11 privacy and security tips for OS X Mac users

Apple, Mac OS X, security, privacy
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Safe, safer, safest...

Mac users who want to stay safe online, or ensure their data is as well protected as it can be in the event a Mac is lost or stolen, should review these tips:

Don’t be admin

Your primary user account is usually an admin account. This article explains why it makes sense to create a non-admin account for surfing and email. Doing so means your core system is better protected when you are connected.

While you’re at it, in System Preferences>Users&Groups set Automatic login to Off and set Display login window to Name and password. Uncheck the Show password hints checkbox.

Security basics

Mac users can take some basic precautions for security’s sake, these include disabling auto-login, dumping Flash and using strong passwords. Only running apps from trusted developers and timely installation of any software updates also makes sense. This report offers a range of additional ideas for Mac security from the NSA.

Encryption

FileVault encrypts your drive using a secure encryption algorithm, which requires you to login before encryption is removed. Without this encryption, anyone who can get into your Mac can access your data.

Check Privacy Settings

Open System Preferences>Security & Privacy>Privacy and take a look at Location Services (hopefully you will also have to click the lock to make any changes).

CCTVMac

Turn your Mac into a home security took using iSentry. The software turns your iSight camera or webcam into a video surveillance tool capable of capturing images whenever motion activity is detected. You can adjust motion sensitivity and the software will alert you and send images if motion takes place. It will even sound an alarm if you wish.

Find My Mac

Find My Mac is invaluable, but for $49/year you can add Undercover. The software is a box of tricks for Mac recovery, grabbing images and screenshots to help you recover your Mac -- it will even lock up your Mac and send a hardware warning. The snag is that it may not work if you’ve configured your Mac to limit external network connections. (Prey is a good and free open-source alternative).

Anti-virus

Install a good anti-virus application. While this isn’t a huge problem for Mac users, we share files with others, so policing such activity is the right thing to do.

Control data

Apps and services including Disconnect Me, Little Snitch and Ghostery (among others) provide additional protection. Little Snitch monitors incoming or outgoing network traffic helping you identify suspicious activity; Ghostery watches and controls ad  network cookies, enabling you to bloc them at will. Disconnect Me blocks trackers, lets you keep searches private and offers its own VPN servers to help maintain privacy in an uncertain age.

Browse quietly

There are a few simple things you can do to reduce your digital foot print and one of the best is to switch to using DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. The great thing about this is that it does not attempt to track you or make money blasting goods, ads or services at you.

Get a network

NordVPN provides a fast, encrypted virtual private network for completely secure Internet access on Macs and iOS devices. Advanced features include encrypted chat and Bitcoin payments.

Encryption

Switched on Mac users may choose solutions like Pretty Good Privacy or email services like ProtonMail to help stay secure.

There’ a huge debate around encryption, of course.

Governments want technology firms to create backdoors so they can access people’s communications. Technologists warn if they do so, then cybercriminals will find and exploit those same backdoors, leaving ordinary citizens, enterprises and infrastructure exposed to attack. At the same time the bad actors governments want to watch will build their own secure communications tools, making them even harder to identify. This would leave honest consumers and enterprises less secure and the bad guys better protected than before. I don't think that's smart.

Looking for even more? Try this.

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