The Best Firewall software of 2018
With all the firewall choices available to you, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Some are free, some are paid, but there will be one that makes sense to you. To help you make the right choice, we’ve put a few profiles together for your review.
Software firewalls are an essential part of your online safety. They protect your computer and network from incoming malicious attacks and viruses and give you an extra layer of protection on top of the firewalls that come pre-installed on your operating system.
While you may already know that your operating system—whether it’s Windows or Apple—provides firewall protection, you might not know enough about what it does and does not protect you from. So, let’s look at firewalls: what they do, what they don’t do, and which ones are the best for your individual needs.
How does a software firewall work?
A software firewall is a type of filter that is meant to protect your computer from threatening communications. To enable seamless operation of your computer and devices, it allows some types of data to get through but not others. It blocks what it thinks is malicious activity by recognizing known patterns, in other words, it leverages what is already known about certain threats to protect your systems.
A software firewall comes with pre-set guidelines that can be further modified to suit your needs – to a degree. Free or “included” software firewalls are fairly limited in scope and if you are concerned, you might want to think about adding another one or upgrading to a more advanced “premium” version.
The firewall protection you already have
Software firewalls are a component of your computer’s operating system. It is also part of your ISPs configuration – meaning that your internet service provider includes a firewall in your package. These firewalls are part of your router hardware and control incoming connections to your computer and other devices on your network. Both software and hardware firewalls can be customized according to your personal preferences.
Your software firewall should:
- Stand as a sentry between the internet and all devices on your network
- Block incoming malicious activity
- Notify you when you are visiting potentially harmful websites
- Provide a stealth-mode that makes you invisible to hackers
- Disable malicious programs
Here are the best third-party software firewalls available today:
With all the firewall choices available to you, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Some are free, some are paid, but there will be one that makes sense to you. To help you make the right choice, we’ve put a few profiles together for your review:
ZoneAlarm Pro Firewall 2018 is a highly rated software firewall that is suitable for personal use. It provides you with advanced, premium features that go beyond your pre-installed software firewall. It costs $29.95 per year to protect up to five devices and offers a 30-day free trial.
- Stealths all ports to external attack
- Real-time phishing detection
- Direct attack protection
- Online backup included
- Generous free trial period
- Connected to DefenseNet, providing access to the latest threats
- Free version available
- No protection for exploit attacks
- Might be difficult to configure for the average user
- Phishing detection only works in Chrome
- Firewall also detects good programs when set to maximum
- Not available for Mac OS
Advanced security features help you take control of your browsing activity. The free version does a lot more than the basic firewall you have on your computer or router, so it’s a step up in security without having to shell out. There are several premium versions ranging from $39.99 to $129 per year (after current discount) and they offer a free trial. The advanced versions also include virus protection.
- Automatic sandboxing of malicious programs
- Behavior-based malware detection
- Secure browsing
- Nice user interface
- Free version available
- Inexpensive plans
- Free trial period
- No web-based protection from malicious URLs
- Inconsistent results in malware download protections
- If you install the free version you will get constant prompts to upgrade
- May be difficult to use for less advanced users
- Not available for Mac OS
Kaspersky combines a powerful personal software firewall with antivirus, spyware, and trojan protection. It costs $39.99 per year for up to three devices and gives you total peace of mind when you’re doing whatever you do online.
- Protects both Windows and Mac OS, plus iOS and Android
- Lots of features in premium packages
- Automatic exploit protection
- Protects up to three devices or computers
- Easy interface and simple setup
- Parental controls
- Two-way firewall
- Spam tracking
- Includes secure VPN
- Built-in software updater scans system for programs that need security updates
- Analyzes software and executable files
- Apply your license to a range of platforms
- Can slow down computer performance in protection mode
Glasswire describes itself as a “visual firewall”, which means, basically, that you’ll be able to set up and use it very easily due to its user-friendly dashboard interface. Glasswire makes it easy to see not only the malicious stuff that’s going on, but also how your computer is managing its normal functions. This, and the beauty of the interface itself, is a huge differentiator in this space. The interface easily shows both outbound and inbound traffic and can be zoomed into if you want to look at a certain timeframe. It’s completely addictive too, at least if what your computer does in its “downtime” is of any interest to you. Glasswire costs $39 per year for the Basic plan, $69 for Pro, and $99 for Elite.
- Highly configurable
- Easy to understand interface
- Helps you keep an eye on your internet usage
- Pay in Bitcoin or Ethereum
- Realtime phishing protection
- Reveals apps that use a lot of bandwidth
- Mobile backup
- Detects suspicious Wi-Fi connections
- Lockdown mode
- Lists all devices on the network
- Additional licenses can be purchased
- 7 day free trial
- Uses a lot of memory
- No antivirus support
- Currently not available for Mac OS, but a Mac Beta is coming
- The basic plan only protects one device
- Short trial period
The software firewall roundup
These are just a handful of software firewalls that you might choose. With today’s advances in internet security and the robust nature of the protections that come included with your device hardware, the demand is relatively low, so the best examples offer extended features and functionality to round out their portfolio.
ZoneAlarm is a highly rated, affordable firewall, but is not compatible with Mac. Comodo has many aficionados, though it is inconsistent in detecting malware and if you use the free version you’ll constantly be pestered with upsell messaging. Kaspersky is a great all-around internet protection suite that offers a lot of advanced features but some report that it can slow down your computer’s performance. Lastly, Glassdoor represents next-generation firewall technology, giving you robust protection along with a complete and transparent view of what your computer is doing at all times.
To learn more about software firewalls and other cybersecurity topics, check this space often.