Firewalls, no doubt, are one of the most important components of your computer (network). You know you need a firewall, so that your computer (network) is not visible on the Internet to the bad guys. These are bad guys who find computer ports and access your computer through one of them. Their tactics keep on changing and hence, the firewall designing companies add more and more security to their firewalls – firmware or software. While the built-in Windows Firewall works good for most of us, this article discusses some of the best free firewalls for Windows.
Best Firewalls for 2014
Closed Port Vs Stealth Port
For long, I’ve believed all of us IT’ians believe in keeping the ports in stealth mode. However, a user responded to my review of Comodo firewall saying his ISP (Internet Service Provided) has programmed the network in a way that shows ports as “closed” as against the preferred “stealth”. I do not how that makes the computer or the computer network behind that firewall any safer. In my opinion, closed ports are still vulnerable as the bad guys can always figure out how to open them using a combination of techniques. Just listen to traffic, get to the computer usingopen port and then open the closed ports.
In case you do not know about the difference between closed port mode and stealth port mode, here is a simple description. A computer has many ports through which it communicates with different components attached to it such as printers, scanners, keyboards and routers etc. The ports connected to printers and other peripherals are okay as long as they do not form “things of the Internet” – meaning they are not connected to Internet. But if any of those computers or the peripherals is connected to the Internet, we have to make sure no one can access them without proper permissions. That sums up to the entire thing to “everything connects to the Internet through one or more port”.
For example, port number 995 is used to receive secure email. Port #110 is also used to receive mail via an unencrypted connection to the Internet. Likewiseport number 80 is used to connect to Internet in most Windows-based computers.
What hackers do is to try and find any instances of ports – open or closed so that they can gain access to any computer (network) or server. If the port is open, they can straightaway get into the computer (network). If the port is closed, they can still use a combination of techniques to get into the computer (network). However, if the port is in stealth mode, it is invisible to others on the Internet. Stealth case makes your computer (network) disappear from the Internet.
In my opinion, the firewalls that prevent ports of your computer networks from appearing on the Internet are the best. Thus, you should go for firewalls that provide stealth mode for ports rather than closed. I do not know why some of the ISPs are using closed modes as told to me by way of comment on my review of Comodo firewall. If any of you have an answer, please share it with me.
List of Top 5 Free Firewalls For Windows 7 – For 2014
Please note that this list of top 5 free firewalls may not be perfect. I selected a little over a dozen firewalls and ran few tests available on the Internet. They were basic tests that are easily available to anyone. I will list them towards the end of this post under References section. These are best free firewalls for Windows as per my observation. Check them out and if you feel I missed or included something that shouldn’t be here, please inform me – with reasons.
#1 Hardware Firewalls
As always, the firmware firewalls are on top and are present at the very first point of contact with the Internet. Hardware firewalls are ones included in your routers and modems that help you stay invisible on the Internet. While the default mode they provide is stealth mode, you can use one of the tests mentioned below to see the results. In case you wish to test the hardware firewall, please disable any other firewall (including Windows firewall) before running the tests. You can read more here on Hardware firewall vs Software firewall.
While I was totally convinced that these are the best form of protection as you can have these firewall turned on and then use a software firewall to add another layer, I now urge you to test the hardware firewall just in case your ISP too configured them to appear as closed instead of stealth mode.
#2 Comodo Firewall
There are plenty of good reviews of Comodo free firewall comparing it to Zonealarm free firewall. But please note that the Zonealarm free firewall does not provide all the features that Comodo Free Firewall. I guess the articles comparing Comodo and ZoneAlarm were comparing Comodo Free Firewall with the paid ZoneAlarm Security Suite.
The same is reflected by Matousec - a website that offers comparison among different security suites. Matousec places Comodo firewall at the first place among software firewalls. My own tests showed all ports in stealth mode. Please read our complete review of Comodo Free Firewall.
#3 Private Firewall
This is not much popular firewall, and probably few of you might not even have heard of it. CNET gives it 5 stars (spectacular) rating. It works and works much better compared to many other free firewalls for Windows. Comodo is best, but is a bit heavy on resources. The alerts from Comodo may sometimes be very complex for novices. If you need a simple firewall that goes easy on your computer resources, here is a little about Private Firewall.
#4 Outpost Security Suite
As evident from the name, Outpost is a complete security suite. That means it has a firewall, an antimalware and antispyware etc. components. The entire thing can be installed in few clicks. Though free, you have to register it to continue using beyond two days. I would have preferred if it offered firewall separately instead of offering entire bundle. That way you could have used a separate antivirus with the benefit of Outpost firewall. It has 3.5 stars from CNET and 3 stars from PC Mag. Here is our review of Outpost Security Suite.
#5 ZoneAlarm Free Firewall
No list of firewalls is complete without mentioning ZoneAlarm firewall. Though the pro version offers a much better protection, the free version too is highly popular and runs on many computers across the world. For more details, please read our review of ZoneAlarm.
What is you opinion? Which firewall do you use and which do you think is the best one? If you think I missed something or included something that shouldn’t be here, please let me know me.
(Post updated for 2014)
- Matousec, Comparison Of Security Suites
- Hacker Watch, Simple Port Test
- PC Flank
- GRC, Shields Up Tests: Gibson Research Corp
Join the discussion on the Best Free Antivirus for Windows too!