What’s the difference and do you need both?

Staying safe online is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. Not only do threats increase in complexity and frequency, but protection methods also become threat-specific, making it harder to understand the different protections each security tool offers and whether or not you need them.

Two of the most misunderstood security tools are the firewall and antivirus software. It is not because we often talk about it together that it is the same thing. So what’s the difference between a firewall and an antivirus? How do they work?

What is antivirus software?

An antivirus checking a laptop

Antivirus software has a simple job: it is responsible for scanning your files for viruses. Although it is often marketed as an antivirus, most antivirus software is actually anti-malware software because viruses are a type of malicious software.

Whether online or offline, the antivirus is designed to detect and capture all types of malware such as viruses, Trojans, worms, adware and spyware before they hit. knock. As long as hackers are online looking for a way to stealthily access your device and steal your information, antivirus software plays a crucial role.

It mainly works in the background to protect you while you are browsing the web and downloading foreign files. But how does it know which files contain malware and which do not?

How it works?

Most commercial antivirus software is not powered by AI. They cannot detect viruses and malware on their own; they need someone to report them — in most cases, it’s the manufacturer.

Antivirus software works by scanning files, code, and script entering your device. It is the same whether it is downloaded from the web or via an external storage device like a USB stick or CD.

Through the scanning process, it compares the contents of each file against a rich database of known malware types. That’s why your antivirus should always run in the background, constantly scanning your device for hidden and dormant malware.

While this may seem like a one-time job and the antivirus only has to scan incoming files instead of your entire hard drive, no antivirus is 100% effective. The antivirus vendor has to constantly update their database with the latest viruses and malicious scripts.

When an antivirus repeatedly scans your files, it’s not just to waste hardware resources, but to double-check its work and make sure it hasn’t run out of hidden viruses that it couldn’t detect. before.

Can you stay safe without antivirus?

Despite the high levels of security antivirus software offerings, they do have their drawbacks. Antivirus software is not privacy friendly and most are known to drain your CPU.

The only way to stay safe without antivirus is to practice good internet hygiene. Only browse secure websites and download files only from trusted sources.

You should also avoid using open networks, especially without a secure VPN.

What is a firewall?


As the name suggests, a firewall is a protective barrier between your device and the outside world, including the Internet.

Unlike an antivirus, a firewall does not neutralize malware that is already on your device. It does not scan your files. It is a guard that monitors the network’s data flow and verifies its security before it accesses your device.

There are two types of firewalls: software and hardware. A software firewall is responsible for protecting you from incoming digital attacks. The hardware version prevents others from physically accessing your device, for example by plugging in a USB drive when your device is not active.

Similar to an antivirus, firewalls also work in the background. However, they allow you some control over the rules to determine which data sources are allowed in and out over the Internet.

How it works?

In its simplest form, a firewall is a filtration system. It’s like the metal detector you have to go through at the airport. But the scanning location is different. When it comes to how they work, firewalls are more or less similar to antivirus software.

As network data flows through your device, the firewall scans it in small portions and compares its results against a database of confirmed threats. Access to the data segment is only allowed if it passes all tests.

Related: The Best Web Application Firewall Services To Protect Your Website

Firewalls also require regular updates. If their security database doesn’t include the latest security threats, malware and malicious scripts can find their way through the wall and into your device. Until then, your only hope would be for your antivirus software to detect it before it’s too late.

Its fixed location does not change. But there are several ways that firewall software can analyze and regulate the flow of your network. They vary in terms of safety and effectiveness, but they all have their beneficial use cases; these include:

  • Proxy service: This type of firewall protects your device by setting up a mirror version of your device and connecting it to the web. Incoming data does not come into direct contact with your device but remains isolated. It is one of the most secure types of firewalls, but it is incredibly slow and consumes a lot of resources.
  • Packet filtering: Firewalls that use packet filtering scan data in small increments. Each data packet is sent through a series of filters. Data packets identified as threats are flagged and blocked, preventing them from accessing your device.
  • Gateway at circuit level: Instead of analyzing the data itself, a circuit-level gateway firewall monitors Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) links. Instead of analyzing the content of incoming data packets, this firewall ensures that communication is secure and legitimate. It checks the source instead of the data. Although they are fast and efficient, they need other safety technology to prevent leaks.

Can you stay safe without a firewall?

Firewalls are a protective measure. If you remove them, you need a replacement, even if it’s just more careful internet browsing. Without a firewall, malicious data packets can enter your computer.

But when it comes to firewall software, if your device isn’t connected to the internet, it’s safe to say you don’t need it.

Antivirus and firewall software: do you need both?

Antivirus software and firewalls are not interchangeable. They each work independently to secure your device differently and support each other in some cases.

If you are looking for maximum security, staying both active and in top condition is your best option.

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