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Tech tips

5 essential Mac security settings you should enable now

It’s often said that Macs can’t get computer viruses. This would be awesome if it were true, but sadly, it isn’t.

But, it is less likely for a Mac to get a computer virus; far more of them exist for computers that run Windows. Click or tap here to learn which devices are more prone to viruses.

So it’s important to protect your Mac from viruses and hackers. Check out our tips below for easy ways to keep your Mac secure, from remote and nearby outsiders.

Start with the most basic security measure

With any electronic device, if you want it to have even a basic level of security, it needs to have a password. So to secure your Mac computer, make sure you give it a strong password.

Your Mac requires you to set up a password (which acts as your admin password if you’re the first account on it) when you activate it. But if your password is easy to guess, like “password123,” you might as well have no password at all. Tap or click here for some tips on creating stronger passwords on your electronic devices and accounts.

It’s pretty easy to change a password on your Mac, whether it’s a desktop or a laptop. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Preferences and click “Users & Groups.”
  2. Next to your account name, click “Change Password…”
  3. Enter your current password into the “Old Password” field, then put your new, stronger password into the “New Password” field. Type the new password again into the “Verify” field.
    • Note: The key button next to the New Password field can help you make a secure password! Use it if you’re having trouble coming up with your own.
  4. Enter a hint for your new password when prompted — this hint will appear if you enter the wrong password for your Mac three times in a row, so make sure it’ll help you!
  5. Click “Change Password” and it will be set!

If you have a more recent Mac laptop with a Touch ID scanner in the touch bar, or over the power button, consider adding Touch ID as well. Touch ID can protect your computer from outsiders as much as a password can.

To set up Touch ID on your Mac:

  1. In System Preferences click “Touch ID.”
  2. Click on the plus sign (+) button over “Add a fingerprint.”
  3. Type in your Mac password when prompted and follow the directions on the screen for placing your finger on the scanner.
  4. Check the boxes for what you want to use Touch ID for — unlocking your Mac (great if you travel with your computer), Apple Pay purchases, for logging in to your Apple ID in iTunes, the App Store, Apple Books, and/or Password AutoFill.
  5. Your computer will now be protected with Touch ID, on top of your password!

Protect your Mac even when you’re not using it

Having a password protects you from hackers, whether they physically have your computer or are trying to access it remotely. But if you leave your computer unlocked when you’re not nearby, you might as well not have a password.

Thankfully, you can avoid this issue by getting your Mac to log you out or lock when you leave it idle for a set amount of time. You can also have your Mac require a password after it’s gone to sleep.

To set your Mac to log out when you haven’t used it in a while:

  1. Head to System Preferences to click on “Security & Privacy,” then “General.”
  2. Click on the lock icon and type in your password when prompted.
  3. Click “Advanced,” then click on the box next to “Log out after…minutes of inactivity.”
  4. With the box checked from the click, you can set the timer for the logout. We recommend setting it between 5-15 minutes if you travel with your Mac and use it in public places.
  5. Click “Ok,” then click on the lock icon again to re-lock the Security & Privacy page.

To have your Mac require a password after it’s fallen asleep (Click or tap here to learn more about what your computer does in “sleep” mode):

  1. In System Preferences, go to “Security & Privacy,” like with the idle logout. Click on the “General” tab, instead of staying in “Privacy.”
  2. Click on the box next to “Require password…after sleep or screen saver begins” to check it off.
  3. Set the drop-down menu to whatever time you think is best for requiring a password — we’d recommend 1 to 5 minutes for this one, particularly if your computer goes out and about with you.
  4. Type in your password when prompted.
  5. Your computer will now lock after a certain amount of time in sleep mode, or after your screen saver has run for that amount of time!

Make everyone log in…

Do multiple people use your Mac? Make sure everyone has their own user page, and that they each have passwords for them.

This protects your computer, as it adds passwords to the machine and limits how many people know each password (they only need to know their own). It also protects individual User pages and the files that are stored in them.

To add new Users to a Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences, then “Users & Groups.”
  2. Click on the lock icon and type in the admin password.
  3. Click on the plus sign (+) beneath the User list and beneath “Login Options.”
  4. Set the New Account drop-down menu to “Standard” (we’ll get into why in the next section), and type out the new User’s Full Name, Account Name (the name of the home folder for them), and their password.
    • The password hint isn’t required, but it’s highly recommended!
  5. Click “Create User.” When you log out, there’ll be a new User to log in as!

…and don’t let everyone have full control

When you create new Users on a Mac, you can set them as Standard Users, Users that are Managed with Parental Controls, Administrator Users, and Sharing Only Users. We recommended in the last section most new users be made “Standard.”

We recommended this because you don’t want too many Administrator accounts on a computer. Their passwords become admin passwords, which are necessary for adding new software or making changes to security and privacy.

If an admin account is successfully hacked, a virus could be easily introduced to your Mac. All files could be accessed, moved, deleted, or sent out. Other passwords could be changed entirely, limiting or denying your access to the computer.

You can help prevent this kind of hacking if you only have one admin or two at most. It limits the chances of a user with a weak password giving hackers tons of access to the Mac.

Tap or click here to learn more about administrator accounts. And keep the number of administrator accounts to a minimum!  

Protect individual documents too

Our above tips make your computer more secure by making it difficult to access, both in-person and remotely. This tip will help you protect files on a Mac computer, also making it more secure.

You can protect individual documents and files from prying eyes via encryption. Encrypted files cannot be copied or read unless a login password is entered.

Macs come with built-in encryption software called FileVault. It encodes the information that makes up a file or document and only lets users enabled in FileVault to log in. Admin Users set who is enabled and who isn’t.

The use of admin passwords in Mac encryption further shows the need for fewer admin accounts and why you need strong passwords. Click or tap here to learn how to encrypt emails and text messages along with files.

To start using FileVault on your Mac:

  1. Return to our favorite place, System Preferences, and click on “Security & Privacy.”
  2. Click on “FileVault,” and click the lock icon to type in an admin password and unlock it.
  3. Click “Turn On FileVault.”
  4. Select how to unlock your disk, and reset your login password in case you forget it. You can use your iCloud account (which connects to your Apple ID password), or create a recovery key.
    • The recovery key is safer, but make sure you don’t forget it! If you do, your files could end up encrypted forever! Write down the key and keep it someplace very safe if you decide to use it for this.
  5. Click “Continue.”
  6. If there are other users on the Mac, there should be an “Enable Users” button you can click at this point to give them access to files and documents. NOTE: All files on the Mac will be encrypted once you activate FileVault. So if you don’t enable users, they won’t be able to access most information on the computer.
    • To enable a user, select them after you’ve clicked “Enable Users” and type in their login password. Then click “Ok” and “Continue.”
  7. FileVault will start encrypting all the files on your Mac. This may take some time, but once it’s done, your files will be safer than ever!

Macs are less vulnerable to viruses than most Windows devices, but they’re not invulnerable. Make sure you’re keeping your computer safe with our above tips, and keep yourself and other users secure in the process.

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