Do you know who is connected to your computer right now? Most computer users are oblivious to the fact that at any one time, your PC is connected to dozens of servers and companies around the world.
Some services you would be aware of, such as email, social media and web browsing, but others you may have no idea about.
With the latest security nightmares from Intel in the form of the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, now more than ever before you want to be aware of who has access to data travelling to and more importantly from your PC.
As an early adopter, and a big advocate of using virtual private networks (VPNs) and 2-factor authentication (2FA), with these latest security threats I went looking for a solution where I could visualise all of the network traffic to and from my PC.
The ability to block websites or specific applications already exists in most PC firewall programs, but I wanted to make the invisible visible.
I came across a program for the Mac called Little Snitch and it does just that – shows me a real-time map of services and servers connected to my PC around the world.
This morning, I took this snapshot while in my office in London (click to expand) showing all of the countries I was currently connected to..
Most I had no idea about, and the range of countries is surprising.
The program isn’t just a pretty visualisation tool, it has a powerful rules engine to allow you to block or accept certain types of connections and apps as your PC connects to each one.
I’ve turned off this feature in my Norton Internet Security tool and now have Little Snitch do this job.
UPDATE: November 2020 – Little Snitch 5 now works with the new MacOS Big Sur (MacOS 11) and it’s better than ever.
Here is what the team has to say about the new version:
Starting today, Little Snitch goes into its fifth round of giving users back control over their data and Internet privacy. The popular application-based interactive firewall for outgoing and incoming connections warns the user when an installed application tries to connect to the Internet, preventing personal and confidential information from being sent without the user’s explicit consent. Almost two decades after its first release, the new version comes with a completely rebuilt filter engine utilizing the latest technologies provided by macOS Big Sur to optimize the user experience and modernize the entire foundation of the product.
Among the newly introduced features, system administrators now have the ability to configure settings via a command line interface, making Little Snitch scriptable for the very first time. This interface now also provides the possibility to obtain both historical and real-time log data of all network connections.
Also the simplified Drag and Drop installation has been eagerly awaited by many users. A restart of the computer is now no longer required to install or update Little Snitch. New design features, like a prominent search bar and a newly structured sidebar go beyond aesthetic choice and add a level of simplicity and intuitiveness to the user experience.
Little Snitch 5 focusses on the seamless integration with macOS Big Sur, beautifully incorporating the new design language of the operating system, as well as adapting to the new underlying networking technologies introduced by Apple in this system update. Little Snitch 5 will therefore run exclusively on macOS Big Sur and future macOS versions. For those, who may not want to upgrade to macOS Big Sur just yet, Little Snitch 4 will continue to be available in Objective Development’s online shop.
Of most interest is not which servers I am connected to (and there are a lot, from things such as programs automatically checking for software updates, iCloud connections, advertising servers, web traffic measurement etc), but what data is being sent FROM my PC. I want to see if any programs are sending data from my PC that shouldn’t be.
I’ve said many times before that the “last mile” of a company’s online security defences rests with employees, and this means that you need to be a little bit more inquisitive about what is entering and leaving your computer – hopefully not all of your precious personal information through a hack.
Make it your personal project to learn more about VPNs, 2FA and overall computer security.
Consider not about IF you get hacked, assume it will happen and learn now to minimize the exposure.
Grab Little Snitch here.