Introduction

Both firewall and proxy servers work towards a common goal and that is limiting or blocking connections to or from a network. Both of them provide security against the network threats and reside between the local computer and the network. But then what is the difference between firewall and proxy server?

The difference between a firewall and proxy server arises in the purpose and working of both. A firewall simply blocks access to unauthorized connections while a proxy server sits as a mediator between a local computer and the internet. But exactly what is a firewall and proxy server? Let us find out this, in the next part of this blog!

In this article let us look at:

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a software or application that protects a local network of computers or devices by limiting or blocking access to some unauthorized users sitting outside the network. It works at an IP packet level and can filter data packets entering into a private network. A data packet can enter a network only if the firewall allows it to enter. It is a full-proof barrier for monitoring, protecting, and auditing the local computer network from external security threats.

How does a firewall work?

There are certain access control policies or rules set by the administrator that governs what data packet is allowed and what is not. These rules are known as the access control list. This list may contain allowed and denied port numbers, internet protocol used by the request, and IP addresses. This list is customizable and the network administrator can, not only prevent what can enter the network but also what leaves a network. And this is how security is ensured in a private network. An example of an access control list is shown below:

Permit IP Address Internet Protocol Destination Port
Allowed 164.212.214.140 TCP Any 70
Allowed 55.20.60.40 TCP Any 70
Allowed 40.50.10.100 TCP Any 70
Denied 45.20.10.10 TCP Any 70

The usefulness of a Firewall

  • A firewall can monitor all the incoming traffic. A two-way firewall can monitor the exiting data as well and can encrypt it too.
  • A firewall limits the Trojan horse from latching onto your computer files and does damage to the entire network.
  • It stops hackers from entering your network.
  • It reduces the risk of keylogging. By keylogging we mean, there are keyloggers on the internet that monitor your keystrokes sitting dormant and later use that information to repeat the same thing. By doing this, they can log in to your private accounts and can harm you.

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server is a device or a program that improves and secures access to a website. To do so, it acts as a barrier between the local computer and the Internet. This avoids direct communication between the local computer and the internet. It uses an anonymous IP address instead of the original one. So no external user can view the local computer’s IP address because only the proxy server IP address is visible. This ensures safety from malicious users sitting outside the network.

How does a proxy server work?

When a user wants to access a particular site on the Internet, the request is sent to a proxy server. It then searches the cache and looks up for the same request. If the request is available in the cache, it is produced right away saving the bandwidth. If it is not in the cache, the proxy accesses the internet and produces the result and stores it in the cache as well.

The usefulness of a proxy server

  • It can act as access to services that are blocked for a particular country.
  • It acts as a repository and stores the knowledge about internet usage, website visited by all employees in an organization, etc.
  • It hides the IP address of a local computer from malicious users available on the internet.
  • It is a filtering tool that is used to block access to certain websites in an organization.
  • It improves network performance by storing requests in its cache.

So by reading about what is firewall and proxy server, it is clear that the difference between a firewall server and the proxy server is just at the level of functioning and purpose. Otherwise, they work with the sole motive of protecting a local network from malicious users and activities.

What are the differences between a Firewall and Proxy Server?

Now we will get into much more technical details and explain the proxy vs firewall difference in a tabular and easy way. So here is the technically precise difference between firewall and proxy server:

Basis of Comparison Firewall Server Proxy Server
Basic Firewall vs Proxy The major firewall and proxy difference are that firewall monitors and filters all incoming and outgoing access requests on a local network. While a proxy server mediates and connects a local computer with a server to retrieve data on the behalf of a user.
Purpose Unauthorized access is strictly not allowed. It provides connections over the network.
How and what do they filter? The access requests are filtered based on the IP packets of the incoming traffic. It blocks programs and ports that try to gain unauthorized access. An organization can ban a certain website from using it. So a proxy server filters such websites for users. It also masks your local computer network from the Internet. This brings out another prime proxy and firewall difference.
Network layer The firewall server works on the network and transport layer data. The proxy server works on the application layer data also.
Place of application or existence It is an interface between private and public networks. It may exist on both sides with public networks.
Protects from Another vital firewall and proxy server, difference is that a firewall protects the internal network from malicious threats and attacks. While the proxy server lets you use the internet anonymously and forgo restrictions.
Overhead generated Between firewall and proxy server, the firewall generates more overhead. This is because it acts as a major source of authorization whether a particular request can dive into a network or not. The overhead generated here is less because it uses caching and receives a lesser number of requests.

Conclusion

By now, we have clearly stated the firewall and proxy server definition, their usefulness, and what is the difference between proxy and firewall. Deciding about what to include to protect your private network: proxy server vs firewall? But do you know the proxy server and firewall can work in integration? A proxy server is a part of the firewall which when used together with the firewall provides more efficiency and feasibility.

By efficiency we mean, they reduce the risk of a Cyberattack, hacking, or IP spoofing. These kinds of attacks mainly aim to enter into the system employing multiple password attempts hoping that one of them is valid. Systems are generally targeted by automated bots and if they succeed they can destroy the system by wiping off your crucial data completely.

So, it is better to follow all the security measures and avoid a security breach. Happy computing! In case, you are interested in Cyber Security then browse through our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Blue Team), a 520 hours long program with preparation for 7 global certifications.

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