Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Firewall: Little Snitch - Block applications from unauthorized access

Moving to the Mac, one of the first things that struck me, was the lack of security options. As Macs are not targeted near as much as Windows for security exploits, there is much less demand. Regardless, knowing how dangerous the Internet can be, I wanted to have some sense of security for my important and personal data.

Searching on Google, I really struggled to find anything that really caught my eye. Norton was really the only big name that stuck out. But after having a look at their homepage and further research, Norton does not even have a product that supports the newer versions of Mac OSXs... I have had several bad experiences in my previous life, so I doubt I would have gone with Norton anyway.

Investing further, I started to hear about a product called Little Snitch. It was not a full-fledged firewall but it provided an important feature that most of the other firewalls did not feature. It blocks outgoing traffic! Since the Leopard has a firewall that can block inbound connections, this is a perfect compliment. Every time you use a new application connecting to the Internet, you can either allow or deny the connection. You have some flexibility to allow the access for the duration the application is open or anytime the application tries to connect to the Internet (selecting Forever). You also have the ability to restrict the scope of the access. Say for example, you have a browser an ftp program which you only want to connect to one site, like your website you manage. But know that this application can send data to the Internet, you can configure the firewall to connect only to the hosting provider and nothing else. If it is a trusted application (like a web browser), you can also allow the access to any host.

Once you configure an application to be used permanently by Little Snitch, its not the end. Included is an interface allowing you to review and modify all the rules you have created. All you have to do is go to your Little Snitch Rules and from there click on the rules you want to modify. Like above, you have the option of allowing/denying, per port, per protocol & by network or server. The product is very easy and straightforward to use even for the novice.

This was one of my first purchases on the Mac and I do not regret it for a second. The only thing I regret is not buying the family licence for when I replace more of my PCs with Macs. The family license allows you to use install Little Stitch on 5 Macs within the same household.

For more information about this product visit the Little Snitch website.

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