Almost every week we read of a security breach, or another outbreak of malware, so some other danger that is sure to send us all back to the dark ages of adding machines and punch cards. Except, we Mac users, iPhone users, and iPad users tend to look at security problems as something that other platforms catch; as if it were a digital disease only targeted to those who chose the wrong computing platform.
The Mac may not get hit with viruses the way Windows has in the past, but malware is everywhere and Macs can be infected and Mac users are susceptible to phishing attempts just like our Windows brethren (who, like tornadoes attracted to trailer parks, seem to get more than their share of ransomeware these days).
Enter my list of the top Mac security tricks and tips.
Passwords – this is too easy. In Security & Privacy, in the General setting, turn on Require Password ‘immediately’ after sleep or when the screensaver begins, and then disable automatic login. Sure, the right Mac geek can still find a way onto your Mac, but deterrence is halfway there.
Firewall – yeah, easy, too, and a true story– Apple turns the built-in software Firewall off by default. Confident, no? Back to Security & Privacy, click Firewall, and turn the bugger on. That action alone closes the door on most online hacking attempts.
Privacy – you will see Privacy settings on macOS Sierra (and older macOS versions) as well as iOS. Back to Security & Privacy, then the Privacy section, which, by default, can be messy, but it will display the type of privacy options for various apps installed on your Mac. Rummage through the list and turn off what doesn’t look right. That may take awhile.
FileVault – OK, this one is a killer. Without the password to unlock your encrypted Mac, nobody gets in. Not Apple, not thieves, not you. So, tread carefully because FileVault encrypts everything on your Mac. And, if you’ve never done it, might take awhile. But without the password to get into your Mac, files won’t go out.
Sharing – this is a good one because we have so many options to close down. In this case it’s the Security tab in System Preferences. You’ll see more than half a dozen options ranging from Screen Sharing to Printer Sharing to Internet Sharing and more. Turn off what you don’t think you want or need (hint: most of them) and limit access to a specific user.
Those settings alone will make your Mac more secure, but more can be done if you don’t mind going all geeky on your bad self.
HTTPS Everywhere – it’s not, it should be, but you can enforce a secure connection with a Safari extension called SSL Always or HTTPS Everywhere. Other options are available, too, but the only problem is that not all websites are set up to use SSL connections.
VPN – I hate that we have to pay a VPN service to keep our Macs safe on public Wi-Fi, but that’s the nature of the internet beast. Or, you could use the free VPN service in the new version of the Opera browser. Of course, Opera is now owned by a Chinese company so that might be a security risk all by its lonesome.
TFA – which is Two-Factor Authentication. If you’re not using it yet, you will be soon. It’s not the future, but TFA gives you yet another layer of protection. Apple recommends TFA for Apple ID and soon we’ll have app specific authentication for our Apple toys, so get used to the extra headache– at least until the trio of facial recognition, voice recognition, and fingerprint ID comes around.
Yes, there are plenty more options to help nail down and lock down your Mac. For my iPhone and iPad I use TouchID and a complex password which must be remembered. I’m old fashioned.