Answers on Free Consumer Service (OpenDNS) to Manage Adult/Violent Content Filtering
The Firewalla Gold Router provides easily configurable and powerful control over a home network, from resisting attacks and identifying insider device threats to blocking ads and adult sites.
The Firewalla Gold offers individuals a network filter, router and security engine in a compact hardware box, protecting their high-speed Internet connection from attacks originating outside the network as well as compromised devices inside the network . It also offers ad blocking, parental controls, and a “social hour” that disables access to social networks for 60 minutes, to, for example, spend time away from screens.
We reviewed the Firewalla Gold, which is $499 when not on sale, but the Firewalla Blue Plus offers all the features most households need for just $189.
It’s not a new idea to insert a hardware gateway between an internal network and the rest of the internet to inspect data and connections in real time, and make decisions about what should pass and what shouldn’t. , and trigger alerts on dangerous activities. But most devices powerful enough to be useful require some level of networking computing knowledge or the willingness to fumble around in a difficult-to-understand web-based administrative interface.
Firewall, on the other hand, is a compact and modern option suitable for home users and a user with average network knowledge. The interface of its smartphone application is clear, easy to use and, above all, understandable.
Some of its features can be found in advanced home routers or broadband modem/router combinations offered by ISPs. But those hardware options can’t match Firewalla’s breadth, or, in most cases, simplicity and depth. Having a dedicated device emphasizes utility.
Detect, deter and shape internet traffic
Plug in the firewalla, do some setup via a smartphone app (including validating physical possession by scanning a QR code), and let it run quietly for a few minutes scanning network traffic and completing its configuration. The app then reveals a number of choices you can make for alerts, monitoring, prioritization, and blocking, among other available features.
The Firewalla Gold has an internal four-port Ethernet switch and a separate WAN port for connection to the rest of a network or a broadband modem. The best value for a device of this type is to sit between your modem or your main router or gateway. The Gold model can also perform all routing functions. (The cheaper Blue Plus can act as a bridge between a router and the rest of a network.)
During initial setup, the firewall can scan the internal network for devices known to have compromises, a bigger concern than having your computers, phones or tablets attacked directly from the internet. Now machine hacking attempts come from devices on your network that have been hacked remotely and automatically by malware. These local devices are typically ignored by Wi-Fi gateways and ISP routers, even though their trusted status makes it easier for them to attempt to infect local devices or launch attacks as part of a coordinated army of ” zombies” to destroy other networks.
The Firewalla interface has a cleanly laid out dashboard that displays some network stats and then offers settings categories like Ad Block, Family, Open Ports, and Network, along with much more advanced categories. You can press any of these items and access the display and analysis of information or the configuration of options. You can also tap a link showing the number of networked devices, then set policies individually per device, or create groups to apply policies to sets of devices.
Ad Block and Family allow you to enable filters to block well-known ad serving sites and violent and pornographic content. For the former, Firewalla provides no information on how it assembled its ad blocking list and only offers the “Default” and “Strict” labels as options. Ad blocking can be limited to specific devices. The Family section offers choices for blocking sites and search results, relying entirely on the free consumer version of OpenDNS, a service that can be used without a firewall by simply changing DNS servers from one device or router.
I tested its malware awareness by visiting research sites that specifically list malware to test detection, and the firewall provided appropriate blocking and alerts.
Firewalla Gold includes two different types of VPN servers, both open source projects and a VPN client. Servers allow you to securely connect to your home network and its internet connection through a standard VPN, no matter where you are in the world. The client can forward traffic from an individual device to a commercial VPN (Firewalla suggests an Apple TV, which would be a way for you to get around country restrictions), create a secure VPN tunnel between two Firewallas, and other possibilities .
Users with more sophisticated networking needs or interests may appreciate the enterprise-grade features to create separate physical networks from each of the router’s LAN ports, so you can provide network security as separate Ethernet chains. You can also create VLANs (virtual networks) to create a logical separation between physical networks. There are also options to prioritize and control network streams to downgrade video for more professional purposes, or vice versa!
Firewalla offers iPhone and Android apps, which are required for initial setup. However, it also provides access through a web application that relies on a clever use of endpoint encryption. When loading the web app, you must authenticate access via a smartphone application by scanning a QR Code displayed in the browser. This passes an encryption key securely into the web application which is only stored locally. This approach prevents other parties, including Firewalla, from accessing the data.
Firewalla’s Gold model, the model we reviewed, packs all the features the company offers in any router, but has the hefty price tag of $499. The company claims it can handle data streams of over 3 Gbps, making it suitable for a home with gigabit internet. However, if you don’t need advanced physical or logical LAN configuration features and have a network connection of 500 Mbps or less, the much cheaper Blue Plus at $199 will do the trick.
The bottom line
The Firewalla Gold worked as expected when running on a branch of a home network: it blocked malware, tracked behavior, discovered devices, reported internet-accessible ports, prevented ads from loading, and provided a treasure trove of information. information about the devices on my network. were on point. The company should provide more transparency on how it assembles its ad blocking list and should consider allowing safe site lists to integrate directly instead of indirectly using OpenDNS.
The Firewalla Gold or Blue Plus should be configurable enough and provide enough feedback on its actions to suit anyone who wants the degree of control provided, along with extras like a built-in VPN connection. Particularly nice? No recurring charges.