Guess what? There’s a lot going on across the interwebs that the average person doesn’t know about. What’s the biggest use of bandwidth? Movies. What kind? Guess. It’s a four letter word that starts with the letter P and ends with an N and has O and R in the middle. Here’s another revelation.
Every device connected to the internet is the target of hackers. All. The. Time. Your Mac is under siege daily from an untold number of bots, scammers, hackers, crawlers, script kiddies, criminals, government spooks, hackers, and every sort of nefarious snoop from the underworld of humanity. Oddly enough, a chunk of the internet bandwidth our devices use each month comes from within our Macs, iPhones, and iPads. That’s right. Nearly every application on whatever device you’re using at the moment is phoning home. Which ones? And When? How can you find out? How can you stop them?
Many years ago I installed Little Snitch on my Mac and was shocked to learn how many different apps were making internet connections from my Mac to who knows where. Sure, macOS does it all the time, but so do most other apps. Where are they connecting to? What are they doing? Little Snitch helped to track them down.
Since then, we’ve learned about government spooks hacking and spying on their own citizens, constant attacks from both friendly and unfriendly foreign governments, so it’s easy to understand why paranoia is a good attitude to have. That’s the attitude to have when everybody is out to get you, amirite?
Enter another Mac utility for the paranoid Mac user.
This one is called Hands Off!, a background utility that’s been around for years. It monitors your Mac’s internet connections– incoming and outgoing. That means it watches what you can’t see, lets you know when an app is phoning home, and helps to block attacks from the outside and the inside by locking down the inside of your Mac’s communication ports.
Here’s how it works.
Install Hands Off! and it immediately begins watching and blocking both incoming and outgoing network communication connections to and from your Mac. When it detects one that is unexpected, you get a pop up which lets you always allow, or always deny, or always ask permission for the app to connect to the outside world.
You can be notified when every app on the Mac wants to make a connection to the internet or your network. Settings allow you to set up and allow basic apps, though; including Safari, Calendar, Contacts, Mail, and others which normally need to connect.
Hands Off! is so useful you can use it to block everything, or only those specific apps you’d rather not make connections. But it goes further. The app also prevents certain apps from reading specific files. It blocks browsers from storing cookies. Hands Off! can protect your Mac from malware, too, including Trojans and worms, and others.
Much of that protection is handled in the background, but if you’re really paranoid, Hands Off! can be configured with global rules or granular rules using various Unix tools, domain resolving, and other network connections. Every app on your Mac can be viewed in a detailed list which displays the apps name, type of connection, and any rules which are applied, either automatically, or configured by the user.
Not only does Hands Off! monitor network connections and apps, but it also monitors apps which have access to your Mac’s disk, either preventing or allowing them to read documents, or write files to storage. Hands Off! can appear a bit geeky to setup and use, and it can be annoying as you filter through all the apps that phone home (there are more than you think), but it’s a godsend to any Mac user who wants an extra layer of protection in a world filled with unscrupulous hackers who attempt to sabotage or compromise our devices.
Try out the trial version and you’ll be surprised at the number of incoming attempts and outgoing connections your Mac makes each day. It’s scary. But there is help. And it’s easy to use.