Your Mac has a built-in firewall to keep intruders from connecting to your Mac through an internet or network connection. Apple has the firewall turned off by default. Yes, macOS security is that good.
I turn my Mac’s firewall on and make a few special settings that I know will add an extra layer of protection. I also run Little Snitch to block trackers and unknown connections. Unfortunately, we cannot do the same thing on iPhone and iPad.
Or, can we?
This week I’ve been using the Guardian Firewall + VPN on my iPhone and iPad. It’s a firewall and a VPN (virtual private network; they’re all the rage these days), but the firewall does not reside on the iPhone or iPad. It resides at the other end of VPN so it blocks unwanted trackers from grabbing information from you and sending it off to who knows where.
Guardian is free to try and the full-time VPN service is $10 a month (or $100 a year) so it is almost price competitive with some VPNs. You’re paying extra for the firewall.
Guardian Firewall is sophisticated software with a simple design that prevents digital trackers from secretly collecting your information, shows attempts by data companies to track you, and prevents eavesdropping of your sensitive data such as banking passwords using strong encryption.
The free version lets you use the VPN awhile, and lists tracker alerts and what has been blocked, but you don’t have controls to manage the firewall at the other end of the connection. Pay the monthly fee and you get a VPN that is on all the time, plus encryption, tracker and blocker alerts, but, as best I can tell, no additional controls, and that’s where the problem comes in.
I get what Guardian is trying to do. Guard your iPhone and iPad by blocking trackers. Great. Plus, it is doing so as simply as possible. Tap the big ‘G’ on the app and you’re good to go. I like that.
What’s the problem?
A standard VPN seldom causes a problem when trying to connect to specific websites, including a bank or business, Amazon or other online retailers. A typical VPN is just a secure, encrypted connection that makes it more difficult for websites and trackers to identify who you are.
Guardian adds the firewall to prevent all kinds of additional tracker attempts, but sometimes there are necessary trackers to keep a connection to a wanted website. That’s the biggest complaint Guardian gets from users. It effectively blocks users from good websites, too, so the app needs some additional controls that effectively whitelist specific sites– and make it easy and simple to do so.
Other than that, Guardian seems like a very good idea that likely will show up on other VPNs in the future.