10 Security tips for Mac users
The macOS is renowned as a pretty secure operating system, compared to other PCs. However, with the changing face of technology, hackers have upped their game, and no system can claim to be 100% secure. The good thing is that you can make your macOS more secure by tweaking its built-in settings and some other steps. Here are some ways you can secure your Mac, but we need to know the risks first.
Risks faced by Mac users
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In the past few years, the number of Mac owners who have faced malware attacks (malicious software) has gone up significantly. The most common malware for macOS users is the Shlayer, a group of threats that come disguised as Adobe Flash Player or one of its updates that are typically found on pirated content sites.
Phishing is an attempt to steal your data, and these attacks on macOS have increased in the past few years. Malicious actors use text messages, emails or bogus websites, which purport to be the official Apple website. Online banking sites, Amazon, PayPal, eBay and other sites requiring logins are also popular cybercriminal targets. These tricks lure a Mac user into sharing personal information such as Apple ID or credit card numbers.
● Trojan Horses
A Trojan horse goes back to the Greek mythologies when the Greeks used a wooden horse to smuggle soldiers into Troy. Similarly, a Trojan horse is a program that looks harmless but performs malicious tasks like allowing a hacker access or a back door to your Mac, or sending your personal information out to other computers.
A trojan horse is a standard method for hackers who want to infect your Mac and steal your personal information. An example of how your Mac can get infected is via a site offering a free game or program download that would typically cost you some money. Once you download the pirated game or program, it installs a Trojan horse on your Mac.
Measures to secure your Mac Device
You can follow these tips to secure your Mac device from different types of risks.
1. Enable FileVault
Most of us store very sensitive information on our Macs. To secure this data, you need to enable FileVault encryption, an inbuilt encryption tool from Apple that protects this data from being copied or even seen. FileVault encrypts your data and locks it so that a password is needed by anyone who wants to access it.
2. Secure the Mac when idle
It is possible to set your Mac so that it logs you out if the Mac is idle for a certain period. It would be best if you also fixed it to require a password to wake it from its idle state or the screen saver. You can have a hot corner for your convenience that you can click when you want to lock the screen immediately.
3. Use the authenticator app
The authenticator app allows you to quickly verify your identity for all online accounts and add an extra security layer. The Google Authenticator app provides a 2-step or multi-factor authentication or verification. You can download the authenticator app from the App Store and work on iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
Two-step authentication needs more than the conventional username and password. It typically involves a unique code sent to your smartphone or tablet that only you have access to, and that you enter alongside your password. The authenticator app generates the unique one-time code. You can use a special USB key with a unique token or use biometric data like fingerprint or iris scan. This adds an additional layer of security to your Mac.
- Install a VPN
Using unsecured networks such as in cafes, schools, or airport lounges is one way to get hacked. A Mac VPN (Virtual Private Network) secures your Mac by doing several things. It creates a safe tunnel where your device can log into the internet, even when on an unsecured network.
It also hides your IP address, making it impossible for anyone tracking you to tell your exact physical location. You can easily log into a server in the U.K while in the United States.
It also encrypts your data. Using the VPN alongside the inbuilt FileVault is a foolproof method of keeping your data extra safe. Most VPNs use the 256-bit encryption standard, which is the same standard used by security agents and banks to secure data.
Subscribe to a reputable and paid subscription VPN. Most of the VPNs that claim to be free sell your data to third parties who use that data to target you with ads.
5. Use a strong passcode
Using a strong password has been said so often; it sounds like a cliché. Using a solid passcode is critical, and you should use a password/code that is easy for you to remember but impossible for anyone else to guess. The temptation to set a ridiculously easy password like your date of birth, pet or children’s names is too strong for most people to resist, which makes them easy hacking targets.
Make sure your password is alphanumeric, with uppercase, lowercase alphabets, numbers and symbols. The stronger it is, the harder it is for a hacker to crack the code.
6. Enable the firewall
All Macs have an inbuilt firewall, and you should turn it on. It would be best if you also turned-on stealth mode while at it. This prevents your Mac from responding to unauthorized attempts to access it from the network via tools such as Ping. This also makes it harder for anyone to target your Mac when you access the internet via public access points.
7. Secure your passwords
Ensure you secure all your passwords. Never write your passwords on an unencrypted text file or a stick note pasted next to your computer. Use a password manager to store the passwords rather than storing them on your browser.
Anyone who accesses your browser can quickly get the login details. A password manager stores all your passwords securely by encrypting and password-protecting them. All you need to do is remember your master password manager password.
8. Only download apps from the App Store
You should never download apps from anywhere except the official app store. Most macOS devices use Gatekeeper, which does not allow you to run untrusted software, but some people jailbreak their devices. This means they bypass the security measures set up so that they can download apk or unofficial apps.
Jailbreaking means your device is vulnerable to malware, trojan worms, etc., and you will have voided any warranty or support from Apple in case anything happens to your device.
Apple is strict on app reviews, and each app passes through rigorous checks before it is accepted. If Apple finds the app has been altered or tampered with, Apple removes it from the App Store.
9. Review the privacy policies for all installed apps
You should regularly review your app settings to make sure no app has more permission to access your personal information than you are comfortable sharing. This includes apps like Camera, Contacts, etc. Go to each one and verify that only trusted apps have access to your information. If the app does not need access, you should not allow it to. This sometimes limits the way apps perform, but you have to give up your privacy in return.
Delete some of the apps you no longer need and review each app’s privacy information. We do not read the fine print more often than not, and we scroll to the bottom and agree to terms and conditions without knowing what we agree to.
Most of the apps give subtle disclaimers on what they do with the collected data. Read every word and know what you agree to. If the app you want to install collects data, look for its alternative if there is one. If you do not need to give it access, deny it.
10. Avoid email attachments and links
Avoid any links or email attachments. Clicking on these links and downloading attachments is a sure way of inviting trojan horses and setting yourself up for phishing scams. If in doubt, go to a secure browser and go to the official Apple website or whichever website is indicated on the email, like your bank or PayPal. Before doing this, hover on the link and check if it’s an HTTP or HTTPS. If it is the former, delete that email, it is a scam!
Most Mac users are over-confident that their operating system is invincible. The macOS may be the best, but that does not make it 100% safe. It is better to take every precaution possible than to regret it later.
Hackers have devised ways to get around security, and most of the time, they use the weakest link-you. Be vigilant and only download apps from the official app store. Follow the tips to secure your Mac and stay safe!