The past year has created a lot of changes in our lives, especially in how we work. The integration of Work and Home environments means that we rely on the internet more and more since it is now used not just for our home activities but also in work. Since most of our home connections only have basic protective algorithms, we need an additional cyber-security layer to protect sensitive work and company data from prying eyes. We need something that can protect our very incoming internet connection. A VPN service could be used.
But this has its drawbacks. The first one is that there aren’t many companies which offer this solution. The ones that do offer them have their specifications and requirements to fulfill. The other problem is that, in most cases, VPN services have a subscription-based payment. This problem implies that there will be recurring payments that you might have to keep track of, which poses a situation wherein your Network is left unprotected if you cannot pay. Hence it is not a complete cyber-security option for your networks. This makes us wonder, what else can we do to protect ourselves?
Firewalla is the solution! With a simple plug-and-play setup, you can protect your home network and keep it secure, along with enabling many other important features!
What is Firewalla?
Firewalla is a small plug-and-play device that helps you secure you network with minimum technical skills. It is a great device that can be used to secure any incoming and outgoing network traffic from your router and protect your privacy. It also gives you a lot of behaviour analytics for your devices and network flows. All you need to do is make a simple connection, do the necessary setup for the mobile app, and you can control Firewalla’s may features. Firewalla also connects to your Wireless Router physically, so just connect it to a power source along with your router and you’re all set! Firewalla devices also run on quad-core processors, ensuring that you have maximum speed and efficiency.
Currently, Firewalla Red and Blue are the products used by many home customers, and Firewalla Blue Plus and Gold are more suitable for a corporate environment.
Firewalla is a recent innovation, which was founded by Jerry Chen, Melvin Tu and Annie Lu in San Francisco, United States of America, in 2017. They each have 10+ years of working in the computer security domain, and launched:
- Firewalla Red on Kickstarter and Indiegogo for crowdfunding and an initial kickstart for their product in 2017. It had received a funding of more than $200,000 (Indiegogo).
- Firewalla Blue was introduced to Indiegogo in 2018, and it received a total of over $450,000 in funding.
- Firewalla Gold was introduced to Indiegogo in 2019, and it had received funding of around $1.5 million!
So, we see that Firewalla is continuing to be received happily by their customers, with their products being more favourable for the network security market today. Since they had a very successful crowdfunding experience, along with feedback from their early adopters, they have now greatly improved and refined their products over the years. Intrusion Prevention has been the company’s founding motto, and they use hackers’ tools against them!
How does Firewalla Work?
Firewalla basically acts between your devices and your connections. Since it is physically connected, it can see and block all network traffic going through your network (although, Firewalla doesn’t monitor your local network traffic).
Conventionally, for such a high-security approach, your must attach a device and they will connect to your main router. If you connect more devices, then your device (the one with the ‘M’ on it, refer to the figure below) has to connect to two routers, or it should have an in-built router. Thus, such a device would be very expensive. This is where Firewalla changes the game.
Firewalla uses the ARP protocol to route your network traffic virtually from connected devices. Firewalla becomes a virtual router for all your connected devices, and thus it allows you to easily monitor all your home network traffic. The mobile application gives you deep insights on the way your network traffic occurs. This method is called ARP spoofing, and it makes a few things work better at home. This method, believe it or not, is the simple method. In addition, you also have DHCP mode, and Router mode which come with their own set of workings. But in essence, Firewalla works by virtually acting as your router, and securely diverting network traffic. Hence, you don’t need to install Multiple Firewalla devices.
Here is a table with affiliated links for purchasing them from both the official Firewalla Website and from Amazon (with their United States Prices in Dollars), along with their prices:
|Product Image||Product Name||Price||Firewalla Purchase Link||Amazon (USA) Purchase Link||Indiegogo Link|
|Firewalla Red||$109.00 (Amazon)|
|Firewalla Blue||$169.00 (Firewalla)||Link||NA||Link|
|Firewalla Blue Plus||$199.00 (Firewalla)|
|Firewalla Gold||$418.00 (Firewalla)||Link||NA||Link|
Firewalla Variants explained
It is the entry level product by Firewalla. It provides all the basic features of:
- Quad Core processing capabilities
- Protecting your devices from cyber threats and attacks
- Advanced insights to your network
- Safeguarding personal businesses data
- Dynamic content filtering
- Monitoring and gives you full control over your network traffic and internet usage
- Blocking unwanted ads
- In-built VPN server and client
- No Monthly fee for services
- 100Mb packet processing power
- 1-year warranty and 30 days return policy
It has all the features of Firewalla Red, and Blue being a slightly upgraded version of Firewalla red, it has the capacity of handling up to 500Mb Data Packets.
Firewalla Blue Plus
In addition to the features of Firewalla Blue, Firewalla Blue Plus offers some additional features such as:
- Simple Smart Que (which reduces latency and congestion)
- 500Mb Packet Processing Power
The top-of-the-line product of Firewalla, it offers complete protection and privacy to your networks. In addition to the features of Firewalla Blue Plus, some Gold-exclusive features are:
- Firewalla Gold gives Network Segmentation and Lockdown Mode in addition to the available modes
- Firewalla Gold offers 3GB deep packet inspection hardware, making it ideal for corporates and businesses
- Firewalla Gold offers Advanced Smart Queue instead of the Simple Smart Queue of Firewalla Blue Plus, which goes even further in reducing network latency
- With Firewalla Gold, you also get Multi-WAN for better performances and availability
- No monthly fees
Further, detailed comparison charts given below will assist you to choose better.
Firewalla Blue vs Red
Firewalla Blue vs Blue +
Now that we know what these products are, we shall guide you through the unboxing, setup, and installation processes. Then we shall see these products’ features and how you can use these features to suit your needs.
Firewalla Unboxing – What do you get inside the box?
Before you start, you must look at the List of compatible routers and Mesh Networks to use with Firewalla. Your router should be able to work with either a simple mode (where you plug-and-run Firewalla) or DHCP mode (in which case, you need to login to the router and disable the DHCP server, and then you can run Firewalla). We recommend that you buy Firewalla Red for connections less than 100Mbit and Blue or above for faster connections. Usually, this is the main difference between the products offered and some extra features that we shall tell you ahead in the article.
Back to the unboxing, once you receive your package, you get a Firewalla unit, an ethernet cable, a USB-A to Micro-USB cable, and a wall charger. A ‘get-started’ user manual is also available, and if you want a more detailed setup instruction, you can always go to the online user manual.
The device itself is quite simple to use and understand. Taking the most straightforward model (Firewalla Red) as an example, you have a Micro-USB slot for power and a MicroSD card slot with a pre-inserted card containing all the necessary programs and files and drivers. The backside has Ethernet and USB-A ports, and cooling vents on the side prevent the device from overheating. On the top of the device, you get a QR code, which you need for Firewalla license authentication.
How to install Firewalla in your Home
Once you have done plugging your box for power, you now need to connect it to your Network. This procedure is done by connecting your Firewalla to the ethernet cable of your modem. We shall demonstrate the installation process for Firewalla Red, Blue, and Blue Plus. You can check out the procedure for setting up Gold here, which is slightly different but equally comfortable in setting up.
1. Download the Firewalla App
Firewalla uses an app on your mobile phone to communicate with you. Hence even for setup purposes, the app is used. We’ve simplified your work and made it easy to install, all you have to do is click on the following links to download the app on your mobile device for your OS. You can also use your mobile Devices and Scan the QR codes available on the Firewalla Website:
2. Connect the Firewalla to your Modem/Router
First, connect your Firewalla to your modem/router using the Ethernet cable provided in the box, and then to a power source with the USB cable also provided. Any 2A current source is sufficient for powering the device, after which the LED next to the Ethernet port will start blinking.
Now usually, these are the common scenarios that your Firewalla should connect to:
- If an ISP provided modem/router, you should plug your Firewalla into one of the LAN ports.
- In case of multiple routers (such as a modem/router combo) provided by your ISP, just plug-in the device into one of the LAN ports of the modem/router, but make sure you know which router you have connected and installed with the Firewalla.
- In case of a Mesh network setup, connect your Firewalla to the primary device and not the satellite device. After that, disable the monitoring service of the Firewalla in the mobile app. For more detailed instructions, click here.
Wait a few minutes once you’re done with the wiring steps, as Firewalla has to boot up and initialize. In the mobile app, click on the ‘+’ sign to start pairing your device. Your screen will switch to a QR code scanner, and you have to scan your QR code on your Firewalla.
Then you can choose to set up between simple mode and DHCP mode. Thus, there is no need to connect multiple Firewalla devices.
- Simple Mode
- Simple mode uses the ARP protocol and ARP spoofing. These protocols re-route network traffic through the Firewalla, so your device connects to the Firewalla instead of the router.
- All network traffic for all your devices is sent to the Firewalla which monitors and manages them.
- For the consumer, it is easy to install since the setup is a simple one with a guided procedure.
- Although, you should check the compatibility list for supported modems.
- DHCP Mode
- Here, Firewalla creates another network over your current Network. You can see an overlay network on top of your primary router network.
- This newly created Network is a static overlay network randomly created by Firewalla. You can then statically point your devices to this Network. If you already have a DHCP configured Network, you can disable its network services and let Firewalla be your carrier instead.
- The benefit here is that you have all network traffic routed through Firewalla and Double NAT. A better intrusion prevention setup than the simple mode.
- Find your overlay network in your app by Box Settings -> Advanced -> Network Settings -> Overlay Network.
Unique to Gold models, you can even set it up in Firewall Router Mode, where your Firewalla Gold acts as your router and enforces a Firewall/IPS/IDS inline to your network traffic.
Features of Firewalla
All models of Firewalla have a set of essential features that are common across all three models. The difference comes in the advanced features, as well as in the physical characteristics of the devices. We have linked a detailed table elucidating the products’ different features (both hardware and software) from Firewalla’s website at the end of the section. But at the end of the day, you get a lot of behaviour analytics and insights from these features that can help make your security a lot better. These features will help you understand why Firewalla is becoming trusted by many big companies as well as audiences for providing their cyber-security, and preventing cyber threats and attacks to your connected devices.
Some shared features are:
1. Active Monitoring
On top of the main page, the first thing that appears on the top is The Top Graph. Using visually appealing graphs is Firewalla’s way of efficiently presenting useful data at a glance. You view network traffic data from this graph for either the past 60 minutes, 24 hours, or the previous month. Upon clicking the 24-hour graph, you can access logs that tell you from which website and which proxy country the data was either uploaded or downloaded. From here, it is easy to monitor and decide if you need to make any changes to your setup. You can also find out which Devices are doing what on your Network and take preventive/corrective measures. This gives you deep insights on your network traffic.
Setting Alarms is simple as tapping on the ‘Tuning’ icon on the top right corner to go to the Alarms Setting page. You can configure whether:
- You want a custom alarm generated by the box or
- You want to turn on App notifications.
Now you can choose whether you want to mute alarms on a device, block alarms in the notifications, archive or delete alarms and decide whether an alarm is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
You can also set up rules that your box will follow in Home Screen -> Rules Button -> Add Rule. There are some parameters that you will need to specify for creating rules:
- Action – You can either Allow or Block through this parameter
- Target and Target Category – You can choose the following category/categories and then select an action. These include Domain name, IP range, Remote Port, and so on.
- Apply To a device – one can apply this action to a device(s) through a simple one tap procedure.
- Schedule – Rules can be set so that they operate on certain days of the week or daily.
- You can block, delete, and modify rules; however, it suits your needs.
- The Rules Priority Levels are Device > Group > Network > Global.
Rules are handy to set up custom permissions for your Wi-Fi. You can set up rules so that access to certain websites is blocked or limit how much time one can spend on a particular webpage to curb usage.
2. Passive Monitoring – Notifications and Alarms
This monitoring system of Firewalla is the reason why it makes quite useful. We get notifications every time an ‘action’ occurs, or to use a better word, we get notifications every time a ‘trigger’ occurs. Firewalla alerts you and blocks malicious site trying to enter your Network, or any questionable site that someone may be accessing, or any gaming site taking a significant chunk of data – all of these are alerted to your mobile device.
This monitoring system is beneficial because the system is passively monitoring your network traffic for you. Even though you can adjust alerts to be on or off anytime, but the fact is Firewalla directly monitors and filters incoming network traffic according to requirements.
3. Blocking – A necessary Action
It is one of the necessary features that one expects from such devices. Blocking options are pre-set options (rather than a custom rule) that are available with your box. You have many different options and avenues to choose from for your blocking needs. You can activate all the mentioned features with a single toggle in your app.
- Ad Block
Annoying browser ads may reduce your web experience. Many pop-ups and intrusive ads are not just irritating, but you may accidentally download malware content if you click on a suspicious site. AdBlock is a built-in ad blocker which can help you disable these advertisements, which means you won’t be bothered by them while viewing the webpage. Some webpages may require you to disable Ad Block, though, as and when you are viewing them. But AdBlock blocks ads to make your internet viewing experience smoother.
Setting it up is as simple as tapping the AdBlock button.
- Family Protect
Family Protect acts as a Parental Control for your Wi-Fi and blocks all inappropriate and malicious websites and content. Safe Search is also enabled through this algorithm to ensure that your residential members are not going through an insecure route. Social Hour is a third feature that helps you monitor and disable all Social Networking sites for an hour so that your kids don’t develop addictions during mealtimes or other times.
In case you need a unique solution for blocking websites, you could create a rule (as mentioned above) to sort it out. You can also use Geo-IP Filtering to block IP addresses from a specific country, should you choose to use it.
4. Other Features
i) Built-in VPN Servers
Remember the line in our introduction? Yes, this EVEN has a built-in VPN server that you can use for additional security. With this, you can access your home network from anywhere. You can even try the VPN client feature in beta mode. You can also set up VPN servers for your iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux devices.
ii) DNS protocols
You can use DNS over HTTPS (DoH), a more secure way of accessing web pages. DoH prevents eavesdropping and data manipulation, as well as middlemen attacks on your Network. Essentially, by enabling this, your connection requests to the servers are all encrypted, which protects your data and privacy very well, giving you an additional layer of cyber-security. There is a DNS booster that can also help you boost connectivity speeds with regards to the same.
The DNS protocols also apply to Ad Blocks, an ad blocker which helps you securely and smoothly experience your web-browsing. This also prevents any malicious ads to potentially infect your computer, keeping you away from harm’s way.
iii) IPv6 support
You can also get IPv6 support for your Firewalla Device, which is as simple to use and enable as flicking a toggle. IPv6 is an IP address protocol that helps the user add a layer of cyber-security by encrypting IP server network traffic.
5. Remote home network access
Firewalla VPN allows you to remotely access your home network through their app. This is possible due to the fact that Firewalla directly integrates to your home network. Remote home-network access is also something that VPNs cannot offer.
What this means is that you can easily set up an encrypted connection from anywhere in the world to your home. So, if you are out in a public place for example, where you are using public wi-fi networks, you can have the same encryption as your home network.
This feature can also be used to get around the non-privacy aspect of using public wi-fi networks, and no additional ports are needed when you want to view your house cameras or its file systems.
Remote access is possible because the VPN service is hosted from your home network. What’s more, this service is fast, free and secure!
6. Parental control
At Firewalla, you have the option of controlling your kids’ internet usage and online activities, whether you are at home or anywhere in the world. The monitoring is more effective and less intrusive for your kids as well, and this means that you have complete visibility over their online activity and both parents get alerts on their smartphones.
As mentioned earlier, you can check online activity of any device in a 24-hour period, but the alarm notifications let you know if your kids’ internet usage shows that they are visiting any malicious or questionable sites.
If they are, then Family Protect automatically blocks those websites and by custom rules, you can also set up customized internet access for your young ones, such as gaming or social networking. These allow you to schedule their time on such websites, and also let you choose which device it will be.
This also allows you to set their night-time schedules, so that they don’t go logging on late into the night. You can choose to disable their network traffic services for their devices at night, which can be very useful for parents.
The Safe Search feature helps you filter out any offensive search results, adding another helpful feature for you and your young ones.
You can set up restrictions for specific devices and applications, by setting up custom rules for such devices. For example, you can restrict the bandwidth usage of your Xbox/PS is using while either uploading or downloading, which frees up network to be used for other important items that need your bandwidth usage
You can also restrict ads by using the AdBlock feature, which blocks ads that disrupt your web-browsing experience.
A detailed list of features, categorized by hardware and software, can be found on Firewalla’s Website, which cleanly categorizes the data and makes it presentable to choose which one will be suitable for you.
Is Firewalla better than VPN?
We began our article by explaining what a VPN does in brief. Although a VPN is a step-forward in cyber-security and protecting your network traffic, Firewalla is a step further than that, with no gaps in your protection. These are the reasons why we believe so:
- Firewalla is a complete cyber-security problem solver. It not just encrypts your network traffic and deals with its problems, but it also helps you set up devices, monitor them and give you an active role in your security configuration.
- Firewalla does Ad Blocking. Most VPN services either have this as a paid service, and this service is offered only by the top VPN clients. Otherwise, this is an unseen feature with most VPN services!
- Firewalla blocks un-authorized access to open/default ports of multiple devices.
- Firewalla controls and monitors suspicious data uploads and downloads, along with letting you decide what to do with them. It could block security cameras to upload video/audio clips into a cloud-storage server, or it could block any malicious or pornographic site from being accessed by your kids.
- Firewalla can apply parental policy to your kids iPads or computers.
- Firewalla detects unauthorized remote logins. This helps you keep hackers away from logging into your networks.
We highly recommend Firewalla! It is one simple yet elegant, comfortable yet functional, and efficient solution for protecting your home networks. It will be a big sigh of relief for many people worried about cyber-attacks and unprotected networks. A few simple commands and settings can do data sharing, IP masking, Network encrypting – all on your mobile device through the Firewalla app (making it very accessible). Custom settings ensure that you are not just sure of your security but also more informed about what decisions you have taken to protect your homewi-fi networks.
The most impressive fact of Firewalla, at least to many of us, is the price. It is an unparalleled solution when there are no recurring payments that you need to pay. Many of us will heave sighs of relief when we get the best protection for our networks by just a one-time-payment and installation. Moreover, you can route any new connections through Firewalla, so this is a single-payment-multiple-benefits solution available for you!
We do believe that some features could be added, such as:
- the rules to be a bit more customizable. For instance, it is more useful if a bandwidth usage limit is set on an hourly or daily basis to limit internet data usage.
- Although excellent in its function, the alarm system could be modified so that Firewalla only sends important notifications to your Firewalla app, and the benign ones are filtered out.
- Assigning device-specific icons could also help in sorting procedures.
But at the end of the day, we still recommend that you purchase and install Firewalla. They come up with occasional offers on their website, and with the new year, there are great discounts for you to grab! You can also view (while you’re on their website) where customers recently purchased in the US. A minute’s browsing made us see at least 4-5 pop-ups of successfully purchased orders!
So go ahead and check out Firewalla now!