The Best Firewall Apps for Android
If you’re new to internet security, a firewall might actually sound like something you wouldn’t want on your device. Yet most modern computing devices have some form of firewall built in, a security practice that keeps your device safe and secure as it performs its typical duties around the web and within its own processing. Your device’s firewall acts as a network security system, monitoring the incoming and outgoing data and traffic between your phone and the web based on predetermined (either by the user or by the device itself) security protocol. While a firewall is far more necessary on a personal computer, desktop, or laptop than on a tablet or phone running Android, some Android users might find a firewall handy when browsing outside of their own WiFi connection to protect their devices from viruses and other nasty software floating on the web.
Whether you’re concerned about security on your mobile device, or you’re just looking to lock down your phone or tablet for additional comfort, a firewall downloaded from the Play Store can be a great solution to an unfortunate problem. Between iOS and Android, we’ve found Android to be the more open of the two platforms, allowing for a bit more freedom and customizability overall when using the device. Unfortunately, this also means some added security concerns, since no device is ever perfectly safe from malware or security vulnerabilities.
Android’s gotten a lot more secure lately, with monthly security patches typically rolling out on time as expected for the majority of flagship phones. If you’re still concerned about your data and phone being unprotected, a firewall might be able to give you some peace of mind. Let’s take a look at our favorite firewall apps on the Play Store right now.
LostNet NoRoot Firewall is one of our very favorite firewalls available on Android right now, mainly for its lack of root requirements for all features, its included VPN, and the ability to monitor where your data is moving to around the world. It's one of our very favorite methods of keeping an eye on what your phone is doing throughout the day, giving users several options for customizing the flow of their network traffic. LostNet routes your internet connections through its own firewall program, making sure your data is kept safe and secure. Let's take a look at what makes this app so special.
The app itself is divided up into three separate tabs: Dashboard, Apps, and Geo. Dashboard's the tab we used the most in our testing, which allows you to access most basic options, tools and settings. You can disable or enable your firewall here completely using an on/off switch. By default, the dashboard also allows you to block access to any country or region for every app. You can stop traffic flowing in or out from Russia, Romania, or any other dangerous country. LostNet will even inform you why you might want to block access from that specific country. You can do the same for apps including cloud solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive that may use a large amount of data while syncing. Basically, the Dashboard acts like a drawbridge, allowing or disallowing apps and data from risky countries only as the user sees fit. It helps to give you some additional control over your device.
The Apps tab also finds its routes in a drawbridge, but with a few extra features. It's here where you'll be able to view every single app downloaded on your phone. You can sort by different groupings, including apps you do and don't use, but overall, keeping it on the "Usage in 1 Day" tab seemed to work well. You can view the amount of data your apps have been uploading and downloading, which then gives you the opportunity to disable the app completely, or move that app's data usage to WiFi only. This is an incredibly useful tool if you're on a strict data plan, even more so than the included data tool inside of Android. The ability t0 easily see how much data an app is using is quick and simple.
You can also select apps individually to give a stricter idea of what that app is doing in the background. You'll see where your data is going in the world (typically the US, though some apps like Skype, Dropbox, or other major applications will reroute their data around the world at regular intervals), along with how much data was sent to each country. You can also see this data based on times used, and block the data on specific grounds (at the office, while in the background, during night, etc). And of course, full-on blocking is here as well.
The third tab, Geo, allows for the monitoring of data by regions or countries using a handy map. You can block full-on entire regions if you wish, with those specific regions highlighted in red on the map on your device, but we also prefer simply blocking individual countries. The Geo tab can also show your regions in a non-map based list format, making it easy to see where and to who your data is being sent to per day.
All of this adds up to a few different benefits over time. You can save battery life by limited apps that rely on too much background data. You can block specific connections to dangerous countries or regions around the world. You can monitor exactly what's going on with your data, making it clear what's eating your data monthly. The pro version comes with a few additional features, but overall, we found the free version to benefit our usage nicely. If you're looking for a firewall to protect your data around the world, this is the perfect app for you. The one negative: the app hasn't been updated in three years, meaning it's likely a dead app. Still, it works well for our use case, and it's our top pick for the best firewall on the market today.
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.
Like NoRoot, Mobiwol will require access on your phone to setup a VPN network before setup and normal operation begins. The app is designed to reroute traffic through the rules you set for your own device, making your device safer as it goes. The app, much like LostNet and NoRoot, has five sections: Rules, Connection Logs, Settings, Data Usage, and of course, Privacy Protection Logs. Unlike some of the other apps on this list, though, Mobiwol is really easy to setup. Everything you need is typically found in Rules, allowing you to set the guidelines as needed within the app. Like with similar firewall apps, you can limit their operation over WiFi, wireless data, or both, while also setting the limitation of foreground-only operation, blocking the app from using background data that can run up your data usage or battery life. Your logs can be found under both Privacy Protection and Connection Logs, depending on what you're looking for, and the Data Usage tab will allow you to monitor your apps' data usage over your wireless networks. The app is still regularly updated, with version 4.0 rolling out just two months prior to publishing. Mobiwol is trusted by over half a million users, and is definitely worth checking out for active, in-development firewall applications. Oh, and you won't need root for this one either.
When it comes to design, Netguard is probably our favorite firewall application out there right now. The green-and-orange theme gives it a much more fun vibe than any of the other applications on the list, and the design feels far more modern than what we've grown used to expect from security applications. The app is also routinely updated—in fact, it was updated while we were writing this article. The app comes with a huge number of recommendations, including from popular mobile carrier Ting, for protecting and stopping your apps from accessing your cellular data. Netguard allows you to ban every app from using your mobile data, making it ideal for prepaid or smaller carriers where you're encouraged to use low amounts of data. The app doesn't require root, is open-source, and is really easy to use for even the newest smartphone adopters. Each app has an icon next to it referencing mobile data and WiFi access. You can control teach app independently, and Netguard ensures that you can view offline data while on 3G or 4G while simultaneously saving you battery and data. Netguard does have some pro features, in-app purchases, and ads, but it's nothing too extreme. It's a great app if you're looking for a design-focused network controller or firewall.