Major Differences Between Firewalls and VPNs

The security of our devices cannot be overemphasized. Many of us are always on the lookout for more secure ways to protect ourselves from cyberattacks. Thankfully, there is no shortage of security options these days. Some of the ways we could defend our devices are with the help of Firewalls and VPNs.

While both are great security tools, the way they provide security differs from each other. This article would explain the major differences between Firewalls and VPNs to help you understand how unique both tools are, but before all of that, what exactly is a Firewall or a VPN?

What Is a Firewall?

A firewall acts as a protective barrier between your device and your network. Firewalls protect information on a network from attacks from people on networks such as the internet. They inspect and verify any incoming and outgoing traffic from the network.

Organizations enable firewalls to protect their network resources from outside eyes and protect sensitive company records away from employees. In large organizations, it is common to find their communications routed through a proxy server. Proxy servers are part of firewalls. The proxy server regulates the flow of communications in the organization’s network.

On a personal level, computers and other devices can be protected by a personal firewall utility. A personal firewall automatically detects a threat and protects the personal computer and its data from intruders.

Several operating systems, including Windows, include a pre-installed firewall. One simple way to know a firewall protects your computer is when you try to install a new program. Your computer may display a warning window that a program is trying to access your computer, and you are required to grant access. That’s the firewall in action.

Some Key Features of a Firewall

A firewall may allow you to decide what websites or services you would like to block or whitelist. All the abilities of a firewall are only possible through some important features, which we have listed below.

1. Malware and Virus Protection

Firewalls are always scanning for malware, compromised websites, viruses, bots, and people trying to hack you. They also scan encrypted traffic like TLS and SSL to guarantee security.

2. Single Sign-On

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a very innovative feature that authenticates users’ identities safely and securely through several websites and applications by a single login. Firewalls allow you to link with a single sign-on platform directly or through a RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) server.

A RADIUS server is a networking protocol that offers remote authorization, authentication, and account management to connect and use a network service.

3. Sandboxing

This is one important feature that keeps viruses and malware at bay. It takes whatever file you try to download into your computer and runs it in an isolated test environment without endangering your data. If the files are considered safe by the firewall, it passes them on to the user.

What Is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) works differently from a Firewall. Rather than setting up a defensive barrier between your device and your network, VPNs provide encryption for all your device’s traffic. A VPN encryption cloaks your entire data, making it unreadable and unhackable by others on your network, including your internet service provider and the government.

A VPN creates a secure connection between two endpoints through a VPN tunnel. VPNs use various security protocols that offer a certain security layer such as PPTP, SSL/TLS, SSH, L2TP, IPsec, and OpenVPN to protect users.

They provide privacy and security features such as DNS leak protection, kill switch, ad-blocker, and 256-bit encryption.

These days, there are several VPN service providers on the market. Some of them require a paid subscription. In many cases, it is advisable and wise to opt for paid VPN services because the free versions could collect and sell their data or fail while in use.

Some Key Benefits of a VPN

VPNs offer a variety of benefits to users. They include:

1. Broad Server Locations

VPNs provide a wide range of server locations to a user to hide their real location. Rerouting through different servers is important for privacy and anonymity. It allows you to be signed on to the internet from locations that are geographically different from where you are. It is useful when you want to bypass censorship or restrictions to purchase or access streaming services.

2. Integrated Kill Switch

While VPNs are one of the most secure tools, they are not always 100% secure. There could be a connection failure case, and the VPN could leak your real IP address. When this happens, you may get blocked from certain services, or malicious parties could steal your information. However, a VPN kill switch offers a solution. As the name suggests, it kills your internet connection when your VPN connection has been compromised. 

3. No-Log Policy

Depending on the VPN you use, you could get different logging policies. As we have stated earlier, some VPNs are not safe. They store certain data about your browsing activity, which the service provider could hand over to a third party. However, many VPNs offer a no-log policy, meaning that they don’t store information about your activities online when you use their services.

The Differences Between a VPN and a Firewall

1. A firewall is like a rigid wall that blocks data packets that are not authorized to access your device or pass through your network. On the other hand, a VPN is like a shield that secures your internet connection as you surf the web.

2. A firewall offers you control over the way your devices communicate with the internet. You get to set your security rules, which prevents harmful access to your device. With a VPN, you may only find a kill switch feature that cuts off the internet and prevents your IP address from being exposed.

3. Unlike a VPN, a firewall cannot bypass censorship and geographical restrictions online. It can only establish restrictions on web pages you access from your computer.

Conclusion

Firewalls and VPNs are very important security tools for your devices. It is difficult to say that one is more useful than the other. Both tools work effectively as designed, and they could even provide more security and privacy when used together. Simply put, if you are looking to take your online privacy and security to another level, working with both of them is ideal.