With the idea of convenience and technology shifting online, so are the malicious elements. It is, therefore, quintessential to protect your devices, especially since you are connected online almost all the time. In this regard, armchair analysts might ask you to install firewalls and antivirus and so on, but wait! Do you need either of them, or… both?
An age-Old Debate—Are firewalls and antivirus programs the same?
The age-old controversial argument—are not firewalls and antivirus one and the same? You know, don’t you think protecting your system against malware can be done by both as independent units?
Let us clear the hovering cloud of confusion—no, they are separate entities. Simply put, if the antivirus is the alarm system you have installed in your house to warn you in times of need, the firewall is the voracious English bulldog you consider to be your pet. While both work as separate entities to protect your house, it is more efficient if you use them in tandem.
Now that we have established that they are not the same, let us try and understand the details about their usage and work in unison.
Let us get the most important thing out of the way. Yes, your system generally comes with a built-in firewall. Unlike most older systems that were devoid of it, modern computers are equipped with firewalls by default. So you needn’t look for it online, as you would do have to do with a free antivirus. Now that we’ve established that we can find free programs that work well for us, here is what they technically do.
They primarily establish a secure relationship between your system and your local network. In other words, when you look for anything online, or when you intend to upload anything online (as is the case with YouTube videos), your system establishes a connection with the Local Area Network (LAN), and there is a constant exchange of information in the form of packets.
Essentially, it checks for malicious content that might pass through your LAN into your system. As you can see, it mostly serves as a preliminary tool to clean out the weed that might enter your system, thereby acting as a supplementary system to your antivirus.
Even if any kind of malicious packet makes its way past the firewall, it is almost impossible to bypass the antivirus. Once you have the best antivirus installed, you need not rely on the firewall as your primary source of defence. Misinformation, goodbye and good riddance.
Simply put, antiviruses are programs that detect malicious content in your system; not only making your system bereft of any harmful contents, but in the process, making it more efficient.
There is a certain element of paradox associated here. While we have established the fact that firewalls aid as secondary mechanisms of protection, it is important to understand that the point of reference is the computer system.
In simpler terms, since your system is the primary object here, the antivirus serves as the primary means of protection. Only when you are connected to the internet and are transacting any packets of information online, you might need the firewall for further protection. Since you cannot have online security without establishing an offline (or local) security, we have stated that antivirus is your primary security.
Major Differences—Minor Drawbacks
After establishing how different they are fundamentally, it is also important for you to know why and how they are different, which in turn will help you understand how to use them more effectively.
Antiviruses can be used across multiple PCs, but firewalls are specific to your system. In other words, you can cut costs on just acquiring a multi-system supporting antivirus. However, if you are acquiring antiviruses that are not reliable, or have been accessed from rather dubious places, it might affect security on all devices it has been installed in. Use your discretion.
Firewalls are notorious for depreciating network capabilities. Because they are scrutinising these information packets that might infiltrate your system online, this might take a fair toll on your machine’s processing capabilities. A simple trick is to switch off the firewall if you are not connected to the internet and switch it back on when you are online.
When it comes to antivirus, oftentimes they might give you false positive results, especially when you are downloading information from websites that it does not deem secure do not panic. Just ensure that you don’t venture into unsafe territories and avoid taking the road less travelled.
Once you have set up both a firewall and an antivirus, you can let out a sigh of relief. However, secure browsing should still be your utmost priority. After all, the goal is to minimise breaches into your personal data.