Using Firewall and Antivirus to Protect Against Hacking

Want to know how to use Firewall and Antivirus to protect against hacking? You have come to the right place!

Firewall and Antivirus. When it comes to cybersecurity products, we frequently hear about these two terms. If we don’t know what they are and how they work, we begin to merge them in our minds as similar software.

In reality, the two are very different from each other and serve entirely separates purposes. If you visit the official website of any antivirus company, you’ll see that under product features, both firewall and antivirus (sometimes coupled with antispyware or anti-ransomware) are mentioned separately.

That’s because they provide different kinds of security. So, now that we have established that the two are separate things, let’s talk about what they are and how they work.

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What is a Firewall?

Let’s begin simply. A firewall is a sort of virtual wall that stops unwanted visitors. It’s a barrier that stands between your home network and other networks or the World Wide Web.

How it Works?

The firewall is responsible for monitoring the incoming and outgoing data or requests and blocking the ones that it finds suspicious and shouldn’t be communicated.

For instance, let’s say you installed an app that turned out to be corrupt. Now the app will most likely try and establish a connection with another source on the internet. But if you have a firewall installed, it will prevent the app from going ahead with this activity.

Similarly, if some rogue application on the internet tries to reach an app on your device – for instance, your webcam – the firewall will intervene to prevent that.

So, in essence, your firewall is like a guard at your door. Only this guard has the dual responsibility also to filter out the outbound traffic.

Firewall Protection

Types of Firewall

Firewalls work at different levels to provide specialized monitoring for varied purposes.

Packet Filtering – Packets are incoming and outgoing chunks of data that are monitored and analyzed against a set of predefined filters. If the filters clear these packets, they are let through. If they are found to be suspicious, they are blocked. The packet filtering firewall is also called Network Layer Firewall.

Firewall And Its Packet Filters

Proxy Server – At this level, the firewall provides security to a local network filtering out relevant traffic to and from the internet or another larger network. It’s also known as Application Layer Firewall.

Firewall Proxy Servers

Circuit-Level Gateway – This firewall is similar to the application level firewall, but it works at the session level and offers some added functionality. When the proxy server establishes a connection with the Web server for any webpage access, the server sends back a response. The circuit-gateway determines whether the requested session is legitimate or not and allows or blocks the access accordingly.

Firewall Circuit level Gateway

During this communication, the firewall also hides the proxy server’s IP address as it doesn’t let any internal user information through.


What is an Antivirus?

As opposed to a firewall, antivirus software works at the system level protecting it from any malicious files or programs. Also referred to as antimalware, the antivirus is responsible for keeping your system secure from all kinds of malware attacks either by isolating or removing them.

How does an Antivirus Work?

The antivirus software scans all the files and apps on your system against its definitions of suspicious coding. If it detects anything that seems out of place or outright malicious, the antivirus instantly blocks its activity and then removes it from the system.

There are essentially three steps that an antivirus follows: Scan > Detect > Remove. Antivirus protection includes malware types, such as viruses, worms, Trojan horses, botnets, adware, ransomware, spyware, etc.


Types of Detection

Typically, antivirus software use three different types of detection techniques.

Specific Detection – As the name suggests, this detection method looks for particular kinds of known malware types based on their defining characteristics.

Specific Detection By Antivirus

Generic Detection – This technique scans for malware types that are variants of known malware families or that share a common codebase.

Generic Detection by Antivirus

Heuristic Detection – This is the most advanced detection method that, instead of coding, looks for unusual or suspicious behaviors or file structures.

Modern antivirus software use all three techniques to secure your devices against known as well as emerging malware threats.

Heuristic Detection

Key Differentiators between a Firewall and Antivirus

So, let’s look at some chief differences between a firewall and an antivirus:

Firewalls can be implemented in both software and hardware, whereas Antivirus only protects software.
Protection Capacity
Firewalls only guard against external attacks, whereas Antivirus provides security against both internal and external threats.
Security Mechanism
Firewalls can block external threats, but if a rogue element enters the system through another means (such as email links or removable media), the firewall cannot remove the malicious code. Antivirus, on the other hand, periodically scans the system and protects against malicious software on an on-going basis.
Probability of Security Breach
A firewall can be tricked by IP spoofing (modified source address) and Source Routing (specifying a route for packets). However, in the case of antivirus, once malware has been detected, it cannot carry out any counterattack.

So, which one do you need?

Since both software are entirely different and provide different kinds of protection, there’s no question of choosing one over the other. Most advanced cybersecurity products incorporate both software as they are crucial to security requirements.

In a nutshell…

If we employ the antivirus protection without the firewall, we open up our private network and the connected devices to a host of external attacks. At the system level, the antivirus will fight them off, but it will end up in increased use of resources.

That’s why whenever you choose a cybersecurity package (or buy separate security products), make sure it incorporates both firewall and antivirus software to provide a maximum level of protection from cyber threats.