Apple’s Mac OS is still the safest operating system in the World, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Just this year alone, there have been quite a number of viruses targeting the Mac OS and most of them require social engineering to succeed.
While Apple does its part to release security update and patches, you can also do your part as a proud Mac user to make sure everything is in good hands. Here is what you can do:
1) Update software regularly
It only takes a mouse click to activate the software update application (click the apple icon and select software update). Apple releases updates for OSX several times a year and many of these include patches for potential security issues. Without these updates, your system will remain vulnerable. If you are using broadband, make it a habit to do a software update daily.
2) Use antivirus software
If you are still thinking that “Macs don’t get viruses”, then you are absolutely wrong. Just because your Mac is not infected yet does not mean that it will not be infected in the future. Do keep in mind that the Internet is a great virus breeding ground and surfing the Web without any protection (antivirus software) actually put you in great risk of infection.
For selection of antivirus software, there is the free, open-source ClamXav or the highly regarded Symantec’s Norton Internet Security 3.0 for Mac. Other great alternatives include Virex by McAfee, Sophos Antivirus and Intego Security. Whichever software you use, just make sure you conduct scan regularly, and update religiously. The last thing you want to have in your OS is an outdated antivirus software.
3) Turn on Firewall
OSX comes with a built-in software firewall that can protect you against unauthorized access and enhance your security. To fire up your firewall, open the Sharing preference pane. Click on the Firewall tab, click on Start, and then click on the Advanced button. In the sheet that appears, select the Enable Stealth Mode option. This makes your computer almost invisible on the Internet.
4) Encrypt your file
Your encrypted file will be the last wall of defense in the event that your Mac was hacked into. Encryption makes your file unreadable, until the correct password is given. FileVault (built into OSX) encrypts the user’s home directory and all the files in it. As you read and write files to your home directory, in the background, FileVault encrypts and decrypts those files on the fly. Only the user’s login password can decrypt and mount this drive image, so at login the home directory becomes available as usual. To other users on the same Mac, all files in the user’s home directory cannot be accessed.
5) Make regular backup of your files
Backing up your files should be your top priority in securing your Mac. What can be worst than losing all your data in the event that your OSX is infected, hacked or crashed? Create a backup plan and strategy to make sure that everything is well taken care of.
6) Disable auto login
It is very convenient to turn on the auto login feature so that you don’t need to enter your username and password when OSX boots up. However, this also means that anyone who uses your Mac can access to all your files and documents. This is definitely not what you want if there are plenty of confidential documents in your user folder.
To turn off this feature, go to Accounts under the preference pane and click on Login Options. (If the button is dimmed, first click on the lock icon and enter your administrator password.) Uncheck the Automatically Log In As User Name option.
7) Don’t enter your administrator password so easily
Mac does not grant administrator right by default, and this is what made it safe. If there’s a need to make major modifications to the OS, the system prompts you for administrator password. This forces the user to actively manage the security of the system. In the event that you are asked to enter your administrator password when you don’t expect it, assess the situation and check if the event is legitimate. If it is not, click ‘Cancel’ to terminate the process. Never key in your administrator password so easily.
8) Lock your screen when not using
Lock your screen whenever you need to step away from your Mac, even if you are away for only five minutes. This will prevent any unauthorized access to your files. Here are some great ways to quickly lock your screen.
9) Change your Keychain password and lock it when inactive
Keychain is the password management system that remembers all your passwords so that you can access all your files and applications without having to key in the password again and again. Keychain requires a master password to unlock itself, and by default, the password is the user login password. The problem with this is that anyone can change this by booting from an OSX CD-ROM, and all of your passwords would be revealed. To prevent this, change the keychain password to one that is different from your login password.
In addition, an opened keychain will remain unlocked for the whole session. For more protection, you can set it to lock if inactive
10) Open files only from known sources
Never ever open a file from unknown sources, especially the files attachment in your email. They could be potential Trojan horse virus that can wipe out your computer. The best way to deal with files from unknown source is to treat it with skepticism and delete it when possible.