15 ways to increase the security of your Apple Mac

15 ways you can improve the security and privacy of your Apple mac

Is your Mac secure? What are you doing to ensure its security? Here are 15 different ways to improve the Mac’s security and all are are simple and free. Stay safe with these expert tips.

1 Install only App Store apps

Apple imposes rules on developers who want to distribute their apps through the Mac App Store. They are designed to ensure that apps are safe and free from malware, spyware and adware.

App store apps must be approved and this means that they must pass basic tests to ensure that they are OK. It is not impossible for a bad app to get into the App Store, but it is very difficult.

Apps downloaded from elsewhere on the internet are not checked and do not have to abide by any rules. It’s a wild west out there and there are some brilliant apps, but also some malware too.

Apple Mac App Store

Stay safe by only downloading software from the Mac App Store

2 Don’t click links in emails

Email message can harbour phishing scams and they can trick you into revealing passwords and login details. They try to steal your Apple ID login, PayPal details, Amazon account, and online banking information.

If you want to stay safe, do not click links in emails. This is easier to say than to do and sometimes you have to click a link. Never do this unless you have to and only then after thoroughly checking that the link comes from a reliable source - someone you can trust.

Who can you trust? If your best friend caught a virus or other type of malware, it might send out emails to everyone in that person’s address book. You therefore cannot trust your best friend.

Example of a phishing email. Never click the links

With practice, you can spot fake emails and phishing, but it is hard at first. Just don’t click links.

3 Turn on Mail spam filter

Junk emails (spam), phishing and other malicious emails can often be spotted and blocked by spam filters. This keeps them out of the inbox or at least marks them as spam to warn you that they could be junk.

Open the Mail app and go to Mail, Preferences, Junk Mail. Tick the box next to Enable junk mail filtering. (Solve your junk mail filtering problems here.)

Enable junk mail filtering in the Mail app on the Apple Mac

4 Don’t download attachments

Email is a way of distributing malware and you should treat email attachments as suspicious. The best policy is to avoid downloading, saving or opening attachments.

Attachments to emails from friends could contain malware. This is because malware often emails a copy of itself to everyone in the infected person’s address book. This is how malware spreads and it gets passed from friend to friend.

If you must save or open an email attachment, make sure that it is from a trusted source. Ignore emails that are not addressed to you by name, or emails that don’t look right. With practice you can see emails ‘don’t look right’. For example, emails like ‘Dear customer’ instead of ‘Dear John Smith’ or whatever your name it.

5 Don’t install Java

Java is a computer programming language used to write software and it is often the target of hackers and malware creators. They look for bugs and security flaws and exploit them to access personal information.

You probably don’t need Java. Some software or web services do require it, but it is not used as much as it used to be and you can usually find alternative apps that don’t need it.

Avoid Java and that is one less security worry. Only install it if you really must have it.

Java can be downloaded and installed on the Apple Mac in order to run Java software

6 Don’t open ‘safe’ files after downloading

Safari includes a feature that enables files to be automatically opened after they have been downloaded.

This feature can be exploited by malware creators. They can create a file that automatically downloads and runs on your Mac, and this could infect it with malware, steal personal information and more.

Open Safari and go to Safari, Preferences, General. Clear the tick box, Open safe files after downloading.

Open safe files after downloading setting in Safari on the Apple Mac

7 Use complex passwords

Hackers use many techniques to gain access to computers and online services and one method is to simply guess passwords. Many people use easy-to-guess ones and automated software can simply try hundreds or thousands of common words until they hit upon the right one.

Make it harder for hackers by using complex passwords that cannot be guessed. For example, XuT6%4£2-. Some services don’t allow symbols, and you might be limited to letters and numbers, even so, agEtw5q4aYd is still pretty hard to guess.

Complex passwords are impossible to rememeber. Don't even try! Use a password manager like Avast Passwords.

8 Warn about fraudulent websites

There are bad websites on the web and they harbour malware, malicious downloads, phishing, fake banks, shops and other services, and so on.

Safari can warn you if you try to visit a bad website and this is a valuable security feature. It does this by checking the URL you enter or click against a database of known bad sites.

Enable this feature by opening Safari and going to Safari, Preferences, Security. Enable the Fraudulent sites option.

Warn when visiting fraudulent sites warning in Safari on the Apple Mac

If there is a warning message that the service is unavailable, disable the option and quit Safari. Open Safari again and enable the option. This usually clears the error.

9 Install extensions only from Apple

Safari supports browser extensions and these add extra features and functions. They can access the contents of the web pages you visit, so you don’t malicious ones that spy on your web browsing activities and send the data to unknown people and places on the internet.

It is best not to install extensions, but it is hard to live without them. If you must install extensions, get them from the Apple run Safari Extensions gallery. Click Safari, Safari Extensions.

This is the safest place to get extensions and all have had to undergo some testing for quality and safety. It is not impossible for a bad extension to get onto the site, but it is hard.

Installing extensions from other sources is a bad idea because there is no quality control. You might get a fantastic extension, but you might get malware. Beware of browser extensions.

10 Browse with Private window

Your browsing activities on the web can be tracked in various ways. Extensions can also read the pages and URLs you visit. There is always someone, somewhere tracking you.

Go to the File menu in Safari and select New Private Window. This blocks extensions and prevents websites from knowing who you are. You are tracked, but you are anonymous and when a Private browsing window is closed, all the history, cookies and tracking data is wiped out.

Private browsing mode using Safari on the Apple Mac. All your history is discarded when the browser is closed

Use a Private window to browse the web whenever you can.

11 Scan for malware

Viruses are rare on the Apple Mac, but there are other threats and adware and spyware is certainly possible. They come under the all-encompassing title of malware.

Macs get malware. Usually it gets into the system from dodgy software. Cracked apps, pirate software, unauthorised copies of macOS and software, are all potentially infected with malware.

If Pirate Bay and similar sites is the main place you get your apps and media, sooner or later your Mac will be infected. Just don’t.

If you suspect that something is wrong with your Mac, scan for malware with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. This is a cleanup tool that can remove infections.

12 Encrypt the disk

If someone got hold of your Mac, such as a thief, they could access the disk and read personal files, obtain information about you, the websites you access and perhaps even login details.

Encrypting the disk prevents anyone from accessing the contents without your account password. It makes the Mac much more secure and thief-proof.

Open System Preferences and click Security & Privacy. Select the FileVault tab and click the padlock in the bottom left corner. Enter your admin password and then click Turn On FileVault. (Also see How to securely delete files on the disk so they can't be recovered.)

Turn on FileVault on the Apple Mac to securely encrypt the contents of the disk

13 Enable the firewall

A firewall prevents unauthorised people and programs from accessing your Mac over the network. It locks out hackers on the LAN and on the internet, and it is essential that you enable it.

To secure the Mac with a firewall, open System Preferences and click Security & Privacy. Select the Firewall tab and if it is not turned on, click the padlock in the bottom left corner and enter your admin password. Then click Turn On Firewall.

14 Disable sharing

It is possible to share the Mac’s files, printer, screen, internet and more. This is convenient when there are others on the network that need to access these things. If they don’t need to be shared, then disable sharing to make the Mac more secure.

Open System Preferences and click Sharing. Clear the tick boxes against anything that does not need to be shared. This locks out unauthorised people from accessing these resources.

The sharing options in System Preferences in macOS on the Apple Mac

15 Use a VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts the internet connection so that anyone eavesdropping cannot see your internet activity.

It adds an extra layer of security that is important when using the internet in public places, such as wi-fi hotspots. The VPN prevents anyone else at the hotspot from seeing what you are doing.

This makes it secure for email, online shopping and banking, and so on.

Most VPN services have to be paid for, but a couple of free ones are worth mentioning. Avira Phantom VPN provides 1GB of data a month for free.

Opera web browser has a free VPN built in and this makes it useful when for you are in public.

 

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