Windows ships with an effective suite of security tools, including a firewall, but third-party firewalls are popular with many users. Many are free, and the most popular ones do a good job keeping millions of users safe from cyber attacks, hackers, and other intrusive threats. Privacyware's Privatefirewall has all the features and most of the extras that most personal firewall and host intrusion prevention freeware (HIPS) offer, like its Process Monitor and Port Tracking tools. Its chief advantages are its intelligent tracking feature and its extensive explanations. Privatefirewall monitors your online activity privately to learn your usage patterns. It detects and blocks anomalous usage patterns that could signal an intrusive attack on your system. As with other firewalls, you can easily allow any activity. But Privatefirewall's system is designed to make allowing regular programs less frequent (and annoying) while still protecting you from threats.
Privatefirewall's user interface is easy to understand, and so are its various features and settings, thanks to a right-hand panel that displayed a detailed explanation of everything we selected. The Main Menu opens with two main functions, Internet Security and Network Security. Sliders let us choose High, Low, or Custom security levels much like in Windows. We could add trusted and blocked sites, too. Privatefirewall enables separate Profiles for Home, Office, and Remote connections, a handy option for laptops. We could import and export the program's settings, including Process, Email, and System Anomaly Detection settings. This interesting tool displays Training Statistics that show which programs it analyzed and when; we could set its Sensitivity level and also limit the training period. The program's Help file offers more detail than the user interface in explaining the anomaly detection feature as well as the Port Tracking tool and other features.
The true test of a firewall is in how well it protects your system. We tried a variety of probes and simulated attacks, and Privatefirewall kept them at bay. Since the firewall that fails exits the marketplace quickly, we expected nothing less from Privatefirewall. Its intelligent monitoring and its detailed documentation set it apart from the other free firewalls, though.