There are many Free Firewalls out there, but a number of them are free for only a limited time or have limited services. We cover the firewalls that are really free below.
We list a number of Free Firewalls that you can download, install and play with. These free firewalls do not have time out periods and are truly free. If you find out a firewall is not free, please make us aware!
Many of the free firewalls knock the built in Windows XP Firewall (ICF) because it is inbound only. Windows free firewall is a “stateful” firewall which monitors all aspects of the communications that it sees and examines the source and the destination address of each message that the firewall is configured to manage.
Communications that originate from a computer outside your system, such as from the Internet, are stopped by the firewall unless you have told the firewall to allow such communication. This prevents common hacking methods such as port scanning. Windows free firewall creates a log file so that you can view the activity that is tracked by the firewall.
What inbound protection does is provide security against computers that are trying to connect to your computer by initiating a connection. However, should you first establish a connection with a hostile program or website, then the Windows Firewall will assume you want that connection and allow it.
The Dark Side of free firewalls:
Here’s the catch that most free firewall vendors don’t tell you about. Their software will prompt you when it detects an outbound connection (outbound connections happen regularly). Here’s an example:
Notice: svchost.exe is attempting to communicate with the internet. Should this be permitted? [Yes] [No]
The majority of computer users have no idea if they should allow this or not. At first, the average user will choose [no] only to discover that they can no longer visit internet sites or have prevented needed communication.
Want to guess what they’ll choose next time one of the free firewalls prompt them for permission? – the answer will be [yes]. Chances are that one of the times, it will be spy ware trying to communicate and because they choose [yes], they inadvertently set a rule that allows the wrong program to access the internet.
Windows Vista Free Firewall:
The built in firewall on Vista now has the ability to block incoming and outgoing connections. It comes with a default of restricting incoming connections while allowing outgoing connection. For the average user, this is good enough but for those that really want to lock down their system can do so by configuring outbound rules.
To configure outbound security, you must be logged in as administrator, then go to Start, Programs, Administrative Tools and select Windows Firewall with Administrative Tools. From there, you can create any type of firewall configuration you can think of!
How to make Your Old Firewall Better
If you are running an older version of Windows and don’t have the options of the new Windows built in firewall, I have an IPSEC Policy which you can downloaded and install in minutes! Once you have the IPSEC Policy in place, your security should be tight enough for internet travels.
The key in looking for any free firewall is the ability to block and filter inbound and outbound connections, but do it without confusing the user. There is a benefit to being prompted in that you will know exactly what program is trying to initiate the connection.
Free Firewalls other than Windows
In the end, choosing a firewall package is a decision you’ll have to make. To download and play with some of the top free firewalls, simply visit our list of Free Firewalls.
As I have time, I’ll review each of the free firewalls I have listed and make suggestions as to which one you should use. Until then, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask them on our web security forum listed to the left. Just let me know what type of setup you have and I’ll do my best to suggest a possible solution made just for you.