I want to know if a firewall is considered an access control list (ACL). I know there are other types of ACLs, but am specifically interested in knowing if a firewall is an ACL.

Edit: It appears from the answer below that the firewall itself is not an ACL, but are the rules for the firewall considered an ACL?

  • Sure, in terms of (srcip,dstip:dstport) tuples, the firewall rules do read like an ACL. But it's a pretty ineffective one in the sense that srcip doesn't quite identify users, and dstip:dstport doesn't quite identify a resource. Particularly in the face of tunnels and NATs, you really need application layer support to lock down a resource to a particular user in a particular context.
    – Rob
    Dec 1, 2014 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


A firewall its self is not an ACL. Typical firewalls are simply a hardware appliance with various interfaces on it. Firewalls use ACLs to filter traffic. By configuring different rules in the ACL you change the behavior of the firewall.

Software firewalls do also exist (windows firewall) but the behavior is much the same. It still has its own ACL that allows or denies traffic based on source, destination, and port.

  • Thank you for the quick response! Would the rules to the firewall then be considered an ACL?
    – Jonathan
    Jul 8, 2014 at 19:24
  • 3
    Yes, a set of firewall rules can be thought of as an ACL. You get your list of rules together and apply that list to an interface. The firewall then filters the traffic based on those rules. The "Understanding Access Rules" section near the top of this page may clarify a bit more clearly. But the short answer is yes.
    – JekwA
    Jul 8, 2014 at 20:40
  • 1
    Most "hardware" firewalls are software firewalls in disguise. The only type of FW which should be considered (somewhat) "hardware" is an ASIC based firewall. They are typically really fast.
    – goteguru
    Jun 15, 2017 at 8:42

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