Apple must know something about Mac security that the rest of the world does not. How else can you explain why the Mac’s built-in software firewall is turned off by default?
What’s worse is this. The Mac does not come with any built-in protection or monitoring of apps which phone home. You would be surprised to learn how many of the apps you download and install on your Mac also connect to the internet and send data to app developers or who knows where. What you need is a reverse firewall. Here it is.
Monitor And Block
Mac users have a precious few such reverse firewall blocking apps. Little Snitch and Hands Off! are two we’ve used and like, though both have an enormous array of settings and can get annoying with pop ups.
Enter Radio Silence, a background residing firewall and network monitoring app that does the phone home tracking you really want. It won’t stop incoming attempts to hack your Mac, but it can prevent the more subtle and insidious connections some apps make to their makers.
It is rare these days for a Mac app NOT to phone home and attempt to use your network to connect to a remote source– all in the background, all without your knowledge. The perfect example is Adobe’s flagship app, Photoshop, which can make more than half a dozen outside connections and never tell you about it.
While running in the background, Radio Silence doesn’t take up much CPU or battery juice so it’s safe to use on a Mac notebook. It won’t clutter up an already cluttered Mac Menubar. One of the side effects of using the app is saving on bandwidth and data charges while you’re on the road. If an app can’t phone home, it can’t use bandwidth.
The Firewall setting is the perfect place to start. Any Mac app can be blocked from phoning home and making an outbound network connect. The Network Monitor tab lets you view those apps that are making connections, which ports they use, when they attempt to phone home, and the host they prefer to connect to.
You might think that various apps need to phone home and you would be correct. Apps often check to see if there is an updated version available. But you can control which apps phone home, all the way down to helper apps, app executables, various in-memory processes running on your Mac, and that includes Daemons, XPC services or anything that attempts to create an outbound connection.
This is one of those great Mac apps you won’t find on the Mac App Store because it monitors what goes on in the background and Apple prefers App Store apps not do that. The license is tied to you instead of the Mac, so use it on both an iMac or a MacBook. One feature I truly appreciate is the total lack of annoying pop up alerts. Just go through the list of apps that access the internet and block those you won’t want to phone home.
If you’re a Mac user who is a bit paranoid about security then you’re in good company. When everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have. Having an app like Radio Silence on your Mac can give a bit more peace of mind in a world where hackers rule.