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Friday, October 4, 2019

Firewall vs Antivirus: What They Do and Why They Matter

“What’s the difference between firewall and antivirus software?” As a business leader simply

looking to grow and optimize your business, you may feel like you’re taking a test for a class you never signed up for when you ask questions such as this one. We get it. But unlike in some classes (e.g., Bowling 101 and Intro to the Philosophy of Star Trek), the information taught in this class can directly impact your business. Both firewall and antivirus security tools are vital, but since they each have their own limitations, it’s important to understand their different functions. That’s why we put together a little cheat sheet to help you make the most educated decisions about your overall network security.

Firewall Software

At its most basic function, a firewall is like a doorman who watches over the popular nightclub that is your business network. Your firewall ensures that no sketchy characters off the street (aka the internet) can get into your network disco. Some ways firewall software can protect your network from external threats include preventing access to certain sites and monitoring outbound traffic. This prevents employees from sending certain types of emails or sensitive business information outside of your network, allowing you to keep your proprietary data proprietary. Firewalls use information filtration methods at multiple network layers, and can be extremely specific in their protective functions. However, extensive configuration is typically required to enact all of a firewall’s many targeted functions—something not every company is adequately staffed for.

Antivirus Software

As its name implies, antivirus software was originally developed to detect and remove computer viruses. However, as computer threats and malware evolved, so did antivirus software. Today, its primary function is to scan, spot, and inhibit a wide range of potentially distrustful files and software from getting into your system. (Specifically, malicious browser helper objects [BHOs], browser hijackers, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoors, rootkits, trojan horses, worms, malicious LSPs, dialers, fraud tools, adware, spyware, and many other bad things you don’t want crawling around your network.) Antiviruses sometimes pick up where your firewall may have failed, preventing system damage by deleting or isolating corrupt files and software that found its way in. Individual antivirus software subscriptions come in all shapes and sizes (and pricing models) and require regular updates to maximize effectiveness. A key difference in firewall and antivirus is that firewalls attempt to prevent malicious traffic from ever entering the network, but once a harmful file makes its way in, only antivirus software has the ability to isolate and delete the file/software. 

Your Comprehensive Security Solution

Similar to “coffee vs tea” and “Marvel vs DC,” “firewall vs antivirus,” shouldn’t be an either/or solution. Each set of software provides vital functionality for securing your business, regardless of its size. However, these vital tools require vital management and oversight. For those organizations not interested in hiring highly trained IT specialists to oversee complex firewall security, Managed Network Security is a reliable, cost-effective option. In addition, subscriptions to cloud-based antivirus software, such as Kinetic Business Internet Security powered by McAfee, alleviate the burden of keeping antivirus software up to date on your local computers. Class dismissed.