Smart Home Tech: How To Keep Your Home Network Safe With Firewalla
For the past year or so that we’ve been working virtually, so much of our daily lives and work revolved around our home networks. That’s why it’s important to keep that beating heart alive and well. Here’s how Firewalla can help keep it secure.
With more people working from home, students engaging in distance learning, and smart home devices being connected to your home network, it’s important to keep that network safe.
Firewalla is a plug-and-play cybersecurity device that allows you to monitor your network and safeguard against attacks. I had the opportunity to interview Firewalla’s CEO Jerry Chen about the benefits of their product and best practices to keep your home network safe.
(Note: This interview has been edited for style and length).
What is Firewalla?
Firewalla is a smart firewall that plugs into any router to enhance security of home networks, including the plethora of smart home devices connected to them that most households now use.
It monitors all devices on the network, blocking unwanted sites and ads, with customizable parental controls, and a personal VPN server for security away from home.
How does it work?
Firewalla monitors network traffic and uses an intrusion detection system and an intrusion prevention system to identify and stop any suspicious activities. Users receive an alert from the Firewalla app if any devices on their network start abnormal or unwanted activities, such as uploading data to a server in a particular country, or if a child’s device connects to a video streaming site.
Users can opt to stop the activity through the app, or if they decide the activity is normal, they can mute the alert, so they don’t receive it in the future. Firewalla will also automatically block hacking attempts.
What are the differences between the different versions you provide?
Firewalla Red and Firewalla Blue have the same suite of security features. Firewalla Red is designed for smaller networks with less devices, and it supports internet speeds of less than 100MB. Firewalla Blue support internet speeds greater than 100MB and less than 500MB. It also has more features, like region or country-level blocking and site-to-site VPN.
Firewalla Gold supports internet speeds between 500MB and 1GB. It offers the option for network segmentation and VLAN, and is a state-of-the-art router and firewall combo. It offers higher performance than the Blue with no feature limitations. It also has more CPU resources for customization scripts and docker containers. (Here is a comparison chart.)
How will I know if there has been an intrusion, and what can I do to stop it?
Firewalla monitors your network and alerts you when it detects malicious activities and vulnerabilities. Suspicious connections are categorized into different levels. For the ones that are very sure to be “bad,” Firewalla will automatically block the connection. Otherwise, an alert is raised, and the user is given the choice to decide whether to block or not.
When you receive an alert in the app, you can either select to allow or block the activity that Firewalla has flagged. It will detect things like if a phishing or malware link is clicked on a PC, tablet or phone. Or if strangers are watching or hacking your security camera, baby camera or any connected device.
It detects if your phone is infected with malware, preventing hackers from using your phone for nefarious purposes like cryptocurrency mining, or if apps are performing malicious activities in the background without your knowledge. By clicking “block,” you stop the activity, and your devices remain protected.
What parental controls are included?
Parents can set a variety of controls for children’s devices along with alerts. They can set certain times of day the devices are able to connect to the network. They can receive an alert if a child’s device is being used to play a game or stream video.
Parents also have the option to block children’s devices from gaming sites, video streaming sites, social media, adult content, etc. What’s more, they can use Social Hour to block all social media networks for a period of time.
Other features include Safe Search, which automatically filters out offensive content in search results. It supports popular search engines including Google, YouTube, Bing and DuckDuckGo. Family Protect automatically blocks access to sites with adult and violent content, and Ad Block automatically blocks pop-up or embedded ads (as much as possible) in browsers and mobile apps.
How does an AdBlocker work?
The Firewalla ad blocker, unlike many out there, runs inside the Firewalla box. Firewalla’s Ad Block is designed to focus on usability rather than a complete block of every single ad out there.
The Firewalla ad blocker is intentionally designed to be a bit weaker, and this is to ensure your normal activities are not disturbed if there are “Ad Block blocker” features out there.
Does Firewalla work with smart home devices?
Yes, Firewalla will monitor activity and provide intrusion detection and intrusion prevention for any smart home device connected to the home’s Wi-Fi network.
What are some things that homeowners should watch out for when setting up and monitoring their home network?
Even with Firewalla, homeowners need to use strong passwords for all of their device accounts.
What is a VPN, how does it work, and what is the benefit?
Firewalla VPN server places the VPN server inside your house. It runs inside of the little Firewalla box. This VPN service can only be used when you are outside of the house.
You get the same level of security protection as if you are at home, provided by Firewalla, so that you are not using unsecure Wi-Fi networks when traveling. You can surf the web as if you were at home over an encrypted connection, even when you are not. You can also easily access all your network-enabled home devices, such as IoT devices, NAS file system, etc.
Firewalla also has a VPN client feature, which allows your devices (even those that don’t support VPN) to connect to third-party VPN servers and tunnel any traffic to them.
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.