Increasing the security on your computer isn’t difficult, much like improving your Windows compouter security, there are in fact many of the features you need are built in to your operating system. If you’re using Mac OS X, then the ‘Security’ panel in System Preferences will be the hub of most of the things you need, so let’s take a look.
Passwords, Passwords, Passwords
In the security window of System Preferences, you will see three tabs: General, FileVault and Firewall. Before you can do anything here you will need to authenticate any changes with your administrator password by clicking the lock in the bottom corner of the window. The first option in the general tab of this window says “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins”, and is unchecked by default.
This means that anyone can access your computer whilst you aren’t in the room and browse to their hearts content, which isn’t exactly a confidence inspiring first line of defence. Making sure that this is checked will mean that you effectively need to login after your display has gone to sleep, but it’s a small price to pay if you don’t want a random person snooping through your personal files.
You can also choose to disable automatic login, so when you turn on your Mac you aren’t taken directly to your desktop, but instead to the login screen where you need to enter your credentials before you have access to your machine. If your laptop was stolen then this may be the first obstacle a thief may come up against, and most people who aren’t tech-savvy won’t know where to go even from here.
Encryption Made Easy
Let’s assume that the person who stole, or came across, your laptop is more tech-savvy than the thief who is defeated by a login screen. This person can remove the hard drive from your Mac and steal all of the data on it in a flash without even booting your computer up. It’s not a difficult task, and the individual would be able to browse your files without any problem. This is where encryption comes in handy.
Mac OS X has a built in feature called FileVault, the second tab on the security pane in System Preferences, which encrypts the entirety of your home folder so that any would be intruders can’t access your data without some serious hacking knowledge. Turning on FileVault is as easy as clicking a button. You will be logged out of your machine while FileVault works its magic, and it shouldn’t take too long to encrypt your home folder although it depends on the size of your data. My home folder is around 30GB big, and encryption took approximately 15 minutes.
It’s important to note that if you forget your administrator password then your files will be effectively lost forever if you ever want to recover them, so choose a password that’s complicated enough to be secure (a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols) but easy enough for you to remember!
Firing Up The Firewall
It may surprise you to hear that by default, the firewall in Mac OS X is not enabled by default. Fortunately, it’s simple to turn on. Simply go to the firewall tab of the security pane, and click the start button.
If you go in to the advanced options of the firewall tab, you can choose to accept incoming connections on some applications by default, and enable stealth mode, which effectively makes your computer invisible to other internet users. Every little helps!
Just remember that using a firewall helps protect you from hackers, but doesn’t provide any protection against viruses. For that, you need to use a separate anti-virus client such as Intego Virus Barrier.
So there you have it! Three really simple ways to make your Mac more secure in case it’s stolen or someone tries to hack in to your computer over the internet. Of course this is just scratching the surface of computer security, but for most users it will prove to be more than en ough when faced with the situation of your computer being stolen.
If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments! We’d love to know what you think.