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Little Snitch, an outgoing network traffic blocker, notifies me when an application is attempting to establish a connection.

Many applications that I've installed have apparently registered themselves into the help system, and periodically cause helpd to connect to their individual help/tracking/metric gathering domains. I doubt that Apple intended on this sort of spying and one shouldn't need a blocker to stop it. So, I'm probably just unaware of how to configure helpd. Anyone know how to stop this unwanted traffic?

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Helpd seems a bit more sinister. Starting it up, then using lsof shows it accessing System.keychain, my personal login.keychain, SystemRootCertifcates.keychain. –  Sherwood Botsford Nov 4 '13 at 19:12

3 Answers 3

Had the same issue with helpd and just blocked it with little snitch. I will probably test it when new os updates occur to

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If the traffic is for an application that you still use, the solution of @jeff (using Little Snitch) is probably the best.

But if helpd wants to connect for an application that you have uninstalled long ago, maybe there is a help file still lying around in ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.helpd/Generated.

And if that doesn't help, you may find stale files by enabling system files in Spotlight.

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I think you're being too optimistic about how much control Apple intended to give users over the help system. The Mac OS X Help system does indeed connect to the internet to retrieve updates to its articles (they're essentially just web pages) and sometimes the articles themselves. This has always been the case for the current help system, and, IIRC, the help system has had the ability to do this from OS 8 or 9. There was some grousing when this first happened, what with it being back in the dark ages days of dial-up internet.

In short, there's no internal way to control how Help Viewer connects to the internet. If this disturbs you, block it with a firewall (Little Snitch would be an excellent choice), either entirely or only when connecting to addresses belonging to companies you don't trust*. You can then look up individual companies' support information using your normal web browser and whatever methods you use to keep your privacy intact when using it.

* This may well be the same thing.

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Thanks Scott. I thought it more likely I was just ignorant about OS X features because I've only been using Apple products for a short while and wasn't aware of the history of the OS and features. OS X has proven to me to be really solid and iOS fairly tightly-controlled platform. I really don't know how OS X's help system works, but it certainly seems like a flawed implementation as it stands. There are some applications that seem to be exploiting features of the system just to chatter with their servers constantly regardless of whether they are open or not. –  Michael Prescott Sep 14 '11 at 18:51

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