After the recent news about the Wannacry ransomware attack, network security has once again been thrown into the headlines. Keeping yourself and your family safe online these days seems like a task that is getting harder and harder.
However, there are certain things you can do. As well as installing an antivirus, keeping all your devices up-to-date, and being careful when browsing the web, you must make sure that you have a firewall on your network.
The Top Home Firewall Picks:
(clicking the links above will take you to the firewalls on Amazon)
If you are worried about your network security and want to know a bit more about firewalls, then please read on!
What Is A Firewall?
There are two types of firewall out there. The first kind, one that you will likely be very familiar with, is a software firewall. These are the firewalls that often come with your antivirus software and they are used to block incoming malicious connections from your computer.
The second type of firewall is a hardware firewall. These firewalls can come as separate pieces of hardware that connect to your router, or also, they are often already included as a feature on your router.
Where they differ from software firewalls is that they are able to stop malicious, incoming connections before they enter your network. This is beneficial as they offer extra protection for any devices with a firewall installed on then, while also protecting any device that is connected to your network without any firewall at all.
As well as this, dedicated firewall also often include extra features such as advanced VPN options (not normally seen on consumer equipment), deeper traffic analysis, and more configuration options.
What both these types of firewall do is act as a wall between your computer (or network) and any connections that they believe to be unsafe. This can stop things such as trojans and hackers from accessing your gear (and personal files).
Why Would I Need A Firewall At Home?
If you are a home user, you many wonder why anyone would want to enter your network. After all, you may not have much information that seems important to people from the outside world.
However, while it is certainly true that businesses are more likely to be the victim of a targeted hack attack than a home user, there is still a risk of attack when you use the internet.
Using a firewall can significantly reduce your chances of being hit by a remote access attack, by a trojan, or by a hacker who tries to get through a known security hole on an operating system that hasn’t been updated.
As well as this, hardware firewalls, that you can attach to a router, are extra useful as they offer protection to devices that don’t have firewalls. While most computers are now protected (at least to some extent), some aren’t and could be vulnerable. And they can add extra protection to devices like smartphones - especially if you have rooted your phone.
Firewall Features To Look Out For
Even if your router already has a firewall it can still be advantageous to use an extra firewall (or just use a dedicated firewall with disabled router firewall). All the firewalls on this list have a multitude of configurable options and features that you may not get with the firewall on your router.
Many of the firewalls on the list have VPN functionality. There are two main types of VPNs found on firewalls which are remote access VPNs and site-to-site VPNs, each with a slightly different use.
Remote Access VPNs
Remote access VPNs allow you to access your network remotely. The firewall acts like a VPN server which can give you access to the home network from anywhere in the world. When you access the VPN, all the traffic is encrypted which despite the remote access should keep data you send private and secure.
Site-to-site VPNs are slightly different. These allow you to set up an encrypted tunnel between two networks over the internet. When you do this, it is like both the networks are connected together and users of one network will have access to the other.
This is a feature that is most commonly used for businesses.
Advanced Web Filtering
Advanced web filtering on a firewall will allow you to choose exactly what type of content if allowed on your network and to block certain websites.
Depending on the exact firewall, advanced web filtering could allow you to block things such as:
- Specific URLs
- Certain keywords
- Certain types of files
- Certain IP addresses
Stateful Packet Inspection
Stateful Packet Inspection analyses the packets of data that are being sent over your network. While other types of inspection only check the packet’s header, stateful packet inspection checks packets all the way to the application layer.
Basically, it makes it much less likely that a packet of data will be able to enter or ‘trick’ its way into your network.
If you have a fast internet connection, with many users, SPI on a dedicated firewall will generally operate better than SPI on a consumer router.
Best Home Firewalls
Zyxel Next Generation VPN Firewall USG20
The Zyxel USG20 is a high-end home firewall with a load of features to match. In terms of hardware, it comes with a WAN port and four LAN ports so you can connect a router and multiple devices to the firewall. These are all gigabit ports so they shouldn’t slow down your network.
In terms of security, your network should be well protected from many different attacks if you use this device. Its Stateful Packet Protection will check all the data coming into your network at a rate of 350Mbps, meaning that all but the fastest of networks won’t notice any slowdown.
Other security features include anti-virus protection, Intrusion Detection and Prevention, and anti-spam features. Basically, your network will be protected from all angles with this firewall. There is also a VPN included to keep your data safe as well as allow for remote network access.
In term of its design, it is pretty basic but that just means it shouldn’t look out of place in your home. As well as this, it is small enough to just slot in next to your router.
Configuration is done through your browser and there are wizards to make setting up both the firewall security settings and the VPN as easy as possible.
The icing on the cake with this product though, is that it has a lifetime hardware guarantee as well as free tech support. An all-round great buy!
CUJO Smart Internet Security Firewall
The standout aspect of the CUJO Firewall is certainly its design. While the other products on this list look like solid, yet nonetheless forgettable, pieces of technology, the CUJO is a stylish white cylinder that almost looks like a Bluetooth speaker.
Of course, this doesn't mean anything if it isn’t a secure product. As a firewall, it has everything you would expect including anti-virus protection and firewall protection. The product is cloud-connected and they say that this means it is constantly adapting to new threats from the web. As threats are evolving all the time this should keep you safe when using the web.
As well as this, the CUJO matches its unique design with an equally well-designed app to let you control everything. Especially useful is the ability to set up parental controls on your network if you have children.
In terms of connectivity, it has 2 LAN ports. While this may not seem like as many as some of the others on this list, it is built with wireless in mind and these two ports will be enough to connect to your router.
The only downside is that there is no inbuilt VPN and also the fact that it is a pretty expensive product, although it does seem likely that VPN functionality is planned for future firmware updates.
Cisco RV110W-A-NA-K9 Small Business Firewall Router
The Cisco RV110W is a budget firewall that still manages to give users one huge benefit, it is also a router! While having a router with a built in firewall is fairly common, having the firewall as the main product is a much rarer beast.
In terms of features, this device comes with a configurable firewall, the ability to set up a VPN on the network, and support for guest networks. This can be useful if you don’t want to let guests to your home use your main network.
However, its low price does mean that you may be wondering what the catch is. Basically, despite its features, there are certain things that this router is missing. Firstly, it doesn’t include Gigabit Ethernet. While this won’t be an issue for many, for people who need the fastest possible speeds across their network, it could be a problem.
As well as this, the VPN only supports up to five clients at a time. While this may be ok for most people, if you anticipate more than five people needing remote access at a time, this is something to think about.
In terms of design, its antennas make it look much more like a router than the other devices on this list. However, its simple design is certainly not going to stand out.
Overall, while not the best firewall on the market, if you need a firewall and a router for a good price, this product could be the way to go.
Netgear ProSAFE FVS318G 8-Port Gigabit VPN Firewall
The Netgear ProSAFE FVS318G is stylish looking firewall that has the advantage of having a massive 8 Gigabit LAN ports. It is designed for small businesses yet its price point means it could also be suitable for a home user who wants some extra security.
It has a ton of security features including a secure VPN that uses the SSL and IPsec protocols to keep your data extra safe, Stateful Packet Inspection, as well as extras such as DoS attack protection which restricts the maximum number of concurrent connections to ensure that your network can’t be taken down by a DoS attack.
Of course, the fact that this device has 8 LAN ports does mean that it has some routing capabilities. This includes Quality of Service (QoS), that allows you to prioritize certain types of traffic to ensure that devices and applications that need more bandwidth get it.
The product's design is pretty standard for a firewall, the front is naturally dominated by the 8 LAN ports 9 (and 1 WAN port) but other than that it is unlikely to stand out from the rest of your networking equipment.
Basically, this is an excellent product with a lot of great features. While the 8 LAN ports may be overkill and stay unused by many people (unless you have a small business), the other features mean that even if you don’t plan on using all 8 ports this is still a product worth thinking about.
Sonicwall 01-SSC-6942 TZ105 UTM Secure Firewall
The Sonicwall is a secure firewall with some excellent security features. These features include a deep inspection firewall, URL filtering, antivirus functionality, DoS protection, and more. Basically, this firewall will protect your network from a large variety of threats.
It has VPN functionality like many of the routers on this list. This comes in the form of IPSec and SSL meaning that your data will be well protected.
One downside although is that the router is missing Gigabit Ethernet functionality, which could be an issue for some people who need the fastest possible speeds. What it does offer though is a USB and an SD card port to allow you to connect external storage devices.
It has a simple design that and you can choose from either white or black. This little bit of choice is a nice option if you want a firewall that fits in with the rest of your room.
To conclude, a firewall is a useful bit of equipment to give your network and the devices on it an extra layer of security. By stopping threats before they even reach your network you can help keep all your data safe and reduce the risk of hacks or trojan attacks.
Each of the products on our list is pretty unique, although they do all come with the basic firewall capabilities. The perfect product for you will likely come down to what extra features you think are important as well as your budget.