Little Snitch is now littler and cheaper. Free, in fact. The popular Mac firewall is now available in a Mini version. Monitor and block outgoing network and internet connections for security.
Wait a minute, doesn’t macOS already have a built-in firewall? Yes it does, and it does a very good job of keeping hackers and unauthorized users out of the Apple Mac. However, it only blocks incoming connections and it does not block outgoing connections.
Apps on your Mac are free to make connections with servers on the internet and the firewall in the Mac neither informs you or blocks them. This means that apps can collect personal or sensitive information about you on the Mac and then send it to servers on the internet where it may be collected, stored and possibly sold.
Little Snitch is a powerful security app that add the missing outgoing monitoring and blocking features to the macOS firewall. It shows which apps make outgoing connections, which servers they connect to, and enables you to block them
Little Snitch costs $69. Little Snitch Mini is free. So, what’s the catch? Let’s take a look at the Mac security app.
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Install and run Little Snitch Mini
Little Snitch must be downloaded from the website, but Little Snitch Mini is available in the Mac App Store. Open the store app, search for ‘little snitch’ and install it.
The first time it is run you must give permission for it to add a system extension, monitor network traffic and so on. This is common with Mac apps these days and after allowing it access to what it needs, it adds an icon the menu bar and opens a window on the desktop.
View network connections and traffic
On the left is a list of apps that have established internet connections and on the right is a map of the world showing the locations of the servers that the apps are accessing. You may be surprised by some of them. My Mac connected to Australia of all places. Not a high risk, but odd nevertheless.
Some apps connect to multiple servers on the internet and they can be expanded in the list on the left to show each one.
The map can be hidden if you do not want to see it and this compact mode is the one you will probably use the most. If you have a big screen, it could be kept permanently open on the desktop so you can watch apps connect to servers.
Next to each app is a live traffic history icon that shows the amount of data being sent or received. Click the icon and a panel opens on the right to show a more detailed view of in and out traffic.
The main window can be closed if you do not want it on the desktop, but monitoring continues in the background. The menu bar icon shows network activity and clicking it displays a panel with summary information. The current upload and download traffic is shown as a live chart and the top four apps with the most network activity are listed.
It is useful to have this Little Snitch Mini icon in the menu bar so that you can see when network and internet activity is taking place, or if downloads have stalled for some reason.
What doesn’t Little Snitch Mini do?
The free version of Little Snitch Mini shows all outgoing network and internet connections, but it does not block them. However, it does offer a Premium upgrade as an in-app purchase for $13.49 a year if you want blocking and other useful features.
One of the Premium features is choosing the time period for the display. Free users can only see the last hour, but Premium users can select from Show All, month, week, day, hour and minute.
Another Premium feature is support for blocklists. A blocklist is a list of servers on the internet that are blocked for some reason, usually because they serve adverts or malware. Little Snitch Mini Premium can therefore be used as an ad blocker.
I’m a free user, so I didn’t try these features. You can add blocklists in the free app, but you cannot block anything without upgrading.
Little Snitch Mini offers a subset of Little Snitch features and it is simpler, easier to use and cheaper. If you are not a technical expert on Mac networking, I would recommend Mini instead of the full app.
The question is, should you use the free version or pay for premium? At just over $1 a month, this is a cheap app. What can you get for $1 these days? Little Snitch Mini boosts security and privacy on the Apple Mac and costs next to nothing, so I recommend it for non-technical Mac users.
Little Snitch Mini Free is useful for people that want to see what connections software on their Mac is making. It shows which apps connect to which servers on the internet. Although the apps cannot be blocked for free, it does at least inform you what is happening, something the Mac does not do. If you see an app making suspicious connections, you could quit or even uninstall it.
Free or Premium, Little Snitch Mini is a good app to have on your Mac.