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I'm being forced to use my Macbook more and more with my metered 4G connection. I really need to keep data usage limited. Windows has an metered connection mode which really helps with this.

What's the best way to handle this issue in the OSX world? Perhaps some use of the firewall? Is there any sort of logging happening as to what is using the network?

Thanks for your help :-)

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    Little Snitch can log the volumes - your question is unclear if that is what you want - can you explain what a metered connection does/show and what you need – Mark Nov 13 '15 at 1:12
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    Thanks Mark. Windows allows you to mark selected network connections as 'metered'. When you're connected to them, Windows won't download any updates. Also, app developers can check the status of the connection and optionally limit traffic. Little snitch seems like a simple firewall, not dissimilar to the firewall included with Windows. You could use this to manually restrict certain apps at certain times. Not sure if it supports different configs for different connections to effectively auto switch. You might have to switch it on and off manually. Thanks :-) – Damien Sawyer Nov 13 '15 at 10:43
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TripMode

TripMode works on a whitelist system and blocks entire apps/processes from accessing the internet.

It is advertised with these relevant features:

When TripMode is ON, it prevents all your Mac apps from accessing the Internet but those that have been whitelisted by yourself. It typically stops automatic updates, online backups, Photos syncs, and various obscure apps from consuming precious data. Both uploads and downloads are blocked.

Track your data usage. See the data used per app, session, day, and month. Spot the data hungry apps.

New: You set the limit Set your data limit. All traffic stops when you reach it. Never go over your plan again!

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Little Snitch

Little Snitch lets you restrict specific network traffic from apps and processes. You can configure it to switch profiles automatically depending on the network that it is connected through.

You can set up Little Snitch to prompt on new connections, or configure the connections before the access attempt.

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Blocking with third party software

Apart from the excellent TripMode and LittleSnitch already mentioned the market has other contenders for this type of job on offer.

Blocking unwanted traffic is also possible with these application level firewalls:

RadioSilence

Advertised as:

The easiest network monitor and firewall for Mac. Radio Silence can stop any app from making network connections.

Powerful privacy for your Mac.

Radio Silence lets you keep a list of apps that aren't allowed to go online. Protect your privacy. Prevent apps from phoning home. Save on bandwidth and data charges. Radio Silence is completely invisible.

The firewall is invisible and always active. You don't have to keep any windows open. No annoying pop-ups. No clutter on your screen or dock. No effect on your Mac's performance.

HandsOff

Advertised as:

Hands Off! is an application to monitor and control the access of applications to your network and disks. Being able to monitor the normally unnoticeable activities enables you to make informed decisions regarding the transfer of your private information, hence avoiding confidential information leakage.

Vallum

Advertised as:

Vallum is a little tool that helps you monitoring applications connections. It is able to intercept apps connections and hold them while you decide whether to pass or block them. Vallum interface is very simple and based on icons. Its default configuration is not intrusive, it does not require any interaction or specific networking knowledge or skills. Just drag an app icon from the Finder into main Vallum window to block it. To change Vallum attitude and interaction level you just have to play with the very few options available. Vallum Configuration Strategies let you choose from a list of predefined firewall configurations ad attitudes. Vallum is not intrusive, it runs as a menulet in macOS menu bar, near the clock. It respects your privacy too: it does not connect home to verify the license, it does not need any online activation.

Blocking with onboard tools

Some other options are also already built into the operating system. But there is considerable effort involved to configure often limited possibilities.

  • Blocking the destination IPs with a hostfile via /etc/hosts

  • Blocking the ports used by those programs using your builtin pf firewall

Both have downsides of inflexibility and overreach. Sometimes benign and nefarious destinations share the same IP. The same ports are also used for way too many purposes at once as to be very effective to differentiate between allowed and unwanted traffic.

Monitoring the traffic with onboard tools

You can monitor the traffic with numerous applications and tools. One that is already installed is found on the command line:

/usr/bin/nettop

And in Activity Monitor there is of course the tab called "Network" where you can sort for "Sent Bytes" and "Received Bytes".

Advanced third party monitoring tools

Then there are advanced tools like tcpdump, wireshark, PeakHour and others that are usually a bit overkill in such a simple scenario.

Most important and practical is of course to just uninstall the offenders – if posssible.

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I just had a google around some firewalls. Murus basic looks ok, and it's currently half price at $10. I might give it a go. http://www.murusfirewall.com/

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    grrr. Murus is a front end for PF which is a network firewall, not an application firewall. PF is not able to block traffic at application level. It can block only at network level. So to block an application you have to block one or more ports/protocols. These blocks are active at system level, so all applications will be unable to access it. I guess I need Little Snitch or similar :-( From murusfirewall.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=297 – Damien Sawyer Nov 15 '15 at 20:59
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Until and unless Apple adds cellular to macOS, we will likely have several options:

  • use network link conditioner to make appropriately hobble the network connection entirely
  • strictly curtail apps running and disable all background updates and downloads
  • set up firewalls to block known users of bandwidth and have to monitor for new uses of networking over time

Apps like TripMode and LittleSnitch are good tools to automate some of this.

  • "Strictly curtailing" and "disable" is quite generic advice & might need a bit more elaboration, as some settings are hidden, not respected or just not settable. – LangLangC Oct 8 '17 at 14:12
  • @LangLangC Correct - and worse, the knobs and levers change from OS version to another. The concept is the same though, fire up Activity Monitor to watch what is sending and receiving and dig into the specifics of that app/daemon/service. The only bright light is Apple is all on board with making daemons to do much of the lifrting so that firewall rules are better able to shape and block some users as opposed to the kernel doing it in the old days. – bmike Oct 8 '17 at 14:18

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