Firewalla review: A powerful solution to monitor and protect your home network (Update: 4 months later)

Article Contents

  • 1 The Good
  • 2 The Not So Good
  • 3 {Hardware}, what’s within the field
  • 4 Set up and setup
  • 5 Options
    • 5.1 Energetic monitoring
    • 5.2 Passive monitoring – Alarms
    • 5.3 Blocking
    • 5.4 Different options
    • 5.5 What’s lacking
  • 6 Do you have to purchase it?
    • 6.1 Purchase it if
    • 6.2 Do not buy it if
  • 7 The place to purchase

Safety and privateness are on the coronary heart of our considerations with expertise now. With each breach, hack, and vulnerability, we uncover how frail this digital footprint we have created is. To guard ourselves, we be sure that our units are all the time up to date with the newest safety patches, we attempt to keep away from suspicious websites and apps, we hold our eyes open for phishing makes an attempt in our inbox, however that also is not sufficient. When you have good dwelling devices or in case you do not management each gadget in your family, you want network-level safety. Some Wi-Fi routers supply this, however the function is often tied in a month-to-month subscription.

Firewalla goals to supply that network-level safety for a one-time payment ($109 or $179). You purchase the tiny gadget, plug it in, and it screens all site visitors, whether or not it is coming from wi-fi or Ethernet units, and warns you when one thing appears out of order. It additionally provides a bunch of good options to your community: parental protections, per-device guidelines, advert blocking, VPN server, amongst others. I have been utilizing it for a month and it has turn into a worthwhile device in my home.

The Good

SimplicityYou possibly can get a few of Firewalla’s options with a customized router firmware or one thing like a Raspberry Pi, however Firewalla comes ready-to-use out of the field and is easy sufficient for anybody to arrange and use.
Community monitoringLoads of routers do not supply per-device bandwidth utilization. Firewalla does and allows you to monitor misbehaving units and warns you when one thing is out of order.
GuidelinesParental controls are good, however Firewalla goes the additional step of letting you block several types of utilization per gadget at particular instances.
Extra optionsAdvert blocker, native VPN to connect with your private home community even in case you’re away, DNS booster, and extra.
One-time worthNo subscription, pay as soon as for the gadget and also you get all of the included companies.

The Not So Good

Too delicateFirewalla’s default alerts may be alarming for no cause. I needn’t know if my telephone uploaded 1MB to Google’s servers — it is an Android telephone, that is anticipated.
Lacking optionsThe detailed per-domain site visitors monitor solely covers the final 24hrs. No per-device bandwidth restrict per day or hour, no advert blocking exceptions.

{Hardware}, what’s within the field

Earlier than you get began with Firewalla, you’ll want to have a look at the listing of suitable routers and mesh networks and ensure yours is supported. If that is the case, you must select amongst two potential models: Pink ($109) for web connections which are slower than 100Mbit, and Blue ($179) for sooner ones. Since my connection tops out at 16-20Mbit on a very good day, I am reviewing the Pink, however all options needs to be the identical throughout each choices. Firewalla Blue can simply deal with a much bigger load.

The tiny gadget is so simple as it will get. On the entrance, there’s Micro-USB for energy and a MicroSD slot with a pre-inserted card, that acts because the mind of the gadget. The again has Ethernet and USB-A ports. Vents on the perimeters assist it cool off, and a QR barcode on the highest is required to authenticate your Firewalla license.

Within the field, you get the unit, an Ethernet cable, a wall charger and USB-A to Micro-USB cable, and a guide. You do not want extra.

Set up and setup

After plugging within the field for energy, you’ll want to join it to your community over Ethernet. There are a number of potential eventualities right here:

  • When you have a modem/router all-in-one gadget, you simply plug Firewalla in one of many LAN ports.
  • When you have a separate modem and router, you plug Firewalla in one of many router’s LAN ports — it will monitor all wi-fi units and even ones plugged into the router’s different LANs.
  • When you have a modem and a mesh community, you’ll want to plug Firewalla within the main mesh gadget’s LAN ports — it will monitor something related to the first or satellite tv for pc mesh models, whether or not wirelessly or through LAN.

A couple of minutes of wait are vital for Firewalla as well up and initialize, so be slightly affected person. Within the app, you may see a + signal to begin the pairing course of, which requires scanning the barcode on high of the unit. Then you definitely’re taken via the preliminary setup, the place you may select between easy and DHCP modes. My Netgear Orbi is suitable with the easy mode, so I went with that.

Firewalla setup.

Firewalla
Firewalla
Developer:
Firewalla LLC
Value:
Free

Options

The Firewalla app is chockfull of options and can take a little bit of time to get used to, however as soon as you understand the place the whole lot is, it is a fairly simple expertise. Nearly the whole lot you set on your complete community can be utilized on a per-device foundation, so hold that in thoughts as you learn on.

Energetic monitoring

On the homescreen, you may discover your paired Firewalla models. Select one and also you’re offered with a abstract of the whole lot you want: a graph of whole bandwidth utilization from the final 30 days, 24 hours, or 60 minutes, shortcuts to entry related units, alarms, guidelines, and all options (Advert Block, Household Defend, VPN Server, and many others…).

30-day, 24-hour, and 60-minute utilization on homescreen. The app has a darkish theme for Android 10.

Beside customizing this display screen to indicate extra function shortcuts, you may faucet on the 24-hour graph (not the opposite two) to view an in depth community stream. It is divided by hour, add, obtain, chronological historical past, or apps. The latter is Firewalla’s personal method of telling you what you used a tool for (e-mail, messaging, social, video, and so forth); it is not very exact as not all IP addresses are categorized, however it’s indicative sufficient.

Left: Customizing options. Center: What’s taking place now. Proper: Motive for the 9pm 1.8GB peak.

This international view tells you when your community was used probably the most and thru which IP. Tapping on any line reveals extra particulars. It’s possible you’ll must do some sleuthing to determine what an unknown IP handle means, however so long as no alarm was raised by Firewalla about it, you seemingly needn’t trouble until it is one thing fully out of the extraordinary like an inactive gadget importing 200MB of information for no cause.

Firewalla does not do a very good job of letting your monitor which units could also be clogging your community proper now. You may get that sort of data, however you may actually need to dig round within the community stream in addition to consider that the Now tab consolidates the whole lot from the highest of the hour and sometimes stays a few minutes behind. That side needs to be simplified.

If you happen to’re not focused on quick monitoring, you may nonetheless glean loads of information from the overall community tables or the per gadget ones. Each gadget additionally will get its personal 30-day, 24-hour, and 60-minute graph, with management buttons, choices to rename it, and verify its MAC handle.

Left: System listing ordered by obtain. Center: Sorting choices. Proper: System web page.

This allows you to monitor down what every gadget in your community is doing as an alternative of viewing the worldwide image, and you’ll determine to behave on sure domains and IP addresses immediately.

Left: Hourly downloads per gadget. Center: “Apps” used. Proper: Particulars of an IP connection.

Because of this, I used to be capable of verify what my good dwelling units had been doing all day. I found that my Nuki lock actually solely connects when it is wanted and by no means strays from the nuki.io servers. My Hue Hub additionally does not do a lot if not known as upon, similar as my Somfy TaHoma good blinds hub, and Cielo air conditioner remotes. It is a reduction to see that the units I selected for my dwelling aren’t spending their time speaking to some unknown servers goodness is aware of the place and importing tons of information to them.

Left: Nuki’s utilization is exemplary. Center: Nuki IP addresses. Proper: Hue Hub utilization is clear too.

My SmartThings Hub, alternatively appears to want a base 200KB/hour whether or not it is doing one thing or not. Nothing alarming, however maybe not vital. The most important culprits of background utilization are my Google Houses and Lenovo Good Show. Even when not used, the audio system can rack as much as 10-15MB of uploads/downloads per day. The Lenovo, alternatively turned out to be utilizing 200MB/day even after we weren’t dwelling as a result of I might set the ambient show’s images to rotate each minute. I lowered the frequency and that bought it right down to round 50MB/day. Given my restricted month-to-month allowance (a ridiculous 100GB), each saved MB counts and this implies I’ve about 4GB extra each month to make use of on one thing else.

Left: SmartThings Hub (30 days). Center: Google House (24hrs, unused). Proper: Lenovo Good Show (30 days).

Firewalla got here in helpful when each my husband and I had been caught at dwelling for a few week due to the iffy scenario in Lebanon. That meant we had been each utilizing our dwelling connection for work and leisure, however Firewalla helped us level out the most important wrongdoer websites after the primary day and tone down our utilization of them within the following days, thus avoiding massive overcharges.

Passive monitoring – Alarms

Those that do not need to be concerned in baby-sitting their community can nonetheless profit so much from Firewalla. The gadget alerts you each time an unknown gadget connects to your community to keep away from intrusions, tells you which ones open ports are left accessible, lets you understand when VPN, video, gaming, or porn exercise is detected, and retains a watch on suspicious websites and uploads.

After we put in the Firewalla, my husband and I talked about which options we wished to observe and which had been pointless. We do not have children so we needn’t find out about video, gaming, and porn utilization, we additionally get frequent energy cuts so notifications every time a tool goes offline or on-line do not make sense. Each family’s case is totally different, and you’ll management the way you get alerted (notification in your telephone or simply alarms contained in the app) and which units to mute for every class. For instance, you may watch as many movies as you need in your telephone with out triggering an alert, however the child’s pill sends a notification in the event that they do.

Left: Alarm classes. Center: Instance of gaming alarm settings. Proper: Actions after getting an alarm.

Over the month that we have used Firewalla, we have acquired a few suspicious website alerts (none from actively-visited web sites, so most probably cookies or adverts), however we bought a number of irregular add alarms. In a number of events, these had been anticipated behaviors: My Canary safety cam importing 12MB of information to its servers when it detected movement and recorded a video after midnight is regular, so I muted alarms for uploads to canary’s area. However, any gadget utilizing a P2P app will seemingly generate a ton of add alarms and there is no approach to disable these on a tool foundation. It is per IP or area solely, or you may totally disable monitoring for the gadget, which suggests you quit on all of the graphs. Neither is a perfect resolution.

Firewalla’s add alarms are too delicate generally. A 1MB add from my Google House to Google’s servers is not one thing to be scared about, so I had to make use of my higher judgment and keep away from panicking every time I noticed a notification. With time, I’ve lowered the variety of pointless alerts by muting sure domains and IPs, however I’ve saved a couple of I might wish to find out about even when I am not going to behave on them or block them.

Instance of an irregular add alarm, particulars, and actions.

Blocking

One of many foremost advantages of putting in Firewalla was the power to disable adverts on the network-level for a number of of our units. As an alternative of putting in apps or browser extensions, one swap is flipped and also you cease seeing adverts in all of your Android apps and all websites you browse. The draw back is which you could’t set exceptions on a site-by-site foundation, so Engadget.com does not load in any respect for instance, and a few websites will refuse to indicate you content material until you disable the advert blocker momentarily to view them.

Left & Center: Advert Block setting per gadget. Proper: Android Police with out adverts. Not beneficial 😉

For households, Firewalla gives three helpful options: Household Defend, which acts like parental controls and blocks entry to sure inappropriate websites; Protected Search, which filters out inoffensive content material from outcomes; and Social Hour, which disables all social community websites for an hour and stops distractions throughout household or time for supper.

Left: Household Defend setting. Center: Visiting a porn website on a protected gadget. Proper: Social Hour.

 

Left: Visiting Twitter throughout Social Hour. Center & Proper: Protected Search settings.

In conditions the place none of those international blocks apply, you continue to have the likelihood to arrange gadget guidelines: Choose the time of day and days of the week, select which kind of exercise to dam (video games, social networks, P2P, porn, video, or playing) or arrange a selected area, IP handle, IP vary, or distant port. Firewalla can be testing Geo-IP filtering to allow you to block all domains in a sure nation.

Left: Blocking guidelines. Center: One rule’s settings. Proper: Select what to dam.

Left: Customise domains for every class of blocked websites. Center & Proper: When video is blocked.

Different options

Firewalla additionally consists of loads of different options that I will not delve into. You possibly can arrange a VPN server to entry your private home community from anyplace, or check out the VPN consumer function in beta which lets corporations arrange website to website entry, or allows you to route your total site visitors via a third-party VPN. There’s additionally a DNS Booster, IPv6 assist, and a few settings to manage your Firewalla field.

What’s lacking

Having examined the monitoring and blocking options of Firewalla extensively, I discover myself impressed by what’s obtainable, but in addition lacking a couple of options. The utilization tables mix IP addresses hourly however not day by day, so they do not present a greater understanding of longer utilization. In addition they do not merge similar IP handle entry from a number of units, so there is no straightforward approach to understand how a lot I’ve used YouTube from my telephone and pc and Nvidia Defend mixed. And I can not set a billing cycle begin date to see my utilization for that particular month. The 30-day graph is simply helpful after I’m nearing the tip of the month, not after I’m in the course of it.

For guidelines, I might like a bandwidth restrict per gadget on an hourly or day by day foundation (i.e. this pc will get 1GB of utilization per day, then it is blocked) and if potential a approach to restrict streaming high quality on some units. Given my 100GB month-to-month restrict, forcing 720p or 1080p video on all units can be very useful to keep away from 4K video on websites that do not present a guide picker.

The advert blocker may additionally profit from site-specific exclusions, although I doubt that is potential or suitable with the way in which Firewalla at the moment blocks adverts. Moreover, a minimal threshold for irregular uploads would assist filter out small and certain benign uploads, whereas a approach to block alerts for a sure units or actions (P2P) may scale back loads of the ineffective alarms.

Just a few different minor adjustments like the power to set a default sorting technique for units, and assigning icons for every one (telephone, pc, good gentle, thermostat, and many others…) would make it simpler to seek out the gadget you are on the lookout for in a protracted listing.

Do you have to purchase it?

Firewalla

8.5/10

Sure. Firewalla is an entire community monitor and a really respectable cyber-security resolution. On this tiny field lies loads of energy that permits you to monitor every IP handle pinged by every gadget in your community. Because of it, I do know I can belief lots of my devices, however I used to be additionally capable of change some settings to keep away from pointless overconsumption on others. Compared, my Netgear Orbi simply offers me a day by day/weekly/month-to-month utilization graph for all units mixed and does not let me see which one could also be sucking up my bandwidth ought to my consumption rise.

Firewalla’s alarms for suspicious habits may be worry mongering in case you do not absolutely perceive what your units are purported to do, so you must method them with knowledge, solely allow alerts that you simply care about, and keep away from panicking when an unknown server is accessed. Extra seemingly than not, it is benign and also you simply want time to get used to every gadget’s quirky behaviors. However in case you monitor down a very malicious add or entry, you may simply block that, and that is one other main good thing about proudly owning this little gadget.

Add the advert blocker, full suite of family-friendly options, guidelines, and VPN server, and you’ve got a easy however highly effective all-in-one community device. It is like supercharging your private home community with options that often both require a customized router firmware or an costly paid subscription.

Purchase it if

  • You need full management over your private home community, particularly for good dwelling units and different devices.
  • You retain going over your month-to-month allocation and do not know which units are inflicting the overconsumption.
  • You have got children and need to cease them from accessing sure actions and websites.

Do not buy it if

  • Your router already gives a few of these options without spending a dime and the remaining aren’t value greater than $100.
  • You are comfy utilizing customized firmware in your router — you may seemingly discover one that gives these options without spending a dime.
  • You do not have a suitable router.

The place to purchase


Replace 1: 2020/04/06 12:01pm PDT by Rita El Khoury

4 months later

For the previous 4 months, Firewalla has remained hooked up to my Netgear Orbi mesh as my all-in-one community resolution. At a time when individuals are overusing their dwelling connections, it helps me monitor which units are the most important culprits in my dwelling, arrange massive bandwidth alarms and month-to-month allowances (new options, nonetheless in beta), flip off social websites throughout sure hours of the day, and effortlessly hold an lively advert blocker on a few of my units. I recall a couple of situations the place I attempted a brand new app on my telephone at dwelling and thought it was superior, then went to my pharmacy and realized it is filled with adverts that I did not see at first. (Because of this, I am contemplating getting a Firewalla for my office too.)

It has additionally detected and immediately blocked a couple of situations of malicious websites — seemingly cookies or adverts — attempting to entry our computer systems. I solely noticed that after the very fact, so I did not need to intervene. Firewalla did it by itself.

Nonetheless, it stays slightly too alarmist about sure uploads and P2P websites, so I’ve discovered to dismiss these alerts and solely verify them out as soon as per week or so, to ensure there was nothing actually odd. In any other case, it is nonetheless straightforward to mute sure sorts of notifications or IP addresses and scale back the variety of instances it pings me.

One of the best half about having it’s that it retains chugging alongside and doing its factor, with none lively enter from me more often than not. That is why it is nonetheless straightforward for me to suggest it, whether or not you need to shield and monitor your private home community, institute a couple of guidelines to your children whereas they’re at dwelling the entire time, pressure your self off Twitter and YouTube throughout work hours, use a VPN on a number of units, or the entire above.

About Rita El Khoury

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