Firewall Software: How to Choose the Best Software
With critical information – from bank account numbers and personal passwords – being stored on today's computers, owners must take every step to guarantee no one gains unauthorized access to their machines. While computer owners typically focus on security features such as antivirus and antispyware software, one of the first lines of defense in keeping computers and networks secure is firewall software.
What is Firewall Software?
Firewall software provides the kind of protection a security alarm provides for a home, allowing only certain traffic through specified doors or ports. Firewall software also alerts computer owners, or takes one of many predetermined actions, when someone tries to gain unauthorized access. Specifically, it analyzes data as it enters and exits a computer and then filters out the bad and the good. The good and safe data is allowed to continue through, while the harmful data is stopped from ever entering the network.
A recent study by Australian independent security researcher Craig S. Wright determined just how big of a difference firewall software makes in keeping computers and networks safe.
Without firewalls, none of Wright's 640 virtual machines escaped infection for more than five days, but with the firewall software enabled, it took at least 108 days for any machine to be compromised.
"It is hard not to conclude that the Windows Firewall makes a statistically significant difference to the security of the system," Wright wrote in his study.
Choosing the Best Firewall Software
With numerous options for firewall software, it is important consider several factors when choosing one. Among the most critical pieces are the types of features the software offers.
While all firewall software should keep the system hidden and uninvited people and programs out, the best options contain tools to manage spyware, cookies and viruses. Other features offered by some firewall software include Internet filtering to restrict content and the ability to keep IP addresses and browsers hidden while surfing the Internet.
Other features to look for include extras like antiphishing, antivirus and antimalware tools, as well as parental controls and instant message protection.
When choosing firewall software, computer owners should also consider how easy it is to install and use and how much support is offered.
In an article for TechTarget, Mike Chapple, an IT security professional with the University of Notre Dame, advised computer owners to make sure their chosen firewall software works with their operating system,
"If you're a Linux jockey, you probably don't want to choose a Windows-based firewall," Chapple wrote. "On the other hand, if you don't know ⁄dev⁄null from ⁄var⁄log, you probably want to steer clear of Unix-based solutions."
Top Firewall Software
One of the top options for personal firewall software is Comodo Internet Security Plus 2012, which protects against the most sophisticated cybercriminals. The Comodo firewall gathersand maintains a database of threat signatures to automatically protect users without unnecessary alerts. The software directs unknown files to a virtual sandbox until their true character is revealed so that they can be categorized or exterminated.
Comodo offers a number of security features, including the ability to control the launching of Windows Explorer to prevent a suspected process from changing or launching the default browser, as well as options for preventing spyware and keylogging. In addition, since Comodo is more than a firewall, it also detects and blocks viruses, Trojan horses, worms, rootkits and other malware in real time.
To encourage users to back up data on a regular basis, Comodo also provides 2GB of online storage space.
Bitdefender Internet Security 2013 is another popular firewall software option. Bitdefender includes a two-way firewall that can secure a local area network and protect it from intrusion via wireless networks. It reliably blocks, filters and stealths ports with no glitches.
The software also features parental controls, such as the ability to specify which people children are allowed to instant message, as well as antiphishing and antimalware tools.
Another well-regarded option is the Agnitum Outpost Pro Firewall 7.5.1 Performance. The software detects inbound and outbound threats to the system and applications, as well as attacks from local networks and the Internet. Agnitum’s cloud-based ImproveNet collects data from users to expand its threat database threat database in order to deploy more automatic rules.
The software also has the ability to protect specific files and folders, as well as a Proactive Protection feature that secures logins, passwords, browser histories and e-wallets. In addition, Agnitum includes antispyware tools.
Other top firewall software options include Kaspersky Internet Security, a suite of security products built around a secure two-way Windows firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro Firewall, which features the ability to analyze the potential danger of a downloaded program and the capability to authenticate when and where a website was registered to determine if it is dangerous or safe, and Online Armor Premium 5.1, which anticipates all of the most current hacker tricks and includes the mechanisms to prevent security breaches.