Best firewall of 2018

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Every PC needs a firewall to keep it secure. As it is a necessary feature for a PC, Windows does include a basic firewall. However, for more security conscious and advanced users, a third-party firewall solution is a useful addition to their anti-malware armory. 

Money spent on a firewall can be easily paid back in dividends of less downtime, and a more secure PC that is hardened against online attacks. Here are some great firewall software choices to consider. 

Bitdefender Internet Security 2018

1. Bitdefender Internet Security 2018

A comprehensive security suite with a top-notch firewall

Can be managed via mobile device  
Rescue mode  
Includes ransomware protection 
No longer ranked at the top in tests 

Bitdefender Internet Security 2018 is a long-time player in this space, and includes a comprehensive suite of security features to keep your PC safe from attack. 

In addition to the excellent firewall, Bitdefender includes plenty of advanced features including webcam privacy protection, multi-layer ransomware protection, and management from a mobile device. It also includes anti-phishing capabilities, a file shredder to securely delete files, a rescue mode, and a password manager. 

On the Bitdefender website, the firm points out the many awards that this software has won, including the ‘Best protection’ and ‘Best performance’ awards from AV Test, an independent lab that rates security software. While the product did win these awards from 2013 up to December 2017’s testing, in the most recent February 2018 test, Bitdefender Internet Security was not chosen as a ‘Top Product’ as a few competitors ranked higher, although the firm still did well. 

There is a free 30-day trial, and the program is available via a subscription for up to three devices, with one year costing $44.99 (£33, AU$59). 

Kaspersky Internet Security 2018

2. Kaspersky Internet Security 2018

Another big name in security...

Top ranked in latest testing  
Webcam protection  
Anti-ransomware 
No password manager 

Based in Moscow, Kaspersky is a well-known multinational cyber-security vendor that works to identify malware threats, and offers a whole array of security software. 

Kaspersky Internet Security 2018 is its offering with a software firewall for the personal Windows user. It boasts plenty of additional functions, including disinfecting malware, software cleaning to remove unused apps dragging down system performance, ad blocking, and a higher level of security for online shopping and banking. Virus scans and database updates can also be performed remotely via a portal. 

Kaspersky Internet Security 2018 is an AV-Test ‘Top Product’ in the latest round of testing. A one-year, three-device license can be purchased for $39.99 (£29, AU$53). 

Norton Security Standard

3. Norton Security Standard

The firewall that covers all malware

100% money-back guarantee  
Top rated in tests  
Anti-spyware and anti-ransomware 
Subscription only covers a single device 

Norton Security Standard comes in four tiers which start at Basic, and Standard is the lowest one that includes a firewall.

The program has a smart firewall, and also adds protection from all types of malware, including antivirus, anti-ransomware, and anti-spyware for comprehensive protection.

Norton Security Standard also features ‘always there customer support,’ and even backs this up with a 100% guarantee to keep your device virus-free, or provide a refund. It is also a ‘Top Product’ as rated by AV-Test.

Norton Security Standard is available as a one device subscription for $39.99 (£29, AU$53) for the first year. Users with multiple devices will be better served stepping up a tier from Standard to Deluxe, which covers five devices. 

Zone Alarm Pro Firewall 2018

4. Zone Alarm Pro Firewall 2018

The firewall-first software

Zero hour protection  
Makes PC invisible to hackers 
Unstable with other anti-malware apps
Not as comprehensive as some

While some security suites offer a firewall as one of their services, Check Point’s Zone Alarm Pro Firewall 2018 has its firewall function as the core feature. 

It boasts an ‘advanced firewall’ that monitors the computer for suspicious behavior, and can therefore spot new attacks before the malware has even been identified and the signature can be distributed to the software - so-called ‘zero hour protection.’ It can also shield the system during startup, a time when it is particularly vulnerable, before most other security programs are even loaded and working.

This is a two-way firewall to keep the PC from being visible to hackers, and the program also features Automatic Wireless Network Security, which “detects wireless networks and automatically applies the most secure firewall protection setting” to keep the system safe when it is connected via Wi-Fi. 

Zone Alarm Pro 2018 is an affordable $24.95 (£18, AU$33) for a single license, and $29.95 (£22, AU$40) for five licenses, both via a one year subscription. 

F-Secure SENSE

5. F-Secure SENSE

One box to protect them all

A firewall for the smart home  
Network-level antivirus protection 
Router requires ongoing subscription  
Router specs are not class leading 

In a home network setup, the traditional approach has been to run the security suite at the PC-level, with less security emphasis at the level of the router. With the increasing number of Internet of Things devices, such as your smart thermostat or video streaming box, which are essentially impossible to protect via a security suite, the focus has shifted to harden the router. This is achieved by having a security suite at the network rather than client-level, and dubbing this box a ‘smart home security appliance’.

Examples of this include the Bitdefender Box 2, and the F-Secure SENSE. The latter includes antivirus and anti-bot protection for the entire network, built into an always up-to-date router, which can all be managed via a simple mobile app. 

While the network-level of security sounds appealing, realize there are some downsides. The first is that the router is not the most robust at wireless duties, and the F-Secure SENSE conforms to the more pedestrian AC1750 standard.

The other is that the cost is $199 (£144, AU$262) for the box which includes the first year of subscription, and subsequent annual subscriptions are $109 (£79, AU$144) thereafter, making it more expensive than the other solutions here, both in terms of upfront and ongoing costs.