Answers on free consumer service (OpenDNS) to handle adult content/violence filtering
The Firewalla Gold router enables powerful and easily configurable control over a home network, from resisting attacks to identifying internal device threats to blocking ads and adult sites.
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The Firewalla Gold offers home users a network filter, router, and security engine in a compact hardware case, protecting their high-speed Internet connection from attacks both from outside the network and from compromised devices inside. network. It also offers ad blocking, parental controls, and a “Social Hour” that disables access to social networks for 60 minutes, for example, to spend time away from screens.
We reviewed Firewalla Gold, which is $499 when it’s not on sale, but 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, making decisions about what should and shouldn’t go through, and triggering alerts on dangerous activity. But most devices powerful enough to be useful require a level of network IT technology savvy or a willingness to fumble around in a difficult-to-understand web-based administrative interface.
The Firewalla, on the other hand, is a compact and modern option suitable for homes and a user with average network knowledge. Their smartphone app interface is crisp, easy to use, and most importantly, understandable.
Some of its features can be found in advanced home routers or broadband router/modem combos offered by ISPs. But those hardware options can’t satisfy the breadth of Firewalla nor, in most cases, the simplicity and depth. Having a dedicated device brings the utility into focus.
Detect, deter, and shape Internet traffic
Connect the Firewalla, perform some configuration operations via a smartphone app (including physical possession validation by scanning a QR code), and let it run silently for a few minutes scanning network traffic and completing its configuration. The app then reveals a number of options you can do 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 to a broadband modem. The best value for such a device is to place it between your modem and your primary router/gateway. The Gold model can also perform all routing functions. (The less expensive Blue Plus can serve as a bridge between a router and the rest of a network.)
During initial setup, the Firewall can scan your internal network for devices known to be compromised, a greater concern than your computers, phones, or tablets being attacked directly from the Internet. Attempts to hijack machines now come from devices within your network that have been remotely and automatically hijacked by malware. These local devices are often ignored by Wi-Fi gateways and ISP routers, although their trusted status allows them to more easily attempt to infect local devices or launch attacks as part of a coordinated army of “zombies” to take down other networks. .
Firewalla’s interface has a cleanly laid out dashboard that shows some network stats and then offers configuration categories like Ad Block, Family, Open Ports, and Network, as well as substantially more advanced ones. You can touch one of these items and drill down to view and analyze information or set options. You can also tap a link that displays the count of devices on the network, and then set policies individually per device, or create groups to apply policies to sets of devices.
Ad Block and Family allows you to enable filters to block known ad serving sites and violent and pornographic content. For the former, Firewalla provides no information about how it has assembled its ad blocking list and offers only “Default” and “Strict” labels as options. Ad blocking can be restricted to specific devices. The Family section offers options to block sites and search results, relying entirely on the free consumer flavor of OpenDNS, a service that can be used without a Firewall by simply changing a device’s or router’s DNS servers.
I tested their malware awareness by visiting research sites that list malware specifically to test for detection, and Firewalla provided the appropriate blocking and alerts.
Firewalla Gold includes two different types of VPN servers, both open source projects and a VPN client. The servers allow you to securely connect to your home network and Internet connection via a standard VPN from anywhere in the world. The client can pass traffic from an individual device to a commercial VPN (Firewalla suggests an Apple TV, which would be a way to allow it to bypass country-blocked restrictions), create a secure VPN tunnel between two Firewallas, and other possibilities.
Users with more sophisticated networking needs or interests may like the professional-grade features to create separate physical networks from each of the router’s LAN ports, so you can run 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 work-related purposes, or vice versa!
Firewalla offers applications for iPhone and Android, necessary for the initial configuration. However, it also provides access through a web application that relies on clever use of endpoint encryption. When uploading the web application, you must authenticate access through a smartphone application by scanning a QR code displayed in the browser. This securely passes an encryption key to the web application that 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 comes at the hefty $499 price tag. The firm says it can handle data flows of more than 3 Gbps, making it appropriate 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 less expensive Blue Plus at $199 will fit your needs.
The bottom line
Firewalla Gold performed as expected when operating on one part 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 about the devices on my network. net. they were up to it. The company should provide more transparency on how it assembles its ad blocking list and should consider licensing safe site lists to integrate directly rather than using OpenDNS indirectly.
The Firewalla Gold or Blue Plus should be configurable enough and provide enough feedback on your actions to suit anyone who wants the degree of control provided, plus extras like a built-in VPN connection. Particularly nice? No recurring charges.