Firewalla, a dalliance with a firewall
The Firewalla is a small box that you plug in somewhere behind your internet router or WiFi (depending on what you’re attempting to do,) and it re-routes the traffic through the box to scan and protect your devices.
TL;DR – Firewalla can protect you without much setup and does the job, but make sure you get the right version of it for your network.
I will note up top, there are no monthly fees for any of the services (including VPN,) that are provided.
Rules can be set on the Firewalla to not only do standard blocking, and will also notify you on your phone when someone on your network visits or tries to visit pornhub, or anything else you want restricted.
The cloud based threat technology notifies you of strange connections to your devices. Considering that lightbulbs now are running open terminal linux distros that you probably haven’t updated the firmware on since you bought them, you might want to look into this. As a reader commented a day or so ago, the S in IoT stands for security. There isn’t any on these IoT devces.
Firewalla can also provide a VPN when you’re out in the world to prevent cyber eavesdropping, and generally for most people it’s a very smart all-in-one security box that will meet your security needs in an ever changing and more threat-filled internet.
I’m not most people. So I’m going to put in this review what didn’t work. I was sent the red box. The red box works up to 100mbit. I wish I’d noticed that at the outset. That’s great for browsing, gaming, and most purposes, but when you’re moving 4tb of data a month / 133 gigs a day / 5.5 gigs an hour 100mbit didn’t cut it when anything was happening.
You’re probably not on two gigabit business lines, 3 Nest-connected non-stop streaming cameras, and moving 1tb backup data between two locationally seperate servers however. It didn’t do well there (I should have got the blue or gold to test.)
As a note I’m not sure if the limitation is a hard 100 mbit (which would mean you’re getting about 50mbit of traffic,) or around that level.
When I made a normal network, it was fine. Dropped in, alerted me when new devices came online, packets were inspected and what I’d expect it to do it did well. When it was on my network, I’d get alerted late, and my WiFi would randomly reboot/lock up. Keep in mind my network, not normal.
So crazy bandwidth users, go for the Blue or upcoming Gold option. You can, I learned later, simply exclude your high bandwidth devices from monitoring, but what’s the fun in that?
One of the things the Firewalla does in the background is intrusion prevention and behavior analysis. IPS, in theory, will let you know when someone’s doing something with malice.
Not having been the subject of a prolonged intrusion / hack attack, I can’t really comment on how well their IPS works. If anyone wants to help me test that out, lemme know.
Shut it down, shut it all down
Two of the features you’re going to be interested in are ad blocking and downtime. Don’t want to see most ads? Don’t. No need to install ad blocking software on your phone or computer. The downside is some sites just aren’t going to load. Some sites are going to get through as well. Not perfect, but it’s a good start.
Then again, sites stay alive by the ads they serve, so … yeah, maybe you’re contributing to the death of the somewhat free internet.
You can take your network down for certain devices at any time you’re ready to hear the crying and lamentations of your children. Want them at the dinner table at 6? Shut off the internet. Don’t want Sarah facetiming after bedtime, bam. Turn it off, turn it all off.
Nothing to hide, hiding
The Firewalla is open source. This means if you want to you can look at the code. Getting a look at that code is as difficult as clicking here.
The VPN is. It might require a little tweakery if you’ve done the sensible thing and disabled UPnP on your internet router/gateway, but if you’re looking for a way to connect a couple of sites together with OpenVPN this just might be your thing.
The device, the red one at least, seems to aim and a pretty broad audience, but the app doesn’t. It’s a little tech nerd centric. I’d like to see more modes in the app like “normal household” “I don’t quite know what this does” and “computer technician who’s got absurd requirements”. Right now the app sits somewhere between normal household and tech nerd.
I’d love to try the Gold version when it’s available, I have very messy things I want to explore doing with it.
Overall, hardware good, what the box does good, app ok, app’s aimed at a little more techie than I think the intended target audience is but it works.
The Firewalla is available in Red (100 mbit,) Blue (500+mbit,) and the soon to be released Gold edition.
It should be noted the Firewalla Red Amazon link gets us a commission, you can click here if you don’t want us to get it. Prices are (as of writing,) $108, $179, and unknown.