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Best firewalls

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Best firewalls: A friend of yours has fallen victim to a computer crime and, aware of his bad experience, you are taking the necessary precautions so that the same thing does not happen to you. Among the many aspects to evaluate, you have focused on the  firewall , that is the “system” to be used to filter network traffic in transit on your devices, protecting them from unwanted access. In this regard, you opened Google in search of information on the  best firewalls  currently in existence and you happened right here, on my website.

How do you say? Did I hit the spot? If so, you need to know that you are in the right place, at the right time! During this tutorial, in fact, I will show you how some excellent software firewalls work, available in the form of programs for Windows and macOS, or apps for smartphones and tablets. In addition, I will take care to provide you with an overview regarding hardware firewalls, ie those devices capable of “physically” filtering network traffic.

So, without waiting a second longer, make yourself comfortable and read very carefully everything I have to say on the subject: I am sure that, after reading this guide, you will be perfectly able to choose the solution that best suits you to your needs. Having said that, I have nothing else to do, except to wish you a good read and make a big good luck for everything!

Best free firewalls

Both  Windows  and  macOS , by default, integrate a firewall solution that can adequately protect the operating system from unwanted access to the network. However, if you want more control over the traffic generated by the installed programs, you can rely on one of the third-party solutions which I am going to tell you about in later sections of this chapter.

Windows Firewall Notifier (Windows)

Best free firewalls

If you have never heard of it,  Windows Firewall Notifier  is a free tool, which “integrates” with the integrated Windows 10 firewall (but also Windows 7 and 8.x) and allows you to get targeted notifications, where a program running should try to communicate with the outside.

To get it, connect to its dedicated page on Github  and click on the first version available, which should be the most updated (e.g. 2.0 Beta 3 ). On the next page, scroll down slightly and click on the first download link (eg  WFNV20BETA3.zip ), located in the Assets box .

When the download is complete, unzip the  zip package  obtained in a folder of your choice, launch the WFN.exe  file  and click on the More information,  Run anyway  and  Yes  buttons  to overcome the protections imposed by the Smart Screen.

In the main screen of the program, which should appear at this point, you should find the list of active programs in the system, together with information on the connections established by them (protocol, address and local port, address and remote port and so on).

Using the side tabs, you can easily access the program’s functions: the map  tab  allows you to view, on the map, the destination of the active connections; the bandwidth cards  and adapters  are used, respectively, to control the band in use by each program and the communications in progress through the network adapters installed in the PC.

Finally, through the Firewall settings  and  Firewall rules tabs  , you can quickly activate / deactivate Windows Firewall and define the rules to be used for incoming and / or outgoing connections.

For example, if you want WFN to send a notification when a program tries to connect to the Internet, click on the Firewall settings tab  , locate the Outbound menu  , move the Block and prompt  lever to ON and press the Apply button located at the top, to make the settings effective.

Now, to enable the reception of notifications, click on the Options tab  , then on the Click here to test button and, to conclude, once again overcomes the restrictions imposed by SmartScreen, to activate the WFN security functions.

If this solution is not for you, you can evaluate the use of third-party firewalls, “complete” and independent of Windows Firewall, such as Comodo Personal Firewall or GlassWire .

Little Snitch (macOS)

Best firewalls

If you use a Mac , you can instead use Little Snitch , a simple but effective firewall that allows you to control (and eventually block) the data traffic generated by the various programs installed on macOS. The program costs  45 € , but can be tried for free (with interruptions every 3 hours) for 30 days.

To download the trial version of Little Snitch, go to this Web page , click on the Download Free Trial  and  Download  buttons  and wait for the installation file of the program to be downloaded to your computer.

Now, launch the  dmg package  obtained and, using the window displayed on the screen, start the actual installation program, called  Little Snitch Installer .

Next, click on the OpenContinue  buttons  twice in succession and  Accept , type the  Mac administration password and press the Enter  key  on the keyboard, to start the software installation. Now, click on the Open Security preferences button , wait for the System Preferences window to open automatically and press the Allow button , to authorize the firewall to act on the operating system.

Once you have passed this step, wait for the installation program to update the necessary files and, when requested, click on the Open Security & Privacy Preferences … and  Restart now button to restart the Mac.

At the next restart, the Little Snitch window should open automatically, offering you a “guided” tour, to discover the features of the program. So click on the Start Tour button and read the suggestions that are offered to you, pressing the Next button to switch from one suggestion to another.

Best firewalls

Then, press the Continue button and activate the Alert mode , so that you can receive real-time alerts about the programs that try to access the network and, if necessary, block them; Finally, put a check mark under the macOS Services  and iCloud Services icons  to authorize the use of the Internet by the Mac’s integrated services and  iCloud services  , respectively.

When you are done, click on the Next  and  Close buttons  to complete the initial Little Snitch setup and press the Allow button , attached to the notification “comics” that appear several times  , to authorize the program to send system notifications.

At any time, you can change the operating mode of Little Snitch (from Alert Mode to Silent Mode), block the network filters or view the general rules and settings of the firewall, using the icon located in the top bar of the Mac (a form of opposite indicators ).

If you think Little Snitch is not for you, you can turn to equally effective alternative solutions, such as Radio Silence or Hands Off! .

Best Android Firewalls

Best Android Firewalls

If you own an Android device  , you will be pleased to know that, unlike what happened until some time ago, you can easily block the activity of the apps through a third-party firewall, even without subjecting the entire device to the root procedure .

NetGuard , for example, is an app capable of sending notifications relating to attempts to access the Internet by applications (even those that are not active in the foreground), providing the user with the possibility of blocking them completely, or blocking access only to a specific address.

NetGuard can be downloaded for free from the Play Store , it does not have advertisements (at least at the time of writing this guide) and does not require root permissions to function properly.

However, once the app is installed, touch the Accept button  , to confirm that you have read the terms of use and, to immediately activate the filtering of network activities, move the lever located at the top left next to  ON  shield icon.

Once this is done, press the OK  button  twice in succession to authorize NetGuard to create a local VPN. Then tap again on the same button and, to disable the battery optimization options (this ensures that the app never stops), touch the drop-down menu at the top of the next screen, choose the All apps option , tap on the NetGuard item , put the check mark next to the item  Do not optimize  and press the Finish button  , to confirm the change just made.

Almost there: open the NetGuard app again and check that the lever located at the top is colored red (otherwise activate it); at this point, to inhibit access to the Internet by an app, individualize and tap on the Wi-Fi icon  , to block data in transit through wireless networks, or the icon of the  network cleats , to inhibit Internet access via cellular networks. Easy, right?

How do you say? Did you find the solution I proposed to you useful, but would you like to try other applications of this type, in order to discover the one that best suits your needs? In this case, I advise you to give an opportunity to the alternative solutions that I propose below.

  • NetPatch  – similar to NetGuard, this app allows you to effectively block network traffic from other applications, over a data network, Wi-Fi network or both.
  • Mobiwol  – it is a firewall for Android particularly suitable for those who are not very familiar with the topic, equipped with a minimal user interface and easy to understand settings. It’s free.
  • Karma Firewall  – is a light app that allows you to filter the activity of the app within a couple of taps. It’s free, but requires root permissions.

Best iPhone and iPad firewalls

Best iPhone and iPad firewalls

Since  iOS  and  iPadOS  are, by Apple’s precise choice, operating systems closed to “profound” changes by external apps, there are currently no applications able to effectively block network traffic, but only to monitor it.

However, it is still possible to protect Internet browsing activity, using a series of “alternative” techniques: for example, you can use the firewall integrated in the router  to surf safely, via the home Wi-Fi network.

In general, navigation devices allow you to set different security levels, depending on the network activity you intend to carry out; however, keep in mind that, by activating the firewall at the router level, some apps (or some programs) may stop working , unless you manually open the necessary ports. For more information on the subject, I refer you to my specific tutorials on how to configure the router and how to open the router’s ports .

If, on the other hand, you are not used to using a Wi-Fi connection but the cellular data line, you could consider using an encrypted VPN : it is, in fact, a “secure tunnel” within which data travels in transit to and from your device. Information in transit on encrypted VPNs is invisible from the outside, so they are a great way to avoid information theft and  man-in-the-middle attacks . For more information, I invite you to read my study on how VPNs work.

Best hardware firewalls

Best hardware firewalls

The issue relating to hardware firewalls is profoundly different from what has been seen so far: a device of this type, in fact, is a kind of “minimal” PC (with CPU, RAM, resident memory and network ports), which allows you to shield traffic network before data reaches the router and the devices connected to it.

The hardware firewall, in fact, is directly connected to the Internet and, in order to offer adequate network protection, it must be specifically configured by a person competent in the matter: the settings of a hardware firewall, in fact, are strictly specific to the scope in which you use it.

The parameters to consider when purchasing a hardware firewall are different, generally linked to the performance obtainable after its installation. Below I indicate the most important.

  • Processor and RAM  – it is essential to take these two factors into account, as they affect the responsiveness of the firewall’s operating system (which, in fact, dominates network traffic).
  • Hard disk  – some network devices have storage space that can be used, for example, to save settings and particular files that are useful for protecting the network.
  • Ethernet ports  – a greater number of Ethernet ports corresponds to a greater number of devices that can be connected directly to the firewall (which, in this case, can act as a “large router”).
  • Transmission speed  and throughput  – it is essential that the firewall is able to provide adequate data throughput, while acting as a filter. The higher these values ​​(especially the second), the better.
  • 3G / 4G module  – some firewalls have a slot dedicated to the SIM card, to be used as a “backup” solution, in case the Internet service does not work properly.
  • Malware shielding  – some high-end firewalls incorporate a system of protection against unwanted content and malicious websites.

As for the costs, they depend strictly on the characteristics of the appliance: on average, it starts from around € 250 , up to even exceeding € 4,000 . Below I list a series of firewalls that, in my opinion, represent a good compromise between quality and price: clearly, even before making any purchase, I recommend you take a look at the technical data sheet of each device, so as to identify which one may be more suitable for your needs.