Unsurprisingly, many different products are available for antivirus, endpoint protection, and other cybersecurity protection. After all, many threats lurk in cyberspace, each with its way of truly messing up your network, data, hardware, online identity, etc.
That's why we're looking at network firewall software today. A network firewall acts as your first line of defense against intrusion. We'll cover protection for different operating systems, such as a Windows firewall, a macOS firewall, or a Linux firewall. Also, we'll show you where to find an excellent small business firewall or even free firewalls! But first, what is firewall software, anyway?
What Is Firewall Software?
A firewall is defined as a network security system comprised of either software or firmware that inspects inbound and outbound on your system based on established parameters and rules to prevent unauthorized access to your network. Imagine firewall software as a barrier or obstacle that closes off your IT assets from the outside world.
The term "firewall" was first used to describe a wall in a building that prevents fires from spreading. These walls are typically composed of fire-resistant materials. So you can see why IT adopted the term for cybersecurity purposes! Many organizations and private consumers employ firewalls. Many devices come with a firewall already built-in and are available for popular operating systems such as macOS, Windows, and Linux. Firewalls are widely considered a vital part of network security.
Companies that produce firewalls typically release updates and upgrades to keep up with the latest threats and new OS releases. So, if you already have a firewall for Windows 10, you can likely find a patch or upgrade if you go to Windows 11.
Before we get to the heavy-duty firewall offerings, let’s check out a trio of free firewall software offerings for each popular operating system: Windows, macOS, and Linux.
The Best Free Firewall Software for Windows
Here are three of the best open-source firewall software for Windows:
Peerblock blocks incoming and outgoing IP addresses that have been blacklisted on the Internet. You can also enable and disable IP and HTTP trackers and customize the program’s activities and interface. First, however, you should know some basic IT knowledge before using Peerblock.
Tinywall is a lightweight PC firewall with no annoying pop-ups or advertisements. It has an auto-learn function, so you can easily create exceptions. Tinywall also offers a whitelist, application access restriction, IPv6 support, blocklists by port and domains, password locks, etc.
Sophos has an excellent reputation in cybersecurity, and this offering shows why. It’s an entire network security system, covering concepts such as Wi-Fi users. But beware, it can overwrite existing OS or other configuration files on your system.
The Best Free Firewall Software for macOS
Here are three of the best open-source firewall software for macOS:
IceFloor protects your device from Trojan viruses, malware, and external spy attacks. It has an easy-to-use interface and monitors incoming and outgoing connections using filtering and bandwidth rules. Be warned, though; it hasn’t been updated since June 2014.
This firewall also offers a premium (paid) version, but it’s relatively expensive. It prevents hackers from attacking your device by hiding it from view and protects your system from worms, trojans, and network parasites.
Murus is a user-friendly, simple firewall that controls your applications’ Internet access while protecting them from unwanted networks’ outgoing and incoming activities.
The Best Free Firewall Software for Linux
Here are three of the best open-source firewall software for Linux:
This product is an easy-to-use, well-supported Linux firewall with a great web-based management interface. You can configure and monitor a firewall and flesh out the distro for other network services.
This firewall was designed for networks and routers, so it's not the best fit for home users looking for a simple firewall for their system. However, OpenWRT enjoys strong support, a plethora of add-ons, and rapid speeds.
IPFire is easy to set up and configure. It provides users with a firewall, boasts intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, and can even be used on VPN facilities.
Okay, so much for the freebies. The following software requires money. Rest assured, however, that you get your money's worth!
The Top Three Firewall Software Apps for Windows and macOS
These paid firewalls work equally well for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
This offering is a full-featured Internet security suite available in two primary forms: one PC use or up to 10 devices. So, you can use this firewall to protect your home system and your mobile devices as well. In addition, Avast gives you file encryption, anti-ransomware protection, and file shredder options. You also receive anti-phishing and anti-fraud protections (great for safer online banking) and protection against hacking for your webcam. Beware the pop-up adverts, though; they can get annoying.
Here’s a product from a well-known security company. This robust cybersecurity suite provides a firewall, among other featured security protections. This product also includes antivirus protection, multi-layered malware protection, anti-phishing, anti-fraud, anti-theft options, and a performance optimizer. In addition, you get privacy protection options like anti-tracking, parental controls, file encryption and shredder, and protecting your microphone from getting hacked. Finally, this firewall protects up to five devices.
Here's the granddaddy of them all. Although it costs more, Norton 360 Premium gives you a full-featured security suite that includes a firewall. In addition, you get antivirus and standard anti-malware protection, a password manager, a secure VPN, parental controls, and online cloud backup. You even get dark web monitoring features that alert you if any of your details show up for sale on the Dark Web!
The Top Three Firewall Software Apps for Linux
Although Endian provides an open-source variant, we’re focusing on the paid version. Endian is a ready-to-use cybersecurity solution that offers four different versions (home users, small office network security, Wi-Fi/BYOD, and Industrial IoT). The firewall constantly analyzes data packets in real-time and offers extra features like bandwidth optimization, network failover, network gateway antivirus, VPN, intrusion prevention, and email security.
Nebero has five variants: Basic, SOHO, Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. The paid solutions feature unlimited user licenses and free upgrades and support for the first year. In addition, users get a gateway antivirus, unified threat management, intrusion prevention, Wi-Fi security, bandwidth management, virtual LAN, real-time monitoring, and additional protection for BYOD environments.
This product is a firewall solution based on the FreeBSD distribution of Linux and comes in an open-source and business version. OPNsense has remarkable firewall functionality and many valuable add-ons like web-filtering, two-factor authentication, intrusion detection, SD-WAN configurations, and a firewall compatible with IPv4 and IPv6. In addition, this firewall is well-supported, with over 70 plug-ins and 190 releases.
Firewalls for Small Business
Small businesses face different challenges than big companies or home-based consumers. These businesses require more protection than the standard commercial offering, yet they don't have the financial resources of the larger organizations. Unfortunately, a data breach that could minorly inconvenience a vast corporation could utterly ruin a small business.
Here are three great small business firewall offerings.
Fortinet is among the most well-known and effective hardware-driven solutions today. They have their own application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) processors that provide scalable, high-speed network management. Fortinet delivers a wide selection of routers and Next Generation Firewall support. In addition, Fortinet offers a Security Fabric package geared primarily towards small businesses. This comprehensive solution includes endpoint device protection, a powerful and secure firewall, and improved security for individual devices and applications.
Here’s another reputable, respected cybersecurity company that provides firewall protection for small businesses. SonicWall provides smaller companies with an agile, versatile firewall optimized for peak performance, featuring integrated Wi-Fi, single-pass deep packet inspection, and rapid setup.
We wind up our list with an entry from another respected name in cybersecurity. Although Cisco’s name is usually associated with larger corporations, they offer a series of small branch firewalls that are well-suited for the SMB crowd. Many of Cisco’s entry-level firewalls can handle 50 clients simultaneously, with 50 concurrently running VPN connections. Cisco’s smaller branch solutions offer SMBs cloud-based management and firewall protection. Additional security features include advanced malware protection, content filtering, and an automated VPN configuration to protect outgoing web connections.
Cyberspace may be filled with hordes of cybercrooks, spammers, scammers, and hackers, but don't worry; plenty of cybersecurity firewall solutions are available that won't break the bank. We've listed just a small sample of the many choices out there.
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