Firewall and proxy servers are like the two sides of a coin. Both firewall and proxy servers have the same purpose of providing security to network threats.
Proxy servers and firewalls both block harmful and malicious content on the internet. But the difference lies between accomplishing the work.
You must have seen you have to enter a password for your college Wi-Fi access, and then a firewall authentication takes place. The firewall authentication is present to prevent unauthorized access to your network.
Let’s see what we mean by firewall and proxy servers before diving to find the differences. Let’s get to it!
What is a Firewall?
In simple language, a firewall is a network security system. The main purpose of a firewall is to regulate the incoming and outgoing traffic through your system. It permits or blocks the various networks based on a set of security rules.
Firewalls serve as the first line of defense for our computers. As it acts as a barrier for all incoming networks. It protects our system from any virus attacks or cyber threats.
Firewalls are present at the entry point of the computer’s network system. This place, known as “port”, is the place of exchange of traffic from our internal system to outside.
Firewalls can be both software or hardware. A software firewall is an application installed on our computers. The software keeps a check on all the incoming networks. Whereas hardware is a physical device that is present between our system and any gateway.
There are different types of firewalls like NAT firewalls. NGFW firewalls, packet-filtering firewalls. A proxy firewall is a type of firewall as well.
Now that we have known the basics of a firewall. Let’s learn some basics of proxy servers.
What is a Proxy Server?
Proxy servers also function in providing us with security against network threats. A proxy server works as a filter between our system and the internet.
It is the intermediary system between users and sites we visit.
The main work of proxy servers is to protect our IP addresses. Every computer has a unique IP address. When we are putting a search query in google, without a proxy server all our data will be available to the pages we visit. But if we have a proxy server, it will mask your IP address.
All proxy servers are physical devices having IP addresses of their own.
When we put a search query it first goes to the proxy server. The proxy server forwards the same request to the web page, changing our IP address. This makes our identity anonymous over the network. It also helps us against online identity theft and other malicious content.
Now that we have the fundamentals of both firewall and proxy servers. Let’s dive to find what makes them different?
How Proxies are Different from Firewalls?
- The difference between these two is that firewalls do not allow any unauthorized access through the network system. It monitors all the incoming and outgoing requests over your network. If there is any request which doesn’t have records, the firewall will restrict it.
Whereas, the proxy server is the intermediate between user and web pages. It facilitates communication between end-users. Proxy servers don’t restrict a network. Rather it masks our IP address with one of their own. Thus helping us to mask our online identity.
- For firewalls, the filtering of the requests is done based on the IP packets. This depends on the incoming traffic over the network. To stop unauthorized access, firewalls block the ports.
Whereas, if you have a proxy server you can ban certain websites. Once you ban certain websites, proxy servers will filter those web pages. This will result in stopping all the banned websites, which ultimately will protect them from malicious online harm.
- A firewall security system works on the network and transports layer data. The network layer is also known as the packet-filtering firewall function through the network layer of OSI. This feature helps in configuration to allow or deny to certain ports.
The proxy server works on the application layer of the OSI model. It works as the intermediate between all the internal and external networks. Incoming data entering through one port will exist through another port.
- The main place of application for the firewall is between the private and public domains. Whereas, proxy servers can exist on both sides with a public network.
- A firewall acts as a primary layer of protection for your network. It shields your network from potential threats and hacking attempts by monitoring all incoming and outgoing access from your network.
A proxy server, on the other hand, disguises your identity on the Internet (IP address) by providing an anonymous IP. You can conduct any activity on the Internet without the risk of getting your identity traced. There are even web scraping proxies to gather web data that’s valuable for businesses.
An example of how the proxy works differently than the firewall is.
If you have firewall software installed in your system, and you want to block some malicious content. You can easily do that by using the firewall. The firewall will restrict a particular port, say port 75. Thus all the incoming traffic from this port will not come. You can select which ports will be open.
Firewalls generally block the port which is commonly used by viruses and other malware.
Now, if you have proxy server software installed in your system, it will act as the middleman. The external internet traffic can only view the proxy server. And thus all the data from the external sources have to pass through the proxy network. The proxy server will limit and restrict any malicious website from passing through it.
The world in which we are living asks for advancement in technology. Our lives are an amalgamation of technology and network.
But with the increase of technology, the chances of internet crimes also increase. The number of cybercrimes has only increased in the past decade.
The increase of these cyber-attack calls for a strong and safe usage of the internet. Both firewalls and proxy servers work to protect us from these threats.
The functionality might differ but they can work in integration too. The proxy server is a part of the firewall. When we integrate both, it will provide much more feasibility.
To protect your system from security breaches, it is best to keep all the software updated. The 21st century asks us both to be safe in and out of the internet.