17 Differences Between Firewall & Antivirus

A Firewall is that specific security mechanism which protects the network from being attacked by viruses, malware, and hackers.

An antivirus, on the other hand, is an application or software. The job of it is also to protect the system from the malware coming from the internet.

The functions performed by an antivirus include detection, identification, and removal. It actually handles both internal and external threats. There are other differences between an antivirus and a Firewall which this article entails.


  • A Firewall monitors the data packets and filters them.
  • An antivirus scans the infected software and files.
  • A Firewall is implemented in hardware and software but an antivirus is implemented in software only.
  • An antivirus can handle both internal and external threats but a Firewall is good at dealing with external threats only.

The 17 Differences Between Firewall and Antivirus

Differences Between Firewall and Antivirus

1. History

The first commercially workable Firewall program was called DEC SEAL and came out in 1992 which was created by American computer scientists Jeff Mogul and Brian Reed.

On the other hand, the first antivirus documented was in 1987 when Bernard Robert Fix, a German computer security expert, created a software program to delete the virus from the infected files in a DOS-based computer system.

2. Design

A firewall is designed as a network security tool while an antivirus, on the other hand, is actually a software utility program.

3. Implementation

A Firewall is implemented in both hardware and software.

On the other hand, an antivirus is implemented only in software.

4. Threats Dealt with

A Firewall typically deals with the external threats to the specific network.

On the other hand, an antivirus deals with both external as well as internal threats to the system.

5. Counter Attacks

In the case of a Firewall, counter attacks are possible with the help of routing attacks and IP Spoofing.

On the other hand, in the case of an antivirus, once the malware is removed there is no possibility of any counter attacks.

6. Works on

A Firewall works on monitoring the packets and filtering them.

On the other hand, an antivirus typically works on scanning the infected files and affected software.

7. Threats Checked from

Typically, a Firewall will check whether or not there are any threats from the incoming data packets.

On the other hand, an antivirus will typically check whether or not there is any threat from a malicious software program.

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8. Protection Offered

A Firewall will usually offer protection to the network from all kinds of threats.

On the other hand, an antivirus will offer protection to the system only from the viruses.

9. Programming

The programming of a Firewall is pretty complicated. On the other hand, the programming of an antivirus is comparatively simpler.

10. Types

The different types of Firewalls are packet filtering Firewalls, stateful inspection Firewalls, application-level Firewalls, circuit-level Firewalls, and next generation Firewalls.

As for the antivirus, the different types of it available are simple scanners, heuristic scanners, activity traps and full-featured protection antivirus.

11. Functions

A Firewall usually performs as an application-level gateway carrying out DPI or Deep Packet Inspection and packet filtering. In addition to these basic functions, a Firewall also executes a few management functions.

On the other hand, an antivirus conducts a deep analysis of the system and then scans the programs and files to detect any viruses in them and removes them.

12. Approach

A Firewall typically follows a zero-trust policy at almost every access layer of the Open Systems Interconnection model and also examines the data packets based on the preset rules and security policies.

It typically follows an in-advance security approach.

On the other hand, an antivirus program typically scans the hard drive of the computer and external media in two main ways such as a dictionary approach where it consults with a virus dictionary and suspicious behavior approach.

It typically follows an afterward security approach.

13. Configurations

If you want to use a Firewall, you will need to configure your own set of rules based on which it will work.

Usually, the default configurations of the manufacturers are not strong or good enough to keep away the bad traffic.

Without a strong configuration and management, it will be very easy for a malicious user to bypass the Firewall.

On the other hand, there is literally nothing you can do to configure an antivirus software program apart from accepting what the manufacturers have to offer.

However, these default configurations of the antivirus software program are good enough to do a complete and proper scanning, depending on the vastness of the virus database, which is, however, with the manufacturer and not accessible by the user to modify it.

14. Advantages

A Firewall will provide benefits such as prevention of remote unauthorized accesses, hacks, information safeguard, and defense against Trojans, privacy, prevention of spyware and phishing attempts, and non-interference with the system functions.

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On the other hand, the advantages of using an antivirus include cost efficiency, virus protection, blocked ad and spam, transmission prevention, anti-hacking protection, anti-data-theft protection, protection from removable devices, data protection, and website restriction.

15. Limitations

The limitations of a Firewall include its inability to handle internal attacks.

Also, a few software Firewalls consume processing power and resources of the Random Access Memory or RAM to slow down the performance of the system.

On the other hand, the limitations of an antivirus are its support provided to only the Common Interface File System or CIFS protocol and not Network File System or NFS protocol.

Also, it cannot protect files that are read or written simultaneously or the read-only files.

16. Cost and Complexity

A Firewall, typically, is much more complex in comparison to an antivirus in setting up.

Moreover, there are some additional and hidden costs in its maintenance and updates.

On the other hand, an antivirus software program is easy to set up and is also relatively less expensive.

17. Scalability

A Firewall is more scalable in comparison to an antivirus because it can be implemented both at the hardware and software level.

On the other hand, an antivirus software program is not as scalable as a Firewall because it can be implemented only at the software level.

Which is Better to Install – Firewall or Antivirus?

Typically, simply based on the above differences, it is quite hard to say which among the Firewall and an antivirus software program is better to install in your system.

It is especially difficult when you consider the remarkable rate at which the cyber world is growing and the additional and varied threats that it brings along with it.

Therefore, it is quite confusing for a less-tech-savvy computer user to decide which Firewall or antivirus to include in their cyber security strategy.

It will not be very prudent to select one among the antivirus and firewall simply due to the fact that they perform varied operations, which are however exceptional for both.

You will need some additional information for that which will help you in deciding whether you will use a Firewall or an antivirus, or even better, both.

If you use a network-based firewall such as a router, which is highly recommended, it will in general protect several systems as opposed to only one system protected by a firewall based on the operating system.

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Typically, as said earlier, a Firewall will protect both hardware and software but the antivirus will protect only the software.

However, both will prevent malicious programs from entering into the system but an antivirus, in addition, will remove the infected files as well.

Therefore, it can be said that an antivirus will work towards finding the weaknesses and fortifying the system internally while a Firewall will only identify and block the unwanted packets from entering the network.

Sometimes, malicious data, virus or malware can enter your system by passing through the Firewall via other sources such as flash drives, online downloads or spam links.

In such cases, it will be good for you to have both a firewall and an antivirus software program installed in your system.

It will detect the virus while scanning the files and remove it as well.

This means that a Firewall will protect the computer only at the network level but an antivirus will do the same at the file level by removing corrupt files from it.

This is primarily because a firewall can halt or thwart viruses and malware from entering your system but typically cannot eradicate the threat that may be infecting your system.

Therefore, using both Firewall and an antivirus will keep your systems over the top. It will be failsafe, more productive, and feasible due to the following reasons:

  • A firewall may not always be impenetrable as you may expect and
  • An antivirus software program may not always detect all malicious software.

Of course, this is just a recommendation. The final choice is, as always, is yours.


So, with the knowledge gained from this article, now you can surely buy the best Firewall or antivirus software for fortifying your cyber security strategy.

However, knowing the roles that each of these security mechanisms play you may even choose to use both to have a complete peace in mind.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.