Your computer’s firewall is an important tool in the ongoing battle to keep your machine secure. It’ll stop authorized people from accessing your device and can help prevent the spread of malware.
Both Windows and Mac have a built-in firewall, but there is also plenty of third-party software – much of which exceeds the native programs in terms of features and usability.
If you want to see what options are available, keep reading. Here are seven firewall programs that can help improve your computer’s security.
ZoneAlarm is a well-known name in the world of computer security. The company offers a free anti-virus suite, mobile security for Android, and various premium products.
The free firewall can hide all your ports, prevent inbound and outbound attacks, and lets you manage your software on a case-by-case basis. It also has an automatic mode; the app will instantly apply the most suitable protection for a given program. The pro version introduces more features but costs $40 per year.
Unfortunately, it has a downside. Some users have reported that the software doesn’t work well with anti-virus suites (except Windows Defender and ZoneAlarm’s own product). Your anti-virus is likely to become unstable and see a drop-off in performance.
If you want a light-weight solution, Tinywall is the answer. It only needs 1 MB of memory and runs as a standalone program.
It’s also an excellent choice if you don’t want to micromanage your app; there are no pop-ups, and it’ll quietly run in the background without pestering you.
Regarding features, it comes with a whitelisting option, port and domain blocklists, a way to restrict applications to LAN-only access, IPv6 support, password locks on your settings, and lots more.
3. Anti NetCut3
Do you spend a lot of time connected to public Wi-Fi? If the answer is yes, you need to check out Anti NetCut3. The app has been specifically designed to safeguard your machine when you’re on insecure networks.
As with any free software, there are some drawbacks. You can’t add NAS drives to the app’s libraries, the interface is basic, and the English-language version has some translation issues.
However, the software is second-to-none if you want to protect yourself against ARP spoofing, deliberately-cut connections, and other forms of connection manipulation.
Comodo Free Firewall has won several awards and is a long-time favorite of MakeUseOf readers. It’s the opposite of Tinywall; you can expect to receive a barrage of pop-ups and notifications to keep you updated with your real-time situation.
Unlike lots of other firewall programs, the app draws upon a cloud-based directory of more than two million “safe” apps. It alerts you if something that’s not on the safe list tries to access your machine. In theory, it’s a safer solution than relying on a blacklist — what if the blacklist has overlooked a threat?
A premium version is also available. It includes the company’s professional anti-virus suite, more firewall options, around-the-clock malware support, and a thoroughly impressive $500 “Virus Free Guarantee.” It costs $40 per year.
PeerBlock is a fork of the once popular PeerGuardian 2 firewall. It’s designed to protect users who do a lot of filesharing over P2P networks.
Its narrow focus is both a positive and negative; while it does a great job of keeping you safe while using torrent software, it does nothing else. If you want a holistic app, it’s not for you.
Support has dwindled in recent years (the last major release is three years old), but don’t let that put you off. It’s still the best-in-class at what it does. Setup is simple; when you launch the app, it’ll prompt you to choose which type of websites you want to block, then it’ll diligently work in the background to keep you safe.
All the apps I’ve discussed so far have been Windows-based, so I’ll conclude the list with two choices for Mac users.
Little Snitch will set you back around $32 (depending on the EUR > USD exchange rate). It focuses on outbound traffic; every time a new app wants to connect to the web, Little Snitch will ask whether you want to allow it. Naturally, the app will inundate you with requests in the first few days of usage, but it’ll soon settle down.
In an age where almost every app wants to “phone home,” it gives you a fantastic level of granular control over your privacy.
Unlike Little Snitch, Private Eye is free to use. It’s not a full-blown firewall — instead, it lets you monitor all the incoming and outgoing internet traffic on your Mac.
This has some oft-overlooked benefits. For example, you can see which URLs they are accessing and establish whether there’s anything suspicious about them. Secondly, it’ll help you determine if your machine has picked up any malware, and lastly, it’ll show you how much bandwidth each app is using so you can see what’s hogging all your resources.
Which Firewall Programs Do You Use?
Ultimately, using a dedicated firewall app isn’t for everyone. Some people will be perfectly secure by relying on the computer’s native software and an anti-virus suite’s built-in features.
But if you use a lot of internet-connect programs or have a penchant for visiting unscrupulous sites, a firewall app could save you from a frustrating and costly malware experience.
Now it’s time for you to share your experiences. Have you tried any of the apps in this list? Which one is your favorite? Have you found a great little app that I’ve overlooked?
As always, you can leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.
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