Your Mac sure likes to talk

Your computer is always sending and receiving information, even without your permission. Some of this chatter is helpful, but some of it can be quite harmful. With the “Little Snitch” application, you don’t have to stay in the dark about all this back and forth. The app lets you monitor and control your computer network.

This article explains the good and the bad on network chatter and explains how Little Snitch can help protect your privacy and keep you safe.

On the bright side, many apps “phone home” to ask if there’s a new version. That’s often helpful because maintaining updated software can protect you from vulnerabilities. The feature works great with trusted developers.

But sometimes bad actors try to hack their way into your computer, and that can be harmful! Once you download spyware or harmful attachments, little applications can install themselves and get to work, sending your private information out to the rest of the internet, where some of it can be used against you.

Little Snitch is an advanced firewall and network monitoring tool for Mac. The Mac operating system has a built-in firewall that is effective, but only if you know how to use it. It’s fine for experts who already know what communications are ok and which ones are bad, but for novices, it’s confusing enough that most people just accept the default settings. That can come at the expense of your security.

Since Little Snitch is also a network monitor, it shows you all the network traffic and put you in control of it. The app’s built-in network monitor displays a world map showing incoming and outgoing directions. And each time there’s a communication, you can get an alert with information about the source and purpose of the exchange. If you like the purpose, you can ok it forever and never be bothered about it again. If you’re not sure, you can set a temporary rule and learn more later. To be on the safe side, you can just block it until you close the app or restart the computer. Or you can accept it temporarily until you learn more.

If you decide to use Little Snitch, you should know what you’re getting yourself into. At first, it can be a bit overwhelming because so much data is going out and flowing into your computer. You’ll get a lot of alerts, and you’ll have to make a lot of decisions. Frankly, I’d recommend doing the work of sorting out the connections over several sessions because it takes time to make good decisions. Fortunately, you can turn it to silent mode at any time, or even turn it all the way off until you’re ready.

Little Snitch is an educational app because it helps you discover the hidden world of network communications. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll be safer as a result.

If you like Little Snitch, you might also consider a companion app by the same developer (Objective Development), called “Micro Snitch.” This simple app displays a little warning when your audio or video is being accessed. Micro Snitch is an excellent tool for improved security and privacy. Not too long ago, hackers figured out how to make FaceTime calls to Mac users and see through the users’ videos, even if they didn’t pick up! Apple eventually fixed the bug, but who knows how much video hackers collected and posted on the internet forever.

Get these great tools and learn to keep yourself safe. Face it: you’re not going to give up using the computer, so you might as well make sure that you use so that your computer isn’t using you.