How to Quickly Secure Your Mac

Hands on a laptop

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Mac OS X is capable of providing robust security right out of the box; however, some of OS X’s best security features are disabled by default and have to be manually enabled.

To access the Mac OS X security settings, click the System Preferences icon from the Mac OS X dock at the bottom of your screen. This icon looks like a series of gears, if you removed it from your dock, it can be located in your applications folder in Finder.

Choose the Security icon from the Personal settings area. If any of the options are grayed out, click the padlock icon, at the bottom of each settings page, and enter your password.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5-10 minutes

Enabling Security Settings

  1. Require a Password on Login and for Screensaver Deactivation. These settings require a system password to be entered before use of the system or when returning from the screen saver or waking up from sleep mode.
    1. From the General tab, choose the following options:
      1. Check the box for Require Password after Sleep or Screen Saver Begins and choose Immediately from the drop-down menu.
  2. Check the box for Disable Automatic Login.
  3. Check the box for Use Secure Virtual Memory.
  4. Enable FileVault Data Encryption. FileVault secures and encrypts the contents of the home folder so that no one other than the owner can access the data, even if the hard drive is removed and connected to another Mac or PC. Keep in mind that, if you forget or lose your password, there is no way to recover your data--even if you back it up--as that information is encrypted with your specific password or pass-key. If any software issues arise that result in data loss, you may also not be able to get that information back for the same reason. While this is the most efficient way to secure your data, it is not necessary for everyone, so weigh your options before enabling FileVault.
    1. From the FileVault tab, choose the following:
      1. Create a Master Password by clicking on the Set Master Password button under the FileVault menu tab.
  5. Enter the password you would like to use as your Master Password in the Master Password box and verify it in the Verify box.
  6. Add a password hint in the Hint box.
  7. Click the Turn File Vault On button.
  8. Turn On the Mac OS X Firewall. The OS X firewall can selectively block inbound and outbound connections and allows the user to choose which connections are permitted or denied. The user can approve or deny connections on a temporary or permanent basis.
    1. From the Firewall tab of the Security Menu, choose the following:
      1. Click the Start button to turn the Firewall on.

Tips and Other Security Options

Optionally, you can choose to have OS X log out the current user after a set number of minutes of inactivity, disable location services, and disable the infrared remote sensor by checking the appropriate boxes in the "General" Tab.

To make your Mac more difficult for Hackers to find, Check the box for “Enable stealth mode” in the Firewall tab. This option will prevent your Mac from responding to Ping requests from port scanning malware.

To keep the Firewall from constantly asking if an application can access the network, check the box for “Automatically allow signed software to receive incoming connections."

To lock all security settings so that other users cannot change them, click the padlock icon at the bottom of each settings page.

If you would like more details on how to configure these and other Mac OS X security features, you can view Apple's in-depth OS X Security Configuration Guides available at its support site.