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How to: Top 10, best free ways to secure your Mac

8 November 2009 6,024 views 8 Comments



When it comes to security on the Mac, most of the people giving advice want to sell you something — money talks, especially if it’s yours they’re after. Well, unclench for a few minutes and read this quick, painless guide of free ways to make your Mac a bit more secure right now.

#1 Keep Mac OS X up-to-date — Apple regularly updates it operating system and other software (i.e. Safari, iPhoto, iWork, etc.) for security and stability. Run Software Update at least once a week and install the available updates.
— Apple (menu) > Software Update

#2 Turn off automatic login — Who’s using your Mac while you’re away? You can make sure no one is by shutting it down when you and turning off automatic logic, which will force anyone starting it up to provide the admin password before it can be used.
— System Preferences > Accounts > Login Options > Automatic Login > Off

#3 Turn off “Open safe files…” — Safari will by default open downloaded files — i.e. mount .dmg files, play mp3s in iTunes, etc. Turning off this feature makes it that much more difficult for malware to affect your Mac.
— Safari Preferences > General > Uncheck “Open safe files…”

#4 Use strong passwords — Create and use eight-character or longer passwords that include numbers and alpha characters with at least one capital letter. Better still, get and use a helper app, such as 1-Password.

#5 Turn on OS X’s Firewall — Prevent unauthorized users from remotely accessing your Mac.
How to: Turn on OS X’s Firewall

#6 Turn off unnecessary Sharing services — If you’re not sharing a printer or need to share files, turn those services off, doing so closes off potential avenues of attack.
— System Preferences > Sharing > Uncheck unneeded services

#7 Turn off unused Network services — Not using wi-fi? Don’t have a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard, then obviate the possibility of attack via these avenues by turning them off.
— System Preferences > Network > Airport > Turn Airport Off
— System Preferences > Bluetooth > Uncheck “On”

#8 Password protect screensaver, sleep modes — If you’re Mac’s in screensaver or sleep mode, you can set it up to require a password must be provided before it will wake up. Make sure no one can use your Mac after you walk away.
— System Preferences > Security > General > Check “Require password ‘immediately’ after sleep or screen saver begins

#9 Download and use antivirus software — I’ve been using ClamXav for years and the only things it’s ever found is phishing heuristics or PC viruses in emails (i.e. no real threat). Sooner or later, some eager and evil beaver will create Mac-specific malware and I’ll be glad this app runs nightly on my Mac. Further, I’ve set it up to continuously scan my email and download folders.

#10 Don’t open email attachments — Mac malware, the kind that spreads automatically, doesn’t exist. However, if you open a file, it can hurt you. There’s no need for paranoia (get antivirus software), but there’s even less need to open files you don’t know where they came from.
— The corollary to this rule is don’t download and open files (i.e. warez) from sites your don’t trust.
— Don’t click on links in emails

Got a handy dandy Mac security tip? Free or pay-to-play, drop us a note with a link in the comments below…

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