As a Mac user, you must be ready to handle all types of security breaches. By making a proactive move to secure your Mac, you will be as prepared as possible.
How to Secure Your Mac
Tip #1: Run an Anti-Virus
Yes, it’s important for Mac users to run antivirus software. AVG for Mac and Malwarebytes are the two most popular free solutions and both provide solid protection. However, you do have to pay for the premium version of Malwarebytes to get real-time protection.
If you’re in the camp who believes that virus checkers cause too much of a performance drop, you may want to think about this position. These software programs can recognize threats when you’re browsing. By not getting some extra assistance from good antivirus software, you’re greatly increasing your chances of being attacked.
Tip #2: Check Privacy Settings
Just like Windows, macOS has privacy settings you can work with. Go into System Preferences > Security & Privacy and locate the Privacy tab. This is where you can decide which apps can access location services, which tells the app where you are. You can adjust settings for your contacts and even your Facebook account. It’s a good idea to audit these regularly and turn off ones that you don’t trust.
In order to change your Privacy, Firewall, FileVault or General functions, you’ll need to click the padlock that’s located near the bottom of your screen and log in with your username and password.
In High Sierra or later, you should also check Analytics, which controls which apps will send data to their developers for improving products. Consider each of these settings carefully. Be particularly careful with the Accessibility tab.
Apps listed here can control certain settings on your computer. Check whether the app really needs the permissions you are giving it.
Tip #3: Turn on the macOS Firewall
MacOS comes with a pretty decent firewall, which is supposed to be enabled by default. However, you’ll definitely want to check to see if it’s turned on. It has a funny way of not being enabled when you think it really is.
To turn on the Firewall on your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy. Click the padlock and enter your credentials. Click the option to turn on your Firewall. You’ll also want to click on Firewall Options and enable the Stealth Mode option. This helps cloak your computer so that you can’t be seen on public networks.
While the Firewall option is helpful, you must be aware that it only assists you with inbound traffic. It has the ability to stop incoming connections from a service, but it doesn’t have the ability to provide you with any type of control on outbound connections. If you happen to download a file that has malware, it can connect to the internet and won’t be stopped by macOS’s Firewall. You can always consider blocking network connections that are outgoing or use a third-party app that blocks outgoing connections.
Tip #4: Tighten Up Your Password Protection
Use a strong password to secure your Mac. Go to the Security & Privacy pane and click on General. Under the first setting, you’ll find the area where you can set your password or change it. Always remember to choose a good password that has 8 or more characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. It’s also best if you don’t write it down.
The second setting allows you to require a password to unlock your computer if it has been running a screensaver or was set to sleep mode. If you are in a work environment where other people are around, you may want to enable this option.
You’ll also find a setting that allows you to disable automatic login. While it may seem inconvenient to enter your password each time you turn on your Mac, you should enable this option.
Here’s a tip on a way to help you remember your password. You can utilize Apple’s iCloud Keychain, which only requires you to use your Apple ID to log in. iCloud Keychain has the ability to store personal information and settings for contacts, email, credit card numbers and automatically provide them as needed.
Tip #5: Make Sure You Have App Download Preferences Set Correctly
In newer Macs, this is not a problem, but if you have a Mac that is several years old, say, still running Mountain Lion, then you may still have an option to allow apps downloaded from anywhere.
If you do, make sure to have App Store or App Store and identified developers checked. You will still be able to run apps from other sources, but you will have to approve it. This means that apps can’t sneak onto your system.
Tip #6: Use FileVault
Particularly on MacBooks, using FileVault will encrypt your entire hard drive. This would make it very hard for a laptop thief (or customs) to access the data on the drive. They will need your admin password to do so.
Transferring the drive to another computer will make it inaccessible. FileVault can be very slow and you may not want to deal with the encryption time. This is one of those times when you need to weigh security versus convenience. On laptops, though, FileVault can protect you from theft.
Tip #7: Keep Your Software Up to Date
Apple usually does a pretty good job of reacting quickly when malware appears and has a number of measures put in place to combat possible threats. It’s always a good idea to update your macOS when a security update is issued by Apple.
Threats are likely to come from direct access to your computer, email or the internet. By taking steps to protect yourself, it will help keep potential threats to a minimum.
Tip #8: Disable Spotlight Suggestions
Spotlight suggestions are very handy in recent versions of macOS. They will connect to the Bing search engine to bring suggestions from the internet. However, this will share some of your information with Apple and Bing.
If you don’t find the feature helpful or are worried about that, turn it off. You can turn it off under System Preferences > Spotlight.
Also, if you use Safari, then go to Safari > Preferences > Search and disable “include Spotlight suggestions.” You can also do this on an iPhone or iPad in general settings.
- Photos: Lets you control the apps that want access to your library of Photos
- Internet Accounts System Preferences: If you have taken details from social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and added them to the Internet Accounts System Preferences option, it will give you control over the apps that have access to those individual accounts
- Accessibility: While it shares the same name, Accessibility is associated with the Accessibility option that’s located in the System Preferences window. This Accessibility option provides you with the ability to control apps that need to utilize your Mac in some way
- Analytics: This helps Apple improve their products based on data by users like you. You can opt out of this if you don’t want to share your data
- Contacts, Calendars and Reminders: These specify which apps on your Mac have the ability to access the data stored in each of these individual core apps
Tip #9: Check Your Safari Privacy Settings
It’s highly likely that you will be frequently using Safari. You can use its privacy settings to control if your data is visible.
The New Private Window allows visits to websites and doesn’t record any data. The Clear History option will erase cookies from your History menu, and the Privacy section that’s found in Safari’s Preferences will allow you to stop websites from tracking your data.
After the release of High Sierra, it changed where you can address privacy for your location data in Safari. It’s now located in Websites > Location. This gives you the ability to set Safari to allow specific sites to have the ability to access your location.
In addition, if you don’t want to have your username and password stored, you’ll need to use the AutoFill and Passwords function. By unchecking the appropriate boxes, your data will not be saved.
Tip #10: Be Cautious With Your Ability To Share
Apple added a feature to your Mac that allows you to share files with other individuals who have Macs. In addition, you can also share your screen if you need to work on a project remotely. By utilizing this sharing device it opens up a gateway into your computer. While a person does require a password to open this gateway, there is always the possibility that there could be a hidden flaw that exposes your data.
If you really want to stay safe, it’s best if you make sure that your ability to share is turned off. You can do this by going to System Preferences and click on the Sharing icon. Look for the boxes that are associated with the sharing service and make sure that they are not enabled.
Tip #11: Utilize The Firmware Password Utility
If you really want to make sure that no one has the ability to wipe all of the data from your hard disk, you may want to apply a password to your firmware. There’s always the possibility that an individual could take a USB memory stick and boot your Mac. This would give them the ability to reinstall the operating system or completely erase your data.
By applying a firmware password to your Mac, it will pop up any time that your machine is booted in a nonstandard way such as by using a USB stick. After applying this, you probably won’t ever have to prove your credentials if you boot in a standard way. To set this up, go to your Recovery Console by restarting your computer and pressing down the Command+R buttons before you see the Apple logo appear. Be sure to hold them until you see the progress bar. You’ll find the Firmware Password Utility menu item under Utilities. Be sure to remember this password for future reference.
Tip #12: Disable The Guest Account
If you decide to not use the Guest Account, it should be disabled. You’ll find this in Users & Groups. Locate the checkbox that allows you to enable or turn off this feature and make sure that the checkbox is clear.
If you ever change your mind and want to use the Find my Mac service that provides you with the ability to track down your Mac if it’s ever stolen or lost, you can enable the account. This will provide Apple with the location of your Mac if another individual logs in to your Mac as a guest and uses Safari to connect to the web.
Tip #13: Don’t Log In As Admin
The initial user account set up on any Mac is an admin account. If you aren’t comfortable having the power to work on just about every aspect that’s “under the hood,” it may be best to create a second account that you use all of the time. Just use the admin account when you are required to install software that requires those permissions. This will help protect your data from some forms of malware and many forms of user error.
Tip #14: Uninstall Flash If You Don’t Use It
It’s probably a good idea to uninstall the standalone Adobe Flash Player if you don’t use it. This software has been active since 1996 and known for its large number of security breaches. Malware developers from around the world have used it to wreak havoc with computer users. Fortunately, Adobe Flash will be discontinued in 2020. This is probably great news to anyone who has ever had their computer infected due to this software.
Summing It Up
There are a number of other tactics you can use to help make sure that your data stays safe while you’re using your Mac. These safeguards can include turning on two-factor authentication or only visiting HTTPS websites when you are surfing the web.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of a VPN when you are connected to the internet with your Mac. A VPN service keeps your data encrypted and can even help you overcome censorship if you are in a country that imposes regulations that are against internet freedom.
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