Securing your Mac computer is not overly difficult and there are a number of actions you can take to protect yourself from others seeking harm. Face it, if you do not take security seriously with your own system then who will? I have heard of the tooth fairy, but I have not heard of the security fairy. The fact is Apple has provided a number of features core to the operating system to help secure your system and prevent the tampering or stealing of your personal data. Securing your computer may sound intimidating at first and you may worry that you do not have the necessary skills to address this activity, but the truth is the features of the OS X operating system and third party tools range from simple to complex. Like with all things in life, all it takes is time and effort to succeed.
The Operating System
The fact is the tools afforded to you within the operating system come at no additional cost. For example, open up System Preferences and you will find a number of areas that will further advance you security efforts. These area include Desktop & Screen Saver, Security & Privacy, Sharing, and Users & Group. While these areas are not all inclusive of security options, they are a great starting point.
Desktop & Screen Saver
Enabling the screen saver provides a number of benefits and one is security. One aspect of social engineering is known as shoulder surfing. This is when another person either passes by your monitor or stands around your workstation in order to see what you may be doing. Another benefit is to simply reduce power consumption and burn in with the monitor. So go ahead and select what screen saver you fancy and set the associated options. For example set the start after option to the number of minutes that you want the screen saver to activate.
Security & Privacy
These options contains a number of options that you will want to spend time on and look closely at the general, firevault, firewall, and privacy sections.
The general section allows you to set set passwords, manage passwords, handle automatic logins, and determine how you will handle application downloads.
To change the password of the current user click the change password button. Upon doing so you will be prompted for the current password, enter a new password, verify the new password, and finally enter a hint for the password.
Select the Require password after sleep or screensaver begins checkbox. Set a time interval for when the password is required – the immediately option is recommended. This will require the user to authenticate when exiting the screensaver or waking the computer from sleep.
I highly recommend checking the box disable automatic login. If you go through the trouble of establishing a password then why in the world would you want to login without be prompted for a password? Also it makes it more difficult for the men in black.
The last section you will want to address is how you will handle the downloading and installation of applications. Know that the threat of malware and viruses is real no matter what anyone tells you. For example, when I purchased mu first MacBook Pro I inquired about antivirus software and the sales person told me that Macs never suffer from viruses. Speaking of antivirus software, I prefer Kaspersky Internet Security for my Mac, PC, and mobile devices.
With FileVault, your data is safe and secure — even if your Mac falls into the wrong hands (remember those men in black). FileVault encrypts the entire drive on your Mac, protecting your data with XTS-AES 128 encryption. Initial encryption is fast and unobtrusive. It can also encrypt any removable drive, helping you secure Time Machine backups or other external drives with ease. Encryption slows hard drive access somewhat and may affect tasks that involve a lot of data, such as movie editing.
Depending on how much data is in your home directory, the initial encryption process could take a while. If you’re working on your laptop, plug in the charger.
What else is there to say here except make sure you have turned on the firewall. Of course, it is likely that you have a firewall on your router to protect you from outside threats, but if you are on a local network such as a coffee shop WiFi this firewall will go a long way in providing you a layer of security that you did not have with the firewall disabled.
This section allows you to control location services, applications, and diagnostics. There is no right or wrong configuration here for the typical individual because if all comes down to personal needs.
For the most part maintaining you Mac is painless, but depending upon your use and configuration you may have to take additional steps. The following are core activities eveyone should follow.
- Keep your Mac OS updated to take advantage of security updates and other improvements.
- Keep your applications updated to take advantage of security updates and other improvements.
- Do not root, jailbreak, or otherwise unlock your device.
- Only install trusted applications.
- Before you sell or give away your computer, erase the hard drive securely.
Additional Best Practices
Consider these additional options for enhanced security for your computer and the data maintained on or accessed from it.
- Back up your data. Always keep a backup copy of files you do not wish to lose
- Choose web browser security settings that protect your privacy and enhance security
- Protect yourself online. Learn about strong passwords, how to protect your identity, how to avoid phishing scams, and more
- Put a sticker on your computer with your name and contact information. This low-tech, step enables somebody to contact you if they find your lost computer
- Encrypt external hard drives