Much has been written in recent years about data breaches where hackers attack a corporate or government website and database and dispose of millions of passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information.
What isn't it? t talked about is often how much your Mac is under attack; from and from outside. Hackers and bots hammer every Mac connected to the Internet, but Apple has most of the vulnerabilities plugged in, and once an exploit is found, you manage to plug that hole as well. What about the apps on your Mac? Do they phone home and share data about you?
ET Phone Home
For the most part, macOS Sierra and its predecessors have done a great job of persecuting those who would hack into your Mac. Updates are frequent. The holes are plugged. In fact, Apple is sufficiently secure in MacOS that it doesn't interfere with turning on the built-in software firewall that can prevent outsiders from accessing the Mac.
In addition, everyone knows that the most harmful conquests occur due to the user's error or somebody nearby accessing your Mac. But what about the devices already on your Mac? Should such apps call home?
By calling home, in computing, it refers to an action from client to server communication that may be undesirable to the user and / or the holder of the device or software. It is often used to refer to the behavior of security systems that report network location, user names or other such data to another computer.
How do you see which apps on your Mac are in contact with the outside world? Little Snitch is the app I use. We at Mac360 have often written about Little Snitch's ability to capture and stop apps from calling home, but it's a new feature that turns off socks. It is a real time to look at which apps are calling home and where they are calling.
What you see in the picture above is a Mac location – the blue icon – and all the places where different apps call home. In reality. The left sidebar shows the latest connections – from your Mac to a location. The map in the middle shows the same data, but graphically. The right sidebar shows a summary of the latest connections, including those who refused, how much bandwidth – both up and down – has been used, and statistics on the apps that use the network the most.
Little Snitch, Once Installed, Automatically Allows A Lot Of Connections From Your Mac To Servers Elsewhere In The World. That means you can browse Safari, use Mail to capture spam (shameless plugin for SpamSieve), connect to iTunes, iCloud, Calendar sync and more. But when third-party applications decide to call home, they are stopped and you get a pop-up alert with opportunities to refuse or accept the connection.
Most such compounds are beneficial. Apps need to call home to see if a new update is available. Many apps use iCloud, Dropbox and other shooting services, and must therefore connect to each one. And each one gives you a pop-up window with options. After a while you don't have many pop-ups. What you want to see is which apps call home and where geographically.
This is a new screenshot from Little Snitch on the iMac (Yes, I live in the middle of the Pacific).
What you see above are the outgoing connections my iMac makes to servers elsewhere in the world. As expected, most connections to servers in the US, some in Canada, are even more so to Europe (UK, Germany, Ukraine and elsewhere). These connections go west in Japan, China and Russia.
You can track each and connect the track to the app on your Mac. For example, I had a connection to Shanghai. I double-clicked and found two connections from a program called Snippets Lab (which collects, stores and manages code and snippets). The connection to Russia came from Safari.
Here you look at the apps on my Mac that make connections to servers elsewhere in the world.
Little Snitch does far more than check outbound connection attempts, but also displays outbound connections to specific IP addresses and geographic locations. The number of applications that phones home to those servers are huge and surprising; even to someone who traces computer experience back to CP / M PCs running WordStar, SuperCalc and dBase II.
If you are concerned about security and privacy while using the internet, Little Snitch is a good way to see exactly which apps phone at home and where at home is, giving you more control over each one. It also comes with a try-before-you-buy alternative. It makes it highly recommended if you suffer from a bit of online paranoia. Remember that if everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have.