In a previous post, we talked about Mac’s built-in firewall which can prevent unwelcome incoming internet connections. But what about outgoing connections? What about those apps that secretly call home?
Little Snitch to the Rescue
Little Snitch is a third-party application (put out by Objective Development – the same folks who bring us LaunchBar, one of my all-time favorite apps) that prevents your private data from being sent out to the Internet without your consent. Whenever an application tries to send out data, Little Snitch displays a dialog box asking you if you wish to allow the connection. Most of the time, applications send out data for a good reason and doing so can help you use the application effectively. But sometimes, they don’t. What Little Snitch does, is to intercept these unwanted connection attempts and bring them to your attention.
Help! I’m Being Bombarded!
The first time you launch Little Snitch, you may feel as though your are being bombarded by dialog boxes, asking you for Internet Access. Don’t worry – this is only the initial configuration, where Little Snitch finds out which applications you wish to allow. If you trust an application, then clicking the Forever tab ensures that you will not be notified again in the future when the app tries to access the Internet. Yes, I agree it may be a tad irritating at the front end but it’s only temporary. Once Little Snitch learns your preferences, the permission boxes that appear will be fewer and farer in between.
If you prefer to allow a program to send out data only during the current session while the application is open, choose the Until Quit button. This ensures that the next time the application tries to phone home, you will be asked whether you want to allow access.
The Network Monitor
The Network Monitor is a handy feature of Little Snitch that displays detailed traffic history of the past hour. The Network Monitor is available in the menulet bar for quick access and can help you in analyzing bandwidth, monitoring connectivity status, displaying currently active connections, connections denied by Little Snitch, system events and much more.
The Network Monitor is also highly configurable, allowing you to present data in a variety of different ways.
You can turn off the Network Monitor at any time from Little Snitch Preferences.
From the Rules window, you can view all of the Rules that you have created as well as system or global rules. Every time Little Snitch asks you to allow or disallow an application from accessing the Internet and you make a decision, that decision is recorded as a Rule.
The Rules window displays all rules, rules created in the past 24 hours, temporary rules, unapproved rules, rules for GUI applications, global rules and more. From the Rules window, you can disable rules as well as delete them. It is recommended to not disable global, protected or system rules as these are often essential to the smooth running of your computer.
To display the Rules window, click the Little Snitch icon in the menulet bar and choose Rules from the menu.
Little Snitch Preferences
It is from the Preferences window that you can turn Little Snitch on or off, as well as set alert preferences, turn the Network Monitor on and off, modify automatic profile switching, modify security settings, and more.
To display preferences for Little Snitch, click the Little Snitch icon in the menulet bar and choose Open Little Snitch Preferences.
There are tons of helpful features and settings for this highly configurable application, which are beyond the scope of this mini review. I have been a Little Snitch customer for many years now and highly recommended it if you are concerned about your private data being sent out to the Internet without your permission.
You can check out Little Snitch at Objective Development’s Web site at: http://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html.