5 Best Linux/BSD Firewall Distributions

If you’re having a small computer network at home or a huge office with hundreds of desktops, cyber security is something you can never compromise on. One thing that is a quintessential part of security is something we call a firewall.

A firewall is like the security guard at your door who keeps a watch on everyone who goes in and out. By allowing only legitimate connections to pass through and blocking connections based on a certain set of rules, the firewall secures the network from most kinds of threats that lurk around on the Internet.

In case you are planning to install one on your network -- it’s never too late you know. We have here a list of some of the best Linux and BSD-based firewall distributions that you may use for free.

Clear OS
Clear OS is probably the finest network gateway and firewall distribution out there. A lot of us also consider it as one of the best Linux distros for web server. Based on CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, this award-winning distribution comes as a perfect alternative to Windows Small Business Server. It is loaded with features like iptables, intrusion detection, and VPN Proxy. The installation process for Clear OS is pretty straightforward and usually completes within 10-15 minutes. Even though it is developed by Clear foundation, Clear OS is completely open source and free. If you need professional help, you can also purchase support from their website. What’s more, Clear OS comes with a non-geeky web-based GUI that makes it very appealing for new users.

Smoothwall Express
Originally aimed as a project for converting a redundant PC into a hardened firewall device, Smoothwall became a popular Linux distribution that appealed not just to the geeks, but also to the ones who had no previous Linux experience. In fact, one of the project’s aims was to make Smoothwall so simple that any home user without any previous knowledge of Linux can install it. Another great thing about Smoothwall is that it can run just as smoothly (excuse the pun) on older, cheaper hardware as it would on a modern machine. And of course, like every good open source project, Smoothwall can boast of a huge community of members. As per the website, there are about 17000 forum members out there to help each other out. The latest version of Smoothwall is version 3 which can be downloaded from their official site.

Formerly known as ebox, Zentyal is a Linux Small Business Server and act as a Gateway, Network Infrastructure Manager, Unified Threat Manager, Office Server, Unified communications Server or a combination of them. It is owned and sponsored by a Spanish company called eBox technologies and can run on top of Ubuntu. The installation process is pretty straightforward and simple. There’s also a 2-minute video explaining how to install Zentyal that can be found HERE. Moreover, the company has a store that provides various options for professional companies ranging from support to advanced security updates.

How can something that is built on FreeBSD not be awesome? Let the devil protect your network by installing pFSense, which is a free, open source, customized distribution of FreeBSD specially built for use as a firewall and router. pfSense can be used for protecting almost all kinds of networks, from large corporations to home networks. pfSense started as a fork of m0n0wall project and later grew into a hugely popular project with more than 1 million downloads since its inception. The installation process is very simple and you’ll get a fully-armored Firewall up and running within five minutes. Revision 3 even did an episode explaining in detail pfSense’s installation process and features.

IpCop started as a fork of the aforementioned Smoothwall project. However, as time went by, the two projects diverged significantly enough to categorize them as two completely different distributions. IpCop, since its inception, has gained a lot of popularity among the community even bagging itself an award for innovation in 2007 (Bossie award). Though not officially, ipCop does support addons that enable additional features like traffic summary, email virus checking, advanced Qos and more. The latest stable ipCop version is 1.4.21. A major release, that is version 2.0 has been in active development since 2008. However, the release date is not yet known. Version 2.0 will come with features like new installer, new user interface and support for more architectures.


  1. AnonymousJuly 09, 2011

    You left Vyatta off this list. It is used in many large enterprise class organization, ISPs, and backbone providers.

    Commercial Offering -
    OSS/Community Edition -

  2. Hello,
    Maybe you miss "zeroshell" and the ipcop derivate "ipfire" that are the most recently updated of all the list you did.
    Nice article!

  3. Nice right up. How about IPFire? That should be included in the list too.

  4. IPCop has 2.0.3 out now
    And IPFire is a near IPCop
    with the Addons available
    as packages

  5. For me one of the best is Untangle Linux, openvpn, protect and filter in a friendly GUI.