Here are some really easy tips to secure your Mac.
Tip #1: Run an Anti-Virus
Yes, Mac users should run anti-virus software. AVG for Mac and Malwarebytes are the two most popular free solutions, and both provide solid protection. (You do have to pay for the premium version of Malwarebytes to get real-time protection).
Some Mac users insist that virus checkers cause too much of a performance drop, whilst others feel they have a responsibility to run them.
Tip #2: Turn on the macOS Firewall
MacOS comes with a pretty decent firewall, which is now enabled by default. The firewall has a stealth mode, which means your computer won’t even respond to certain attempts to access it. This makes it harder for hackers to find you.
The firewall controls can be found in System Preferences under “Security & Privacy.” Keep the firewall on and in stealth mode. If you are having issues, you can check which apps are allowed to bypass the firewall here.
Tip #3: Tighten up Password Protection
Use a strong password to secure your Mac. Turn on password protection on wake from sleep if you are working in a shared environment or on MacBooks (which might be left momentarily unattended).
Disable automatic login on MacBooks and computers in shared environments. On desktops, consider your physical security. You can find this in System Preferences under Users & Groups, Login Options.
Tip #4: Disable the Guest Account
Unless you use it, disable the Guest account. This is also in Users & Groups, it’s a checkbox under Guest User. Most people don’t find the Guest account particularly useful and you can always turn it on temporarily if loaning the laptop.
Tip #5: Don’t Log in As Admin
The initial user account set up on any Mac is an admin account. Especially if you are not entirely comfortable with dealing with things “under the hood,” it’s often best to create a second account to actually use and use the admin account only to install software that requires those permissions. This will protect from some forms of malware and many forms of user error.
Tip #6: Uninstall Flash if you Don’t Use It
If your computer has the standalone Flash Player installed and you don’t use it, uninstall it. It’s known to cause security breaches.
Tip #7: 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 #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 to 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.
Tip #9: Make Sure you Have App Download Preferences Set Correctly
In newer Macs, this is not a problem, but if you have a several years’ old Mac that is, 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 #10: Check Privacy Settings
Just like Windows, macOS has privacy settings. You should go into System Preferences > Security & Privacy and look at the Privacy tab. This is where you can decide which apps can access location services (which tells the app where you are), your contacts, even your Facebook account. It’s a good idea to audit these regularly and turn off any you don’t like.
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 concerned really needs the permissions you are giving it.
Tip #11: Keep Your Software Up to Date
So, this one is for every kind of computer, but it’s worth mentioning. You should keep your software as up to date as your hardware allows. macOS updates are free, so there is no excuse not to keep the operating system fully up to date. Mojave, the most recent version at the time of writing, supports systems back to 2012. Keep apps up to date too, especially anti-virus and security apps.
Also, remember that your OS does not protect you from social engineering attacks or from “man in the middle” attacks where your data is being intercepted.
Just like PCs, Macs should be connected to the internet using a VPN to encrypt your data en route and keep it secure from prying eyes.
And regardless of what kind of computer you use, you should still practice good cyber security such as connecting in https mode and not clicking on links in unsolicited email or social media messages.
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