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Security & privacy

Firewall vs. antivirus: What’s the difference and do you need both?

Presented by TotalAV

Presented by TotalAV

Get an annual plan of TotalAV Internet Security for only $19 — over 85% off!

When it comes to protecting yourself online, there’s a lot of confusion. Between VPNs, two-factor authentication, antiviruses software and firewalls, there are so many ways to protect yourself, it can be hard to keep track of them all.

One big mistake people make is buying one service and wiping their hands clean. They’ll think, “Well, I got this highly-rated program, so I’m completely safe!” Sadly, that’s not enough.

If you want to truly protect your gadgets, you’ll need to understand the programs you use. Firewalls and antivirus programs are both incredibly helpful, but they often get confused for one another. People might use one and think they don’t need the other, which could weaken their overall security. Thanks to our sponsor, TotalAV, we created a guide on these two safety tools: what they are, how they’re different, and how they can help you.

What is a firewall?

If you’re not entirely sure what a firewall is, think of it as a modern version of a medieval gatekeeper. Hundreds of years ago, guardsmen in armor used to stand by their city’s front gate, keeping a close eye on all the merchants who brought their goods in for trade. Your firewall is a digital guardsman watching the data streaming in and out of your system.

Just as an armored guard would halt suspicious visitors, so, too, does your firewall block suspicious data from entering your system. Basically, a firewall is a protective barrier separating your devices from the dangers of the internet.

But it’s not like antiviruses software, which neutralizes malware on your phone or computer. It also won’t scan for files; it’s just a guard that checks the network’s data flow and makes sure it’s safe before it flows into your device.

Guards are useful, sure, but they can’t fix or catch every problem. For that, you’ll need antivirus software.

What is antivirus software?

This is a critical asset in your safety toolbox. Antivirus software works in the background to keep you safe when you’re browsing the web. It’s designed to proactively search for and remove digital threats, like malware, Trojans and more.

Antivirus software is an essential part of your digital security system. If you don’t have it, a virus could slip into your computer after just one bad click or download.

That’s because digital threats are absolutely ubiquitous; you’ll even find them on children’s websites. Sadly, even websites seemingly run by the government aren’t always safe. Criminals set up copycat sites that look like the real deal to get your guard down.

Bottom line: Viruses are everywhere. Scammers work incredibly hard to invade your devices. That’s why you need antivirus software to do the heavy lifting for you.

Do you need both?

Yes. Although both programs are incredibly helpful, they don’t accomplish the same tasks. You’ll want as much protection as possible, so you should beef up on your security measures and use both.

Remember: Antivirus software works in the background to protect your devices. Firewalls are like guards keeping an eye out for dangerous data coming in. When both of them work together, cybercriminals have a tough time invading your digital life.

When it comes to staying safe online, one option stands above the rest.

Kim’s pick for total online security

TotalAV’s award-winning antivirus security suite offers complete protection you can rely on, with built-in adware, ransomware and malware protection. TotalAV’s Safe Site browser extension detects and blocks dangerous phishing sites automatically, so you always know you’re entering your private data on the right site.

Best of all, you can protect up to five devices on a single account. It works with your Windows PC, Mac computer, iPhone and Android smartphones.

Right now, get an annual plan for only $19 at That’s over 85% off the regular price. What are you waiting for?

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