Net Radar

Tips and Tricks


Net Radar is an app that's specialized in monitoring the status of your VPN connection. The app works on two levels. The first level is inside your Mac, iPad or iPhone, where the app monitors any network configuration change related to VPN connections. Each time a connection change is detected, the app looks at the new connection outside your device by calling a GeoIP service. This service returns the new public IP address and, more importantly, the current geographical location of the IP address, along with some other metadata. Both said levels are used to determine the operational status and the correct working of your VPN connection.

Net Radar can also be used to just monitor the public IP address of your Internet connection and the associated geographical location, without any VPN status checks. The VPN monitoring feature can be disabled in the settings of Net Radar.

macOS Edition

When you start Net Radar for the first time, the Setup Assistant will appear. The Assistant will lead you through a few simple steps to set up Net Radar.
In the first step of the Assistant you can select whether you want to use Net Radar to monitor the correct working of VPN connections on your Mac, or that you want to use Net Radar to just monitor the geographical location of your public IP address of your Internet connection. Just make your choice and press the Continue button.

When the second step is displayed, the Assistant will load a list of GeoIP services. It will select a default service or, if you have used the Assistant before, the last used GeoIP service. The selected service is called to retrieve the current public IP address and associated geographical location and some other metadata. The correctness of the location and the completeness of the metadata differs from service to service. You should select a service that is both quick and quite precise regarding the geographical location. The retrieved geographical location and additional metadata are used as a baseline of your 'unprotected' Internet location. It's therefore essential that you disable you VPN connection in this step. Retrieval of additional metadata is not essential, except when the geographical location of your VPN service is the same as your current physical location.

Experiment a bit and press Continue when you have selected a working GeoIP service.

In the third step, you have to check whether the selected GeoIP service works correctly when you start your VPN connection. The Assistant waits in this step for network changes that indicate a working VPN. So start your VPN connection and wait until the Assistant has retrieved the new geographical location of the public IP address of your VPN connection. Take into account that the location indicated by the VPN service may differ a bit from the actual location. For the correct working of Net Radar it's sufficient that the location differs from the location retrieved in the previous step.

Press Continue when the displayed data looks alright.

Remark: the step described here is skipped when you have selected the 'Just monitor the location of my Internet address' option in the first step.

In step four the results of the two previous steps are evaluated to see if the retrieved data is useable for external VPN monitoring. The results of both steps are displayed in a table. The data is useable when at least one of the listed items in the second step (without VPN) differs from the third step (with VPN). The retrieved IP number is also listed, but cannot be used for VPN monitoring.
You have the option to exclude items for external VPN monitoring by deselecting it. At least one item should remain selected, but more is better. You can for example deselect the geographical location when other distinct metadata is available.

Press Continue when everything is correctly set.

Remark: this step is skipped when you have selected the 'Just monitor the location of my Internet address' option in the first step.

The last step of the Assistant will just save the new configuration and restart the monitoring service with the new configuration. In the last step you have also the option to determine if the app should automatically start with each system start of your Mac. You can also change this option later in the Preferences panel of the app.

Press Done to save all settings and close the Assistant. The Net Radar service will restart using the new settings.

The Preferences panel of Net Radar can be opened by clicking on the 'Preferences' menu item in the menu of the Net Radar item in the status bar. This menu appears when you right-click on the status bar item. The following preferences can be set:

General preferences

If you want Net Radar to automatically launch at startup of your Mac, then must check the 'Launch at login' checkbox.

You can choose between two colors for the Net Radar status bar item when the VPN connection is working properly:
  • Green
  • Default: This is normally black unless the 'Use dark menu bar' option of OS X is active, in that case it's white.
Net Radar will warn you when it detects a non-working VPN connection. You can choose between three types of warnings:
  • Popup
    The popup of Net Radar, showing the current geographical location of your public IP address of your Internet connection on a map, together with other status information, will be used as warning if you check this option.
  • Dialog
    A modal dialog will be displayed on top of all running applications.
  • Notification
    A notification panel will be displayed from out the Notification center if you select this option.
You can choose whether each warning must be accompanied by a default warning sound or not.
You can switch between display styles for the map used within the popup of Net Radar. The Standard option is the fastest, while the Hybrid option is the slowest option, using more network bandwidth.
On top of the map used by the Net Radar popup, the following additional features can be displayed:
  • Zoom controls
    Allows you to zoom the map using your mouse.
  • Compass
    Shows a compass on top of the map, allowing you to change the direction of the map.
  • Pin annotation
    Adds an annotation to the pin on the map, showing the current public Internet address and the name of the detected city.
After initial setup of Net Radar, you need to run the Setup Assistant again when one of more of the following is true:
  • Your physical geographical location has been changed.
  • You want to use another GeoIP service.
  • Change the metadata criteria that are used to compare the current connection properties with the baseline data.
Advanced preferences

You need to enable this setting when your VPN service needs additional time to establish a working connection, after changing the local VPN configuration on your Mac.

When the time period (expressed in seconds) between initiating a new VPN connection and the actual VPN connection is too large, then it's possible that Net Radar keeps thinking that the new connection has failed. When you experience this behaviour, you should enable the 'Refresh location after connecting to VPN' setting and choose an appropriate time period. Start experimenting with the default value and increase the number of seconds when your VPN service needs even more time.

Net Radar refreshes the status of your Internet connection automatically after each network change related to VPN or the reachability of the Internet. This setting can be used as an extra safeguard.
You can uncheck this setting if you want to use Net Radar to just monitor the geographical location of your public Internet address. This setting is only enabled when you have performed the Setup Assistant with the default start option.

iOS Edition

Initial setup

When you start Net Radar for the first time, a default location service will be set and a baseline of the current local connection and geographical location will be generated. This is only possible without an active VPN connection. If a VPN connection is detected during the first start-up, an alert will be shown with a request to temporarily disable the VPN connection. Once Net Radar shows the geographical location of your connection, then the initial setup has been finished. You can then safely start using your VPN.

Improve geographical location detection

When the displayed location doesn't match the expected location, or the detection process is very slow, you can try to select another location server. Follow these steps to select another location server:

  1. Open the Settings tab view.
  2. Open the General section. This section shows a list of available location services. The location service that's currently used, has a check mark.
  3. Tap on another location service.
  4. A popup will show the results of the selected location service.
  5. Tap Save if you like the results and speed of the location service.

Selecting another service is only possible when VPN is disabled. The reason is that a new baseline is generated with connection and location metadata is generated when you select a new location service. More info about this can be found in 'Changing preferences', section 'Baseline preferences'.

Check current VPN status, public IP address and geographical location

Net Radar shows always automatically the current connection status, including the VPN status, public IP address and geographical location. The color bar before each information panel indicates the detected connection status:

  • Green
    When all detected connection configuration and metadata aspects confirm a working VPN connection, then the displayed data is marked by green indicators.
  • Red
    No working VPN connection has been detected, or the detected geographical location is not remote. The Connection panel will show which connection elements are currently problematic.
  • Orange
    No working network detected. The displayed data may represent the latest detected geographical location and network metadata.
  • Purple
    VPN detection has been disabled in the Settings tab. Only the public IP address and the geographical location are being monitored.
Refresh data

Net Radar refreshes the displayed connection data automatically when it's in the foreground and a network change is detected, and when it's activated. You can also manually refresh by tapping the Refresh button on top of the view. This will also refresh the map according to the current map settings.

Map settings

You can adjust some map view settings by tapping on the Map button on top of the view. These settings are a subset of the map settings in the Settings tab view.

Report activities

To protect your privacy, Net Radar doesn't log anything until you change the Console options in the Settings tab view. The Console section in the Settings tab view contains initially just one setting, 'Report activities'. Enable this setting to start logging all connection changes detected by Net Radar.

View connection activities

The Console view displays all connection changes detected by Net Radar in a list view. The color bar before each list item indicates the general status of the connection when logged:

Green
Working VPN connection detected.
Red
No working VPN connection detected.
Orange
No working network detected.
Purple
VPN detection has been disabled.

You can view all logged details of an item by tapping on it. This will open a detail view.

Delete activities

You can delete individual items by swiping from right to left. To delete all current item in the database, tap on the Garbage bin button on top of the view.

Export activities

The content of the Console can be exported to Numbers, Excel or any other app that's compatible with CSV. To do this, tap on the Share button on top of the view. This will display a sheet with the current available export options. These options depend on the installed apps on your device.

The following preferences can be set in the Settings tab view of Net Radar:

General preferences
You can uncheck this setting if you want to use Net Radar to just monitor the geographical location of your public Internet address. This setting is only enabled when you have performed the Setup Assistant with the default start option.

VPN connections on iPhones and iPads are almost always detected by iOS as a 'transient' connection. This aspect is included in the VPN connection validation by Net Radar. Disable this setting to exclude it from the VPN validation.

Net Radar refreshes the status of your internet connection automatically after each network change when the app is in the foreground. On top of this, you can set a refresh interval as an extra safeguard. Please note that this interval only works when the app is in the foreground.

Shows the available location services and the current active service. Follow these steps to select another location server:

  1. Tap on a location service.
  2. A popup will show the results of the selected location service.
  3. Tap Save after validating the results and detection speed. Saving is only possible when VPN is disabled.
Baseline preferences
The Baseline section of the Settings tab view shows the current baseline values that are used to determine of an internet connection is remote or not. One of these values concerns your current city, the other values are metadata of your current internet connection. You can include or exclude values if you wish. At least one setting must remain activated.
Renewing the baseline values may be necessary when your device operates in a new location with other network metadata. Tap on the button 'Renew baseline values' to do update the baseline value to your current location and network connection. This is only possible with VPN disabled.
Console preferences
Net Radar will log each detected connection change when this setting is enabled. This setting is default disabled to protect your privacy.
The Net Radar widget will log its detected network status data to the Console when this setting is enabled. Please note that each time you activate the Home screen, Lock screen or Search screen, the widget will add a new line to the activity log. This setting is only available when setting 'Report activities' is enabled.
Map preferences
You can switch between display styles for the map used within the popup of Net Radar. The Standard option is the fastest, while the Hybrid option is the slowest option, using more network bandwidth. The Flyover variants only works together when setting 'Show buildings' is activated.
Adds an annotation to the pin on the map, showing the current public Internet address and the name of the detected city, plus an icon representing the current network status.
When activated, the pin will be placed on the map with an animation.
Shows the map in 3D. Works only when the map type is set on Standard or on one of the 'Flyover' variants, and when 3D data exist for the current geographical location.
Determines if the map should show traffic information, like traffic jams.
Disable this setting, if you want a solid gray background in the Status view instead of a blurred copy of the current map.
Determines the visibility of a compass. The compass is only visible when the map does not point to the north.
Determines the visibility of a points of interest.
Determines the visibility of a scale indicator on top of the map.
When enabled, each intermediate step in the geographical detection process after a connection change, will be shown on the map. This works only properly on recent iOS devices and fast internet connections.

The following settings can be set in the Net Radar section of the Settings app of iOS:

System preferences
Determines if Net Radar is displayed in the Siri widget.
Net Radar will generate notifications when Background App Refresh is enabled, and a network change is detected.
Net Radar will periodically check the status of your internet connection when this setting is enabled. Please note that Net Radar is not able to monitor your connection in real time when it is in the background.

All Editions

Introduction

The number of things that you have to take into account when securing your Internet connection depends on what you want to achieve. For example, if you only want to use a servcie like Netflix without region restrictions, then it's sufficient to a public IP address that's associated with an unrestricted region. But if you want to become 'invisible' for anyone, then there a lot of more concerns to address.

Anonymity

Almost all VPN services will hide your real Internet address by masking it with an anonymous Internet address provided by the VPN service. This makes it harder for websites and Internet services to track your web activities and to discover your real geographical location. Some VPN providers like IPVanish offer an option to periodically change the anonymous Internet address, making it even more difficult to track your location.

Net Radar checks the Internet address masking feature after each new VPN connection.

Encryption

Almost all VPN services will encrypt all data that pass their connections. This will protect you from criminals that try to intercept and steal your data, under condition that a cryptographically secure algorithm is being used. Todays standards are in most cases based on the OpenVPN protocol using 256-bit encryption level. This protocol combines good performance with a good level of security.

DNS Leakage

Most DNS servers log when and where you go online. For example, Google DNS logs IP address, websites visited, geolocation data. It's therefore wise to choose a VPN service that uses their own DNS services.

Check DNS Leakage

Test to ensure that your DNS requests are not leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

IPv6 Leakage

Not all VPN service providers are ready for IPv6 support. When IPv6 handling is ignored by your VPN service, chances are high that you expose an unmasked IPv6 address to the public Internet. You should either choose a VPN service that handles IPv6 correctly, or just simply disable IPv6 support for Internet traffic on your Mac. That can be done by selecting the 'Only Link Local' option for the IPv6 setting in the Advanced Network preferences of the network connection that you use for Internet access (Wifi, UTP or both).

Check IPv6 Leakage

Test to ensure that your machine is not able to submit requests to IPv6 Networks.

Other security topics

There are a lot of other things to take into account when dealing with Internet security. Here is a short list of some interesting sources:

21 tips, tricks and shortcuts to help you stay anonymous online

IPv6 security vulnerability pokes holes in VPN providers' claims

Intrusion Detection Basics

All VPN services indicate if they are active or not. You use Net Radar to check if the indicated status is correct, and also to check if one of the most essential features of a VPN service, hiding your real Internet connection, is working or not. But what if you want to check the correct working of Net Radar itself? Then you can use the following GeoIP websites that will tell you your current IP address plus the associated geographical location, sometimes along with some additional metadata.

If the data displayed by the GeoIP website are identical to Net Radar then everything works as expected. If it's not identical, and Net Radar is not out of sync (thinking that you're connected to a VPN service while you're not, or the other way around), then it can be useful to rerun the Net Radar Setup Assistant, to select another GeoIP service.