A firewall is an app or a physical device that protects you when you're using a local computer network. It can block attempts to gain unauthorized access to the network, and it can block unauthorizedmore
A firewall is an app or a physical device that protects you when you're using a local computer network. It can block attempts to gain unauthorized access to the network, and it can block unauthorized communication by hidden and/or malicious software that's running on your device.
While your home or workplace may be well-protected against digital intrusion, your local coffee shop may not have the best wireless security. Someone may also try to trick you into connecting to an unsafe public wireless network. In those scenarios, it's not a bad idea to have third-party firewall software running alongside or in place of Windows' built-in firewall.
Public Wi-Fi users may also want to consider a VPN, which will create a private encrypted tunnel between you and the website you're visiting. That makes it hard for other people on the public network to snoop on your activities. Check out our VPN buyer's guide. For the best experience, you will probably have to pay a subscription fee to access a VPN designed for personal use.
Before you buy a standalone firewall app, check whether you already have protection.
Firewalls in Windows: Windows PCs from version XP onward have software firewalls built into the operating system. The Windows' firewall only attempts to protect you from things getting in, and it does so in silence, so don't feel bad if you've never noticed it.
Firewalls on Macs: MacOS also has a built-in software firewall. It's disabled by default, but then MacOS doesn't have Windows-grade security concerns in most home-user scenarios. Firewalls in routers, modems, and antivirus apps: Almost all home network routers have a built-in firewall, and so do many high-speed modems. Premium antivirus software also frequently bundles a decent firewall.
A router with a firewall uses a system called Network Address Translation (NAT) so that only the router's IP address is visible to the Internet, rather than the device that's connecting via the router. However, the router's IP address is still assigned by your Internet service provider, which keeps a log of when this IP was assigned and where. So if you want privacy, you'll still need an encrypted connection (indicated by the HTTPS prefix in your browser address bar) or a relay like the Tor network.
While firewalls help protect your local network, a website can still trick you into giving it sensitive information. This is chiefly done by the site masking itself as a legitimate-looking bank or social media site. The URL may also be spelled similarly to the legit website. When you transmit your username and password to log in to an account on the fake website, its owners now have access (unless your account is set up with two-step verification).
ZoneAlarm is easy to use and works alongside your antivirus and other security tools, including many other firewalls. Its Auto-Learn feature conforms to your computer use. After you've allowed your frequently used apps, ZoneAlarm mostly works in the background, only appearing when something changes, like when you install a new program that wants to connect to the Internet.
A snoop-free browsing experience can be difficult to achieve, but apps like the Tor Browser make it possible. The browser is a modified form of Firefox with built-in support for the Tor network. This is a network of encrypting relays between you and the Internet that makes it difficult for nosy people to intercept your private online communications or record your whereabouts. The Tor Browser works similarly to a VPN, but it's more decentralized, and it's free. The Android version is called Orfox and is used in combination with the Orbot app to connect to the Tor network. iOS doesn't have an official Tor option, but there are third-party Tor-aware browsers such as Art Fusion's VPN Browser.