Comparison: Antivirus vs. Firewall vs. Antispyware Tools – Are They All the Same Software?

Firewall Vs Antivirus Vs Antimalware If you are new to securing PC’s, the first thing you should know is the difference between Antivirus, firewall and antimalware/antispyware


Basic Overview

The Antivirus: Protects your from various virus threats

Avg Antivirus 2013.Jpg
Prominent example: AVG Antivirus

Scans for viruses. Viruses is a broad term – in this case, the software will usually have thousands of virus definitions to recognize even the smallest file that could possibly damage your PC. A so called Heuristic analysis is used to detect even unknown viruses. In most cases, a full virus scan will take hours. Most antivirus software also provides real-time guards that scan your PC in the backgrounds (if you have an old PC, it may be useful to disable the scan, but schedule a nightly scan instead)

Firewall: Scans your network traffic for suspicious traffic and port scans (see below)

Firewall Agnitum Outpost Pro
Prominent example: Agnitum Outpost

A necessity to protect yourself from incoming and outgoing threats. A firewall is a software that scans so called ports for suspicious traffic. Imagine someone knocks on your door repeatedly to get a glimpse of your house when you open the door, so he can steal the valuable stuff. The problem for the thief is you will usually not open the door to strangers, but you might have a few windows that would be easy to open when you’re not looking.

Hackers use a similar method: They scan your computer ports (“open windows”) to find a way into your computer. They then abuse the latest security exploits to get into your system and gain full control and inspect your files or install a keylogger. A *GOOD* firewall requires you to manually accept and block executables – whenever you see an exe file requesting permission to access the internet, you can either tell the firewall to allow it or to block it. Smart firewalls will have a pre-defined ruleset so you don’t have to allow Firefox or Chrome every time it tries to make a connection. In any case, a firewall is a basic protection that most beginners are not aware of or do not know how to configure it.

Anti-spyware: Protects you from trojans and viruses that collect data about you

Spyware is a special virus, a virus with only purpose: To spy on your activities and if possible log your keystrokes. Trojans are one example – they can allow an attacker to gain access and record all keystrokes. But spyware is not always interested in what you type in – it could also collect data about the programs you have installed, your email contacts or bank accounts.

Anti-malware: Protects you from a lot of different threats.

Run Malwarebytes from command prompt

Prominent example Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Tip: Unfortunately some anti-malware software can only detect ad-ware, be aware of that!

Malware is a very broad term actually. I would use it to describe any form of file that is “malicious”: Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Rootkits, Ad-ware, etc. Anti-malware can often also detect spyware, but in some cases they’re only good at detecting Ad-ware. Ad-ware is a special virus that comes with toolbars. In some cases ad-ware is the least harmful virus. However, aggressive ad-ware can sometimes open pop-up ads whenever you visit a site. If you frequently see the same advertising pop up on every site, it’s a good indicator that you’re infected.

Malwarebytes Anti-malware is by far the best example of a very reliable tool that can find all sorts of threats, but a firewall is still necessary and doing the occassional virus scan using a fully qualified virus software can’t hurt either, which leads us to our next question: Are all three/four programs necessary?

Are All Three Software Programs Necessary?

Tip: Most firewalls often also include a BASIC antispyware protection. If you purchase a so called “Security Suite” this often means it provides several layers of protection. However, not all suites include all necessary tool to secure a PC, that’s why it is important to know the differences and then read the fineprint.

A user can easily find protection suites that contain antivirus, firewall, and spyware protection. While a computer can operate without any of the three, finding a security program that will prevent viruses and spyware can help prevent computer corruption and damage. Many antivirus software programs now contain firewall protection and some contain antispyware tools, as well.

Antivirus, firewall protection, and antispyware software are all very different programs that function for different reasons. All of these software programs, however, are designed to help keep a user’s computer safe and free of invasion from viruses, worms, adware, and spyware, respectively. When used together, a user’s computer will be even more difficult to access and corrupt.

 

More Information By Alex

This is a summary of the above explaining it in different words. If you had a hard time understanding my own descriptions, you may find this comparison a little easier to understand. It’s not as detailed, but should also let you understand the basic differences between the different programs 

All computer users undoubtedly have some form of antivirus, firewall, or antispyware protection. However, not understanding the differences between each of these types of software can leave users’ PCs at risk. In order to ensure full PC protection from viruses, hackers, malware, and spyware, users should become familiar with each tool and their various usages, as well as their shortcomings.

1 Antivirus Tools and Software

Antivirus software and tools are computer programs used to prevent, identify, and remove software programs that can threaten a user’s computer. These malicious programs are typically viruses, Trojans, or worms. These harmful software programs are spread across the internet and are designed to intentionally interfere with computer functionality and operation by corrupting or deleting data. Antivirus programs scan a computer’s registry and files to detect and remove viruses, while preventing them from occurring with real time malicious virus prevention components.

2 Firewall Protection Software Programs

Firewall protection software is a program that scans information and data coming through networks or the Internet and decides whether it is safe to allow the data to pass through the computer’s firewall. Firewall software can help prevent worms and viruses from ruining computer files. This software protects computers from an outside attack by refusing to accept any data that has not been requested. It makes the computer’s port virtually invisible to outsiders across the web.

3 Antispyware Tools

Antispyware software removes unwanted spyware on computers. Spyware is a software program that often runs without a user’s consent. It can collect a user’s personal information, change their computer configuration, or it can be as simple as advertisements. Spyware is usually designed to be very difficult to remove, so having strong antispyware software installed is essential to prevent problems. Spyware often slows down users’ computers and can change web page appearances, browser settings, as well as internet homepages.

What’s The Difference?

Antivirus software and firewall protection software both fight off viruses and worms. Antivirus software is used to scan a computer’s files and prevent new viruses from ever occurring, while firewall protection makes users’ ports impossible to locate online, preventing others from hacking and damaging the user’s computer. Spyware software, on the other hand, does not battle viruses and worms, but instead wards off malware, adware, and spyware. While viruses and worms can be a nuisance, spyware is usually more aggressive, making it difficult for users to remove it from their computers.

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Oliver is the founder and lead editor of this site. He is interested in finding new ways to break Windows, find common errors and help others to fix them. Aside from that, he loves to fully customize systems with Rainmeter and Dreamscene, find out more about ancient civilizations like the Chachapoya, sharpen his digital photography skills and create software with a small group of selected developers. If you would like to connect with him to discuss anything, send him a mail!

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