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How to control security and privacy on OS X

Kenny Hemphill | Aug. 28, 2015
Maintaining privacy and keeping data secure are hugely important for any Mac user. Yet many of us give it scant attention and do little more than the bare minimum, if anything at all to ensure that hackers, opportunists and, yes, even the authorities are able to access as little of our personal data as possible.

Maintaining privacy and keeping data secure are hugely important for any Mac user. Yet many of us give it scant attention and do little more than the bare minimum, if anything at all to ensure that hackers, opportunists and, yes, even the authorities are able to access as little of our personal data as possible.

Yet, OS X makes securing your data very simple, thanks to a host of tools in System Preferences and Safari, and several third party apps.

There are two places threats to your data are likely to come from: over a network like the internet, or from someone with direct access to your Mac. Taking steps to protect yourself will minimise both.

Choosing the best security and privacy settings on a Mac

The first thing you should do is pay a visit to the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences. Here, you'll find four tabs that control different aspects of security. To change settings you'll need to click on the padlock at the bottom of the screen and type in your user name and password. If you have an administrator account, you'll be able to make changes that affect the whole Mac, if not they'll only apply to your account.

Passwords...

The first tab is the General section. There are three settings here you should pay attention to. The first is the one which allows you to set a password for your account of you haven't already done so. You should have a password. The next allows you to specify if a password is needed to unlock your Mac when it goes to sleep or a screen saver begins. If you work in an office with other people, you should consider switching this setting on. You can specify how soon after sleep or the start of a screen saver the password is required. The most secure setting is 'immediately' but, like everything else to do with security, you need to balance security and convenience. So choose a time period that makes sense to you.

Automatic login...

Next is the Disable automatic login setting. You should check this, particularly if you use a mobile Mac. If your Mac gets stolen, you don't want the thief to be able to access your data.

Apps...

At the bottom of the General page are three options relating to which apps can run on your Mac. The safest, but most limiting option, is to only allow apps from the App Store to run. The least secure is to allow apps from anywhere. The middle option is a good compromise, allowing you to run apps from the App Store and from developers known to Apple.

 

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