Mac security software developer Objective Development has announced the release of Little Snitch 3, a popular reverse-firewall package for OS X, which now includes a number of improvements that make the package both easier to use and more powerful.
Part of OS X's security system is a rudimentary firewall that lets users allow or deny incoming connections to system services and third-party software on a per-application basis. While the firewall is a good option to have and is recommended to keep enabled, it only blocks in one direction and therefore does not cover all bases for a security system. Apple's firewall will prevent a program from receiving malicious connection attempts, but if you have a program on your computer that is attempting to make unwanted outbound connections then Apple's software will not prevent this.
To monitor outbound traffic on your system, a reverse firewall such as that in Little Snitch or Intego's VirusBarrier X6 suite will be needed. With these utilities you can temporarily or permanently prevent programs from continually registering with parent servers or otherwise phoning home, and can also detect and block malicious activity.
When the Flashback malware made its presence known on the Mac platform, one of the ways people discovered its activity was through warnings of outgoing connections from Little Snitch. Following these detections, future variants of Flashback and other malware that used similar modes of attack began searching target systems for the presence of Little Snitch among other security software and cancel their installations to avoid early detection. As a result, in some cases simply having the security software installed is enough to ward off potential attacks.
In the latest version of Little Snitch, Objective Development has included a few notable improvements. The first and foremost is more user-friendly alerts that include research options, allowing you to look up information on a connection attempt and be better able to determine whether to allow or deny it.
In addition, Little Snitch now includes a silent mode that will keep alerts hidden but still allow Little Snitch to run, and also offers profiles to have different rule sets for your various network locations. Beyond these options the program has a redesigned network monitor, and more intuitive interfaces for settings and status listings.
The upgrade to Little Snitch 3 is free for those who purchased the program after May 1, 2012. It will cost $16.95 for those who have an existing license for Little Snitch 2; new licenses for the software will cost $34.95. Little Snitch does have a demo mode, so if you would like to try the software, it will work in full for three-hour periods before automatically deactivating.