Security should be very important. Although your Mac’s operating system is generally very secure, there are things you can do to make sure you have a locked down system. These tricks and tips are not going to disable you system so you can’t use it. They are every day tips which you should be following to ensure you don’t leave any back doors inadvertently open. If you don’t apply them all it doesn’t matter however the more you apply the more secure your system will be. If you have any addition please leave them in the comments.
The first security tip that you should enable is your firewall. Although there may be better firewalls out there, the one built into your Mac is sufficient for most peoples needs. To enable it open System Preferences select the Security & Privacy pane. Select the firewall tab. If the firewalls off use the big ‘Turn On’ button. If this is greyed out select the lock at bottom to enable the settings.
Enabling the firewall is one of the most basic things you can do to protect your mac.
Encrypt With FileVault
FileVault is a built in app with the roots of you operating system. It encrypts your data on the fly, this means that any data you store is inaccessible if the drive is removed and read from another computer. This is very useful if your Mac is stolen and the hard drive removed in order to retrieve the data. To turn it on, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy tab, as mentioned previously. In the FileVault tab select the ‘Turn On’ button to enable the security feature.
The only problem with FileVault is that it slows your Mac down when read and writing to your disk. If you forget your password you can’t decrypt your data, so ensure you can remember you passwords.
Keep Software Up To Date
One simple tip to keep Mac secure is to keep the software up to data. The app store will automatically tell you when downloads and updates need applying. This is especially important with regards to security updates and Java updates. Each software updates fixes bugs and holes in your system so it needs to have the latest software patches to ensure it is the most secure.
Allow Apps From Trusted Sources
The latest operating system from Apple includes a system application called GateKeeper. This is a piece of software which ensures applications have been signed from trusted sources. This is a level of protection which means applications that may come from unidentified developers don’t run on your Mac. All applications from the app store are signed to ensure they are safe. Most 3rd party apps which are not sold on the app store are signed by trusted developers. You want to enable at least the second option to ensure untrusted apps do not run.
I don’t recommend you set the option to Mac App Store, simply because most developers are trusted. If you are too strict it makes running the odd app you download off the internet more difficult to run.
One big security feature which you can enable is to disable Java. Java is full of security holes and is generally a pain to ensure that it doesn’t compromise your system. If you don’t use Java, turn it off. If it can’t run, it can’t enable rogue bits of code to reveal security holes in your Mac. To turn it off, open up the web browser preferences you use. In Safari go to Preferences > Security, and uncheck the ‘Enable Java’ tab.
I try and use a webpage with Java as little as possible. I am always sceptical of a site that tries and loads Java.
Backing Up Data
A simple, but useful, security feature is to back up your data. If your data is lost you can retrieve it. This is a security feature to ensure you can always get to your data when you need it. Use Time Machine as it is one of the best backup applications there is.
Use A Non Admin Account
One of the more difficult and less obvious tricks to ensure you have the best security for your Mac is the use of a non-admin account. When you first create an account it will be an admin account with many privileges. Instead you should create a normal user account with less admin powers. You will still be able to do all the things you can, however there is an added layer of security to stop any rouge or damaging applications from running. It also stops you doing anything which may disable or compromise your system.
To generate a new account, open System Preferences and select the Users & Groups pane. Select the little plus button at the bottom of the list and add a new ‘Standard’ account. Fill in all the required details.
It is a bit of a pain to swap over all of your files from an admin account to a normal user account, however the security benefits are usually worth it. Apple should implement and feature during the first start up and user account generation to enable you to do this.
Disable Automatic Login
If you have a MacBook that you take out on the road it is well worth disabling automatically login. This stops any one from starting your Mac and getting access to your files.
Within login options of the Users & Groups preference pane, ensure the automatic login drop down box is set to ‘Off’. This ensures you have to type a password to gain access to your user account.
Require A Password On Wake/Screen Saver
Similar to the previous tip, if you have a laptop I would suggest you set a password to unlock your computer from waking up, or coming out of a screensaver. This means that anyone who has your Mac needs your password to access your files.
This security setting is enabled from the Security & Privacy pane from within System Preferences. Enable the check box to require a password after sleep or disabling the screen saver.
Log Out Automatically
Another security tip on the lines of the previous tip is to log out automatically. This means that if you leave you Mac unattended for too long it will log you out. This means that you can still have the screen saver as normal, but requiring a password if you leave your Mac for any longer period of time.
Disable Location Services
This security tip also falls under the privacy umbrella. Location services tells certain applications where you are based on the GPS chip within your Mac. This means that your Mac can be pin pointed from anywhere on the globe. If you don’t want people knowing where you are you can disable this feature.
Open Security & Privacy from System Preferences. Select the Privacy tab. The top option from the sidebar should be an option labelled ‘Location Services’. Uncheck the box that says ‘Enabled Location Services’.
If you don’t have a device that has location service enabled, such as an iPhone or iPad, you should be ok. I don’t like it enabled as it can tell too many people where I am.
Secure Empty Trash
The last security tip is regarding emptying the Trash. When you delete any file only the pointer to the file is remove. This means the bits and bytes that make up the file are still present on your hard disk. If some clever apps you can actually read this data and rebuild the file.
For the added security when deleting files use the Finder > Secure Empty Trash, menu bar option. This will overwrite the files with blank data so the original files cannot be recovered.
Very are many methods to ensure your Mac is secure. You can’t have to comply with all of them, however you should at least follow a couple of them. My personal favourites are ensuring the firewall is enabled and Java is disabled.
If you have any tips or tricks regarding Mac security, please leave a comment.