NoRoot Firewall is one of our favorite firewall apps on the Play Store right now, as it effectively acts similarly to what we've seen from LostNet and other similar firewall apps. Like the name suggests, NoRoot functions entirely without accessing a rooted phone, making it easy to take control of your device's network connections no matter what you're using. The app isn't quite as fully-featured as what we've seen from apps like LostNet, but it does making it easy to allow or deny your phone's applications to connect to your wireless network. Let's take a look.
The first thing you'll note after starting up NoRoot is the requirement to start the app as a VPN connection, which will require a permission from you, the user, to allow. We've covered VPNs, or virtual private networks, on TechJunkie extensively, but effectively, these programs reroute your data through a specific network allowing you some additional privacy, security, and in this case, monitoring of your information. Once you enable NoRoot as a VPN, you'll see a notification in your status bar at the top of your screen displaying a key-shaped icon. This means your phone is rerouting traffic through NoRoot's own VPN, exactly what we're looking for in this app.
Let's take a look at the app at hand. By default, NoRoot Firewall will require you to vet each app individually, allowing only trusted apps to access the internet through your data connection. You can set each app individually for both WiFi connections and 4G or wireless data connections, making it easy to determine on an app-by-app basis on whether you do or don't want an application connecting over unprotected networks. It's a bit frustrating to have each app be opt-in instead of opt-out, since most users will probably want their phones to use specific application data instead of having each app unable to connect to the internet, especially since system apps like Android System are included in the app's lineup. Still, it is a security app first and foremost, and having users go through the entire list will certainly lead to additional security and less apps accessing your network overtime.
Beyond allowing apps on a global basis, NoRoot Firewall also allows you to approve apps that are pending access. Basically, any app that tries to use your data will have to go through a process of looking for your approval, which means apps like Facebook, Gmail, or Twitter can't load data in the background unless you hit the allow button inside NoRoot. This makes it easy to see what apps are and aren't trying to gain network access, even if we prefer some of the more in-depth data meters seen in LostNet.
That said, the app is fairly fully-featured otherwise. In addition to both the Pending Access and Apps tabs, you can also set both global filters and view a large list of your access logs, complete with IP Addresses, dates, and times of when your network was accessed. Global Filters allow you to set both pre and post-filters for your internet access, meaning you can control how your data works both before and after you access a particular site or network. These global filters aren't the easiest to set up, but there is an easy "Help" access icon on the display if you are confused on how to set up the app. Using a filter makes it easy to approve or deny blanket networks, so your work network can be disabled while your home network enabled, making it easy to connect to the web how you want, instead of how your phone wants. The access log goes hand in hand here, since it'll display the networks used to connect to certain applications and programs.
NoRoot might not be as detailed as LostNet, but it's a quality app that allows for greater control over your network-based applications, something we really appreciate having on a device as unsecured as our smartphones. The app is completely free, though it's worth noting that, like LostNet, both NoRoot and its beta counterpart haven't seen updates since the end of 2014, nearly guaranteeing a dead application. Still, if you know what you're looking for in a firewall app, NoRoot can hit nearly every mark we're looking for in an application. It's a great, free app for controlling your network output, and definitely worth downloading.