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Don't overlook these crucial Mac security tips

Don't overlook these crucial Mac security tips
© Prykhodov | Dreamstime

Mac computers have long had a reputation for being more secure than Windows machines, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety. There are more Windows computers in the world, which makes them a tempting target for malware, but that doesn’t mean Macs are immune to security issues. Lock down your personal data and protect your computer by taking these overlooked Mac security measures to heart.

Upgrade to High Sierra

Apple released the latest Mac operating system, called High Sierra, in September. It’s available for most Macs dating from late 2009 onward and the newest OS comes with Apple’s most recent security updates, including a key Safari web browser improvement that prevents advertisers from tracking you across the internet and automatic regular security checks of your computer’s firmware.

Some users have reported not receiving an update notification for High Sierra, but it’s easy to check. Click the Apple icon in the upper left-hand corner and choose “About this Mac” to see your OS version. If you’re still on the previous Sierra system, you can then open the App Store, search for High Sierra, download it, and install the update from there (just be sure to back up your computer first).

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One of the most basic tenants of Mac security is to simply keep your system updated with the latest Apple releases. High Sierra is a nice upgrade, but be sure to also install any future incremental updates as Apple sends them out.

Doublecheck your security controls

Now that you’re on High Sierra, let’s get familiar with your security options. Head to your Apple menu, open your system preferences and select Security & Privacy. If you want to make changes here, you may need to click on the lock icon in the corner and enter your system password.

One of the first options you see lets you choose where you will allow apps to be downloaded from. The most secure choice is App Store, which only allows Apple-vetted apps on your machine. If that’s too restrictive, then you can choose to also download apps from “identified developers,” which are software makers that have registered with Apple. Your computer will warn you if you try to install an app from another source, so take heed to any notifications that pop up when you’re adding new programs.

Next, select the Firewall tab. Likely, this option is off on your computer. You can turn it on to block unauthorized connections. This isn’t likely to be an issue when you’re using your own secured home network, but it won’t hurt to run it, especially if you use your Mac on public Wi-Fi networks.

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Finally, check to see if you’re running FileVault. Your Mac likely encouraged you to turn this feature on when you first set it up. FileVault works by encrypting the information on your computer’s disk. This can help prevent unauthorized access to your data and adds an extra layer of security in case your computer is stolen or lost.

Keep in mind that FileVault requires your password every time you start your Mac. If you’re just turning it on for the first time, you will need to be patient, as it can take a bit of time to run the encryption on your data.

Control password access to your Mac

Not every security threat comes from malware or an online hacker. There’s also the concern of having your Mac laptop stolen or someone snooping on your system when you’re not there. Your first line of defense here is to set a system password. It only takes a moment to input your password when you start your computer, so don’t look past this simple security measure.

To set a password, return to your Security & Privacy settings. In the General section, you can set a password and choose how long it takes after your computer goes into screen-saver or sleep mode before your Mac requires it again. If you already have a password, but it’s weak, then this is a good time to improve it. Check out the latest advice for creating a strong, but easy-to-remember password.

We’re living in an age of clever computer hacks and sneaky malware attacks, but taking a few simple steps to improve your security can make the difference between smooth sailing with your Mac or a nightmare computing experience.

Are you the victim of identity theft, an online scam, phishing emails, or malware?

Whether you’ve just received a suspicious email or you’re being taken for a ride by an internet scammer, you can fight back if you know what to do.

Click here to learn how to report an internet scam.

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