What’s the difference between firewall and antivirus?

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Are you confused about the difference between antivirus software and firewalls? You may know that firewalls monitor data sent to and from the internet, but don’t they protect from viruses too? And don’t antivirus programs monitor incoming data like a firewall does?

At first glance, it may seem like firewalls and antivirus software do the same thing… After all, they both deal with your computer’s security. However, they protect your computer and network in very different ways.


A firewall is like the moat and drawbridge around the castle of your computer or network. It basically monitors traffic going in and out of the network and stops suspicious traffic from entering or leaving.

There are two main kinds of firewalls, software and hardware. Most computers come with software firewalls, such as Windows Firewall in Windows XP, Vista and 7, which makes them a quick and easy firewall solution. A hardware firewall is installed between the internet and the rest of the network, so your entire network is protected, regardless of whether or not each individual computer has firewall software installed. Today, most routers include firewall capabilities and would be a basic example of a hardware firewall.


If the firewall is the moat and drawbridge, then antivirus software is the castle guard of your computer. It makes sure that the data found and executed within your computer is not a known virus. Antivirus software can only track down malicious data that it knows about… In other words, it needs to see a Most Wanted List in order to know what malicious data look like. That’s why it’s so important to update your antivirus regularly. New viruses come out every day, and if you’re not up to date, your antivirus guard will be down.

With all that said, it is important to your Network and Computer Security to have both a firewall and antivirus solution in place. If you’re not sure what you use for a firewall or if your antivirus is up-to-date, then your business is more than likely at a security risk. Minneapolis-based OAC Technology is an IT company that works with small- and medium-sized businesses to make sure their data and networks are secure. Give us a call today to set up a free Network Security Audit for your business.

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