.
  3. Operation: Antivirus works by scanning the system to remove the infected file and programs whereas the firewall is a network security system that monitors and filters the incoming and outgoing packets based on the predetermined security rules.
  4. Threats: Antivirus deals with both external and internal threats whereas firewall deals only with external threats. An antivirus can scan the storage devices like flash drives which firewall cannot do.
  5. Counter-Attack: There is no possibility of counter-attacks once the viruses, worms, etc. are removed using the antivirus. In contrast, firewall mainly deals with the external network so there is a possibility of external threats like IP Spoofing and routing attacks.

This was all about the dissimilarities between the firewall and antivirus. Hope you learned something new today.

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