The best things in life are free. Firewalls too, it would seem, still pack quite a punch without having a price tag. Some of the best free programs give the paid versions a run for their money, and we will be telling you which free firewalls are worth your time and effort.
Put your wallet away, because you won’t have any need for it.
#1 – Comodo Personal Firewall
Comodo gets the editor’s choice pick, because it caters to both beginners and technical gurus. Being a free firewall, you would expect less from Comodo than paid counterparts. Comodo holds its own by stopping hacking attempts, denying programs access to the internet based on rules, and alerting users when suspicious activity is taking place. This kind of functionality is great to have, but it doesn’t stop there.
Think about this - if a hacker can’t find your system’s ports, then how can he attack you? Simply put, he can’t. Comodo uses stealth port technology that essentially hides your computers ports from hacker’s eyes. What’s more, the leak tests were passed with flying colors. Let’s say we have malware that is trying to use an authorized program to do something mischievous. If that malware were to masquerade as that authorized program, it could bypass the firewall altogether! Thankfully, Comodo succeeds where other free firewalls fail, and actively monitor these kinds of actions, and also log them for future reference. The free version of ZoneAlarm is one example of a free firewall that performs poorly at these leak tests.
If you want customization, you got it. Comodo lets advanced users customize to their heart’s content. A wizard is available for those who are less technically savvy, and need a little boost in the right direction. This kind of duality is usually unheard of in most firewalls, which makes it very appealing to all types of users.
Overall, this free firewall really takes the cake. You couldn’t ask for a better firewall, even if you were prepared to pay for it.
#2 – ZoneAlarm
ZoneAlarm was the leader in free firewalls back when a free firewall was unheard of. They have continued to support the free firewall cause, despite some fierce competition from firewalls such as Comodo.
ZoneAlarm made the second spot for a very simple reason - you have to pay to get the extra security that Comodo has. The free version of ZoneAlarm is very functional and secure - but somehow the fact that you have to pay for the Pro version makes us less excited about ZoneAlarm in general.
Some of the differences between ZoneAlarm and ZoneAlarm Pro are rather trivial, but enough to make anyone go insane. No one really likes the constant pop-ups that are displayed every time an application requests access to the internet, right? Well if you want to keep your sanity, you may have to upgrade to the Pro version, which has a database of already authorized programs. Sadly, the free version lacks this.
The cool thing about ZoneAlarm is that it generally can’t be shut off by malware. Even Comodo has observed a weakness with malware tactics, such as simulated mouse clicks. ZoneAlarm remains firmly resistant to all types of direct attacks against it. This makes ZoneAlarm seem extraordinarily secure, but it did prove to be very weak against firewall leak tests. Oddly enough, the Pro version does indeed block against leak tests to a better extent.
#3 – Jetico
Our last contender in the free firewall race is Jetico. Jetico gets the third spot solely due to the fact that it is rather hard to configure. The user interface is somewhat overwhelming to new users, and the level of customization scares a lot of the less tech savvy users away.
Another reason Jetico received the third spot is that the latest version is not free. They still support the first version, but it doesn’t work under Windows Vista. This is the same reason why we weren’t more excited over ZoneAlarm - the migration to paid services is a contradiction to the goals they set in making the free version.
Nevertheless, Jetico has a large amount of fans, due to the fact that it can be configured to manage anything. This level of configuration will take more time, effort, and knowledge than other programs such as Comodo. Average users will probably stay away from this program, but if you don’t mind a learning curve, this is probably your best bet.
As far as security goes, it ranks just as high as Comodo in most applications. The difference between the two is mainly the interface and the public reception of both programs. If Jetico does indeed release a more intuitive user interface in the future, and they go back to the free model, this will definitely be a contender for first place.
Comodo is the obvious winner in our comparison, and with good reason. The level of support, usability, and features outdo the competition with ease. ZoneAlarm makes a good second, but has succumbed to the prospect of selling a Pro version. This keeps some features out of the free version, and that doesn’t make us happy. Lastly we have Jetico, who also is going the paid route eventually. Nevertheless, the free version remains to be a remarkably flexible and configurable firewall.
Your best bet is with Comodo, but be sure to check the other two out to weigh your options out completely. When you ultimately arrive at your decision, you can certainly remind your friends and coworkers that the firewall they paid for is just as good as your very own free firewall.