Tracker Firewall: Lockdown App for iOS

I’ve been asked many times if there is a Little Snitch-like firewall for iOS. While yes, some applications with configurable content filtering exist, none has really answered my needs. Recently my friend Drew informed me of an application called Lockdown App for iOS.

Lockdown App for iOS

I have seen a number of products that come close, but virtually all of them have some issue that is a show-stopper for me. Lockdown App is different, though. Lockdown offers a very simple, user-friendly firewall that blocks connections to tracking servers.

Lockdown App seems to have a very straightforward, sustainable pricing system. The firewall is free, but the VPN costs. There is a one-week free trial, after which you must upgrade to a paid plan. Pricing is as follows: $7.99/mo, $49.99/year, or $11.99/year of Lockdown “Pro.”

Lockdown’s privacy policy is amazing, and what I would like to see on many, many more applications. There are two privacy policies; one for the firewall product and one for the VPN product. The privacy policy for the firewall product is so simple and straightforward I won’t attempt to paraphrase it. The entire text is:

Everything Lockdown Firewall does stays on your device, and what you see is literally what you get, and nothing more or less, because that’s the way it should be.

Longer Version: Everything Lockdown Firewall does stays on your phone, so no data is transmitted to any of our servers. This can be confirmed by checking the source code, which is 100% open and public for anyone to examine. Lockdown Firewall doesn’t use any type of third party analytics, trackers, or APIs, so there’s no risk of your data leaking to third parties. This means there’s no Google Analytics, no Facebook Pixel, no Mixpanel, Fabric, Mailchimp, etc — nada.

Information We Collect

Lockdown Firewall collects nothing. It all stays on your device.

Lockdown App Setup and Use

Let’s take a look at Lockdown App. First, install the application on your device. The version in the Apple App Store is called “Lockdown App.” After installing the application you will be presented with a tutorial, which does a pretty good job of explaining the application.

The app will require you to install some VPN configuration files; this is necessary for filtering to occur. Although Lockdown App does offer a VPN, you do not not have to use it and can use only the firewall. I really appreciate this. Some competitors have decent products, but require the use of their VPN, and this is not how I want to choose my VPN (as an add-on to another product). With Lockdown you can choose to enable both the firewall and the VPN, or one or the other.

After you have enabled the firewall, tap the “Block List” button. This will show you the servers that are being blocked by the firewall. By default this is a fairly short list, with a lot of stuff left enabled. I’m sure this is to keep Lockdown from breaking your whole phone. On my phone I went through and enabled every single category: Clickbait, Crypto Mining, Email Trackers, Facebook Apps, Facebook Trackers, Game Ads, Marketing Trackers, Ransomware, and Snapchat Trackers.

To enable blockers, click on the category. This will open a list of blocked domains in that category. Toggle the “Blocking Enabled” button to on and tap Save.

After you have enabled the blockers you wish to use, the app is pretty much fire-and-forget. Simply go about your daily life, knowing that many of the trackers that were being sent from your phone are no longer being sent. Opening the app can let you see the number of trackers you have blocked; I find this very useful. Users are always surprised to see hundreds of connections after just a few minutes.

If the built in tracking lists do not meet your needs, you can also add individual URLs or IP addresses you wish to block.

My Experience Using Lockdown App

When Drew told me about this app I looked at their website, read the entire privacy policy, and installed it immediately. I blocked all trackers, and…started opening apps. One awesome feature of Lockdown is it lets you see which apps are betraying your privacy.

For example, you can open the Audible application, then switch to Lockdown App. You will notice that 10-13 trackers have attempted to connect to the internet (I’ve opened it a lot of times and it varies). There are multiple connection attempts to Kochava and Facebook. If you open the Sudo app, you will find that it attempts to make three connections to braze.com, another analytics server. I found that several apps I would not expect were collecting on me in the background.

I was also relieved to find that many of the apps I have trusted for years are not spying on me. Standard Notes, Authy, ProtonMail, Wire, Strongbox, and Do Not Disturb were all perfectly quiet. I also found that my phone, with its minimum compliment of apps, was far quieter than my girlfriend’s. She is much closer to the “typical” user. After a week of using Lockdown I had barely broken 1,000 blocked trackers, while she was over 7,000.

I also found myself using Lockdown to select apps. There are a plethora of internet browsers for iOS. I’ve long been up in the air about a couple of them; Lockdown let me see which was sharing more information. Balanced with other factors (privacy stance, etc.) this helped me decide on Firefox for iOS.

In Summary

If you are an iOS user, I definitely recommend Lockdown App. The number of trackers you block will vary depending on the number of apps on your device, what those apps are, and how (and how often) you use them. Try it out; there isn’t really anything to lose, except some trackers. I don’t necessarily recommend their VPN, but if you want to throw them a few bucks it will help this project be sustainable.