Though Macs have long been touted as virus-proof or malware-resistant, most Mac users are well-aware that the dangers of using iOS and OSX are increasing. As more device users gravitate toward Apple products, more cybercriminals are finding reasons to develop Apple-specific malware. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to ensure your Mac is protecting you and your data from the worst malware on the web. This guide will take you through the basic security functions of your Mac device — and help you install some even better defenses for the future.
Enabling Your Firewall
While Macs come with the option of setting up a firewall, you shouldn’t assume your firewall is automatically enabled. Under the System Preferences > Security & Privacy pane, you should find a Firewall Tab. Click the padlock in the lower left to unlock the system settings, and then click Turn on Firewall — it’s as simple as that.
To go further, you can customize your firewall. After clicking Firewall Options, you might consider selecting Enable Stealth Mode, which makes your computer mostly invisible to public networks. You can also select which apps can receive inbound connections. However, your Mac’s firewall does nothing to prohibit outbound connections, which means it can’t prevent downloaded malware from accessing the internet. For that, you’ll need a comprehensive antivirus suite for Mac.
Setting Up Passwords
It should go without saying that your device should require a password to access. Under the General section of the Security & Privacy pane, you should find a setting that allows you to choose how often a password is necessary — i.e., how long after a screensaver begins or when the Mac wakes up from sleep you will have to reenter your password. “Immediately” is the most secure choice, but if your Mac never leaves your home, you can choose to delay a few minutes without much risk.
Meanwhile, you should also consider using a password management tool. The strongest passwords are difficult to remember: They should be longer than 12 characters and contain a random mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Therefore, you should use a password manager that works across Apple devices, to keep all your tech and accounts safe.
Controlling App Access
One of the most dangerous activities for any device user is indiscriminately downloading programs. On the General tab of the Security & Privacy pane, you can restrict where you get your apps, which will reduce your risk when you download new games and tools. Allowing apps from anywhere is unsafe, but allowing apps only from the App Store can be restrictive. You should choose the option that suits you best.
Encrypting Your Files
Encryption is easily the best practice to keep your data safe. Data thieves and other cybercriminals can do nothing with encrypted files, so you should strive to encrypt anything and everything of a sensitive nature. You can cover all your bases by using FileVault, a Mac security feature that automatically encrypts all files in your user account. When you enable FileVault — through the FileVault tab on the Security & Privacy pane — you will either input a recovery key or choose to use your account password. Then, whenever you open an encrypted file, you will need to enter that code. It might be inconvenient at first, but it is infallibly safe.
Improving Your Privacy
The final tab in your Security & Privacy pane allows you to control a variety of features on your Mac. You can decide which apps — if any — are able to use Location Services, Calendar, Contacts, and Reminders as well as information added to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, you can decide which apps are able to control your Mac and which changes each can make.
While on the topic of privacy, you should also monitor Safari’s privacy settings. In Safari’s Preferences, you can allow or block websites from storing cookies, tracking your activity, or accessing your location data. You can also decide how often you want your history and data cleared and whether you are comfortable with auto-fill username and password features. Advice for hiding an IP address.
Sharing With Care
Your Mac is the ultimate collaboration tool, but that doesn’t mean you always want to share your files and data with other Macs and Apple devices. Once you enable a sharing service, it doesn’t necessary turn off right away. You should periodically check to ensure you haven’t left open a window or door through which cybercriminals can pass. You should open System Preferences and click the Sharing icon, which will bring you to a list of sharing possibilities. If there are any checks you aren’t comfortable with, you can easily uncheck them.