When it comes to choosing firewall software, the options are endless. Do you go for something user-friendly but with limited features? Is the most commercially-successful a safer option than the open-source route? What about support and tutorials?
While you might be ready to compromise one firewall feature for another, that doesn’t have to be the case. Pfsense is a trustworthy firewall and router software that’s trusted by many all over the internet, all while ensuring the most features with as few drawbacks as possible.
What Is pfsense Firewall?
A firewall is a network security system, that monitors, tracks, and controls outgoing and incoming data and network traffic. A firewall is your first line of defense against malicious software and strangers online.
Depending on your settings, your firewall will intercept network traffic that meets certain criteria, i.e. being dangerous or coming from a source you blocked, either from the internet or software installed on your device.
pfsense is a brand of firewall and router software that’s free to use and customize as long as you have the right hardware—that is, anything from a specialized router to an old PC you salvaged. pfsense was first created in 2004 as part of the project “m0n0wall” that aimed to create full-feature, embedded firewall software.
But unlike other free software available online, the functionality that pfsense offers allows it to compete with commercial firewalls. And depending on the level of protection and security you’re looking for, along with your technical knowledge, you can customize the pfsense firewall to suit your needs.
Why You Should Use pfsense Firewall
In addition to the pfsense firewall being completely free to use and modify, there are more reasons you should be using it, whether you want to customize it or simply have a trustworthy and reliable firewall.
How strong your firewall doesn’t only depend on the rules you set for it, but also how accurately it follows them, like being able to identify data flows that meet your criteria of what’s dangerous.
pfsense has many features and advanced capabilities that ensure it always follows either default or custom rules. It also filters traffic separately whether it’s coming from your internal network of devices or the open internet, allowing you to set different rules and policies for each.
Because the pfsense firewall lets you add and integrate additional features as code, it’s flexible enough to work both as a basic firewall and a complete security system.
For example, with pfsense, you can include intrusion detection and prevention (IPS/IDS) to intercept hackers trying to gain access to your network, as well as mass list blocking, where you introduce a database of known malware-infested sites, malicious IP addresses, and hacker sites in case you stumble on one by accident.
3. It’s Open-Source
Open-source software isn’t just free to use; it’s software that has its entire code open to the public to examine and modify without worrying about copyright infringement. Open-source software is a collaborative public initiative, where anyone qualified can contribute to the betterment of the software and have their work checked by others for quality and authenticity.
This type of public supervision ensures the software is the best version it can be, without violating your privacy when using them. That’s something you can only take the word of the manufacturer for with proprietary software.
Firewalls are generally not beginner-friendly. They have a lot of complex settings, options, and features that require fine-tuning. Otherwise, you might end up with a gaping hole in your defenses.
But what makes pfsense different is that its interface is simple, direct, and easy to use when it comes to basic functionality. It also offers extensive documentation of its features and options with step-by-step guides—not to mention the plethora of online forums and free tutorials dedicated solely to pfsense.
5. pfsense WireGuard Support
Having a VPN is essential. But VPNs come in all shapes and sizes, and depend on their encryption protocols, connection speed, and privacy policies. That’s why it’s best to have something that integrates directly with your pfsense firewall.
WireGuard is a free, open-source VPN that encrypts your data and ensures a secure internet connection. Instead of building your own VPN using pfsense or settling for a commercial VPN provider, you can directly integrate WireGuard with the pfsense firewall. Currently, WireGuard integration is still in beta mode, meaning you can use it, but you’ll likely experience bugs and glitches.
But by using both simultaneously, you can have the security of pfsense’s firewall, fault tolerance, and high internet connection speeds alongside the privacy benefits that WireGuard offers.
6. Fault Tolerance and Speed Management
Fault tolerance is when your system continues operating if one or more of its components fail. In the case of firewalls, it means staying connected to the internet using pfsense’s multi-WAN feature, also known as channel bonding.
With multi-WAN, you have multiple internet connections running at the same time, allowing you to switch to the next in line in case one fails. Multiple connections also come in handy if you’re looking to increase your connection speed by dividing the data flow over numerous connections instead of one.
Dip Your Toe Into Open-Source Software
While not all software you need has an open-source alternative, it’s best to join in whenever possible. Open-source software is often the result of an online community project that you can contribute to by simply using it and reporting feedback if you’re not qualified to contribute code directly.
While highly-customizable software might feel overwhelming at the beginning, taking it one stage at a time will let you learn the skills and take full control of your digital life.
And you can start right now, by heading over to learn more about pfsense.