The Best Free Firewalls for Improved Security in 2019

The Best Free Firewalls for Improved Security in 2019

Improving your computer's security is not a topic that should be taken lightly. Here are the best free firewalls alternatives to start strengthening your security right away.

Do you want to improve the level of protection on your computer but you're not ready to invest in a paid software? We're here to help.

We put together a list with the best free firewalls so you can find the right option for your needs. So you choose the best one, let's first take a short look over how a firewall plays its role in offering your computer the protection it needs.


How does a firewall improve your security?

So you pick the best free firewall from our list, you must first understand what a firewall is and what it can do for your security.

What is a firewall and how it works

A firewall acts as a shield between your computer and the external network (i.e. the internet).

The information that's exchanged between your computer and the external network is transmitted in the form of network packets. These packets are received by the entry points which are called ports. Each network packet contains a set of data, such as information about the source and destination, and they are assigned to specific ports based on this information.

When you install a firewall on your computer, you set up some rules for it to follow so it knows which sources are trustworthy and which aren't. The firewall will then monitor all the network packets entering or leaving your computer and will keep an eye out for suspicious sources. When it detects a network packet that does not comply with the security rules that have been established, the packet will be rejected. This way, the firewall will offer your computer protection against malicious attacks so you can safely browse the internet. Of course, the more customizable a firewall is, the better the security it can provide.

Why use a firewall

Hackers can use various types of malware such as keylogging software to get access to your computer and steal private data such as your account passwords and credit card information. There are also other ways in which a hacker can exploit your computer such as using it as an intermediate device to run illegal activities without you even noticing.

With a firewall, you're to a great extent protected against cyber threats as it only allows traffic from secure sources to communicate with your computer.

Modern firewalls can filter the traffic based on more advanced criteria such as domain names, keywords, applications, and specific data ports. They even allow you to choose which applications from your computer can access the internet so you're never connected without your knowledge.

What a firewall can do

You can configure a firewall to act based on your needs. Here are some of the rules you can set up for a firewall.

  • Block unauthorized access to the network
  • Block specific types of outgoing traffic
  • Log all the traffic, or only suspicious traffic
  • Only allow traffic from a specific IP address
  • Block access to specific IP address (i.e. social media sites blocked in offices)
  • Only allow web surfing through the firewall and block all other applications

Keep in mind that not all firewalls offer the same customization options, that's why it's important to review the traits of the following best free firewalls so you choose the right one for your computer security.

The Windows Firewall

Because Microsoft was having security problems on Windows that were easy exploitable by hackers, they started building their own firewall software to block malicious attacks.

Starting with Windows XP, all Windows's versions have a built-in firewall software. The firewall on Windows XP wasn't great received because of its limited capabilities, so, on Windows Vista, it was upgraded to Windows Firewall with Advanced Security.

Even though the revised version of the firewall includes more features for users' security, it is still not among the preferred firewalls alternatives because of a couple of reasons.

  • The interface is not good. The Windows Firewall makes it challenging for users to configure the rules, especially for non-tech users.
  • Applications with enough privileges can alter the firewall. It is known that malicious programs can easily disable the firewall altogether.
  • The default configuration is poor and doesn't offer enough security.

These reasons are enough for users to turn to other free firewall software alternatives because they can get more control and security for their computers.


Best free firewalls for improved security

1. TinyWall

TinyWall is a free software that provides more firewall features for the Windows Firewall that's built-in Windows XP and above.

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

Features

  • It is nonintrusive. TinyWall does its job of protecting your computer while you're working without pushing popups. You can see information about the firewall by clicking on an icon when you want to.
  • It's perfect for non-tech users because of its easy to use interface from which you can easily set up rules without needing to know everything about ports, protocols or application details.
  • Because it comes as an improvement to the already installed Windows firewall, it won't affect your computers' performance.
  • It requires no drivers or kernel-components, which makes it a lightweight software that won't affect your computer's stability.
  • It allows you to set up temporary firewall rules and create port and domains blocklists.
  • It blocks applications from making changes to the Windows firewall settings.
  • It lists all established and blocked connections.
  • It has an automatic learning mode and also allows you to password protect the settings.

Overall, TinyWall comes as an improvement to the Windows Firewall, enhancing its features and providing a better interface for users. With this software, you get the standard firewall settings, but you should not expect advanced security features.

2. AVS Firewall

AVS is a free firewall security software with an intuitive interface which allows users to create a personalized profile to gain control of their network and internet connections.

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

Features

  • You can choose between multiple security levels and filter the applications that connect to your computer.
  • It secures your computer against malware and prevents unauthorized intrusions.
  • You can turn on the option to block unwanted popups, advertisings, and banners.
  • You can create your own detailed rules for each application and specify exactly which connections they are allowed to use.
  • You can view and manage the bandwidth usage, which is a useful feature if you have limited internet traffic.
  • It alerts you when an application or program is trying to connect to the internet.
  • You can enable parenting control by creating a whitelist of URLs you want to allow and you can also apply content filters to limit access to unwanted sites.
  • You can see all previous connections in case you need to know what event happened on which connection.
  • With the Registry Defender switched on, malicious software won't be able to modify critical registry files.

As a conclusion, the AVS Firewall provides many online security features which makes it one of the best free firewall software for home networks.

3. Comodo firewall

Comodo is one of the best free firewall protection software, if not the actual best. The user-friendly interface, easy configuration, and the amount of personalization features are some of the traits that made Comodo the most popular free firewall for home use.

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

Features

  • It monitors all inbound traffic and outgoing traffic.
  • It uses artificial intelligence to learn your computer habits so it does not interfere with your work.
  • It protects your computer's ports against hackers and prevents any malicious software from sending your private data over the internet.
  • You can specify the applications that are allowed to connect to the internet and it warns you when there's suspicious activity.
  • It is integrated with an antivirus application making it more resilient against malware attacks.
  • It provides a Sandbox environment, meaning that if you download a piece of software over the internet, you can first test it for hidden viruses.
  • It comes with a feature called game mode. This enables the interactive applications to run smoothly when connected to the internet.

Comodo also offers a full paid version of the firewall software which comes with additional security features such as anti-spam, spyware scanning, virus scanning. Still, the free firewall version does a great job on protecting your computer and is definitely worth a shot.

4. ZoneAlarm

ZoneAlarm is another highly popular free firewall security software that monitors all traffic, spots suspicious behavior, and stops malicious attacks.

Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10

Features

It prevents programs from illegally accessing your network and making changes to your operating system settings.

  • It allows you to choose which applications and programs are allowed to access the internet.
  • The full stealth mode makes you invisible to hackers and protects your computer from malicious programs.
  • It enhances the WiFi network security.
  • It automatically updates to ensure you're always protected.
  • It has an** identity protection** and malware blocking feature that sets it apart from other free firewall alternatives.
  • In case of identity theft, US residence can require assistance from the company for victim recovery.
  • By default, it logs all firewall events. You are allowed to clear the logs and configure the way they behave.

The ZoneAlarm free firewall comes with lots of features for users who want more security and control for their computers. They also provide pro paid versions of firewalls, including combos of firewall and antivirus and an anti-ransomware software.

5. GlassWire

GlassWire is a free firewall protection software with an amazing design that will make you want to forget about Windows Firewall forever.

Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 10 + Android app

Features

  • It detects spyware, malware, and suspicious behaving apps and blocks their access.
  • It shows you in real-time what applications are sending data over the network.
  • You can see all the logs in a nice packed graph and you have the ability to clear the logs as you wish.
  • It notifies you when an application tries to connect to the internet and you can choose to allow or deny the action.
  • It monitors the bandwidth usage and alerts you when you are supposed to go over the traffic limit.
  • The popup alerts are designed not to interfere with users' activity and you can also snooze or disable them.
  • With the lockdown mode you can choose to block all network connectivity while you are away from your computer.

GlassWire is a free firewall software that efficiently adds extra internet security to your computer. It comes with highly useful features to protect your computer and they are nicely packed in a smooth design.


Is a free firewall enough for security?

As you've seen, the best free firewalls software provide a great layer of security. But the firewall alone can't do it all. Especially because the free versions are limited in the features they offer.

But even with a paid full firewall version installed, there are still risks you are exposed to, such as malware hidden where the firewall can't see. Because the most common way for your computer to get infected with malware is through email attachments and links, the firewall won't help much in this case.

Other computer security threats include spam, DoS or DDoS attacks, phishing and pharming.

To maximize the level of security on your computer, you should check the following boxes:

  • Use a firewall
  • Install an antivirus software
  • Use a VPN service, especially when connecting to public WiFi networks
  • Use a secure browser
  • Use strong passwords for your accounts

Choosing one of the best free firewalls we listed above is your first step into protecting yourself against cyber attacks and threats. Read our other posts on privacy and security to learn more about how to make sure you have a safe internet journey.

Diana Soare