Block Androids apps from connecting to the Internet with NetGuard

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 29, 2015
Google Android

NetGuard is a free application for devices running Android 5.0 or up that allows you to control which app may send or receive data.

It is difficult usually to find out what applications do on mobile devices as you are limited in terms of what you can run on the device to track usage.

While you can set up a monitoring solution to overcome this, most users probably don't as it is not easy.

There are plenty of reasons why you may want to control the apps connecting to the Internet. Privacy comes to mind for example, as you can prevent apps from leaking data for example or block advertisement this way from being displayed in the app.

Other benefits include saving data by blocking applications from using it, and saving battery.

Applications like the excellent NoRoot Firewall help in this regard as they let you control Internet access.

NetGuard requires no-root access or even the Internet permission, which means that you can run it on any device running Android 5 or higher. The app is very simple to use, open source, and ships without advertisement or tracking, or phone home functionality.

The app requires that you set it up as a VPN connection to control Internet traffic and provide you with its functionality. This is done by enabling it after you have launched the application on your device and accepting the prompt that is displayed on first run.

Basically, it directs all app traffic through the VPN connection it controls and blocks connections this way giving you full control of an apps' connectivity.

It displays a list of user-installed and system applications that you can control connectivity afterwards. All system apps are highlighted in orange for better distinction. Each app is listed with its name and toggles to enable or disable WiFi and mobile data.

You will notice right away that everything is disallowed by default which means that apps running on your phone may stop functioning if they require Internet.

To enable mobile data or WiFi for an app simply tap on the symbol next to it to do so. You may want to enable Internet for a web browser for example among other applications.

The settings provide you with additional options. You may use them to enable WiFi or mobile data by default for all applications for instance, reset all rules to start anew, or enable the dark theme to replace the default theme.

All in all though, it is a simple application that gives you full control over an application's Internet connectivity.

The one downside is that you cannot use a VPN connection at the same time you are running NetGuard.

Closing Words

NetGuard is a handy application for non-rooted Android 5.0 and higher devices as it gives you control over the Internet connectivity of applications running on the system.

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  1. Wayfarer said on November 1, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    If you’re already using a VPN for security you may have to choose between the two.

  2. Rescenic said on November 1, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Xiaomi has already built-in firewall.

  3. Mike said on October 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for this excellent article.

    Why does this application require access to the phone and the call log? Is this really necessary? Strikes me as rather odd don’t you think?

    1. Rick said on October 31, 2015 at 5:55 am

      Ah Google has been mucking around so much lately with the ‘groups of permissions’, that it’s almost impossible to only gain access to the ones you really want (as a programmer).

      It’s like buying a North American car: oh you want power windows do you? well those are offered with the XLC package that also comes with led bumper guards, singing windshield wipers, and vibrating lumbar support.

      But I only want power windows. Nope .. can’t do it unless you buy the entire package.

      Thus is the way of Android and permissions; and because Google keeps repackaging them, you pretty much have to get access to all permissions unless you want to forever keep updating :)

  4. CHEF-KOCH said on October 30, 2015 at 10:52 am

    AFWall+ or for xposed lightningwall all other things are snake oil. The VPN method is very limited because it won’t block ads/connection on boot, not working on 3g and and and. So I prefer iptables based ones, like same on Linux. The Xposed based have the benefit it truely works on all OS due xposed framework (optional also comes with iptables).

  5. Rick said on October 29, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Oh it blocks alright…even when you unblock an app.

    Microsoft translator doesn’t work at all even when netguard is disabled; or enabled with the app set to allow both wifi and internet.

    Beta is definitely beta for this app

    1. svim said on October 30, 2015 at 1:21 am

      I’m guessing the Microsoft Translator app works by using some Bing or maybe Google service that also needs to be unblocked in Netguard’s settings? Audio files in several languages take up several GBs, I doubt that much data is stored locally on your phone so even though you’re allowing MS Translator access through your firewall you might also need to whatever online service that feeds it access too.

      1. Rick said on October 31, 2015 at 5:49 am

        Agreed but it doesn’t explain why when it is globally disabled (so it says) that Translator doesn’t work.

        Global off, at least to me, means OFF, and that is not what happens.

        In fact, I was about to start working out what other service(s) was needed. So I globally disabled NG and made sure all access was back. Failed immediately lol So couldn’t even start to work by process of elimination.

        Removed NG and all back to normal.

  6. Interested said on October 29, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    It sounds like a great service but I wonder what bandwidth the VPN offers. Also, though you may be saving your privacy from many apps, it seems to me that you are sacrificing total privacy to this one app if they decide to gleen information from all the traffic on their own hosted VPN.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 29, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      This is more of a simulated VPN than a real one that you connect to. You don’t connect to an external server at all.

  7. someone said on October 29, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    “…ships without advertisement or tracking, or phone home functionality.”

    WOW am I dreaming? an Android app that doesn’t want permission to collect everything on my phone.

    thank you for posting about this app.

  8. Maelish said on October 29, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    None of these seem to stop advertisements though. I’ve tested a few of them and it never helps.

    1. Tom said on October 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Well if you want to definitely get rid of ads and you have a rooted phone you can check AdAway available through F-Droid. Works like a charm !

    2. svim said on October 30, 2015 at 2:54 am

      Software-based firewall apps like NetGuard are good at doing the fundamental function of what a firewall is supposed to do. While a typical hardware-based firewall appliance often includes a lot of other functionality (routing, VPN, packet inspection, etc.) it sounds like what you should be looking for instead is some kind of ad-blocking or content filtering app solution.

      1. Maelish said on October 30, 2015 at 3:10 am

        Maybe once granular privileges arrive with Android 6 we’ll have better controls over blocking ads.

  9. Yuliya said on October 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I always wanted something like a firewall for phone. I’ll give it a try :) I never undersood why basic apps like a gallery needs to connect to the internet.

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