Setting up your new computer may seem like a daunting task, but it’s even more challenging when privacy plays an important role in your technology. Apple’s out-of-the-box security settings are typically better than most Windows counterparts, but it’s not perfect without some help. Whether you’ve just bought a new computer or want to improve security on an existing computer, I’m going to show you some of the best privacy and security settings available to Mac users. These additional steps will help further protect you from invasion of privacy, data theft, and more.
1. Enable the default firewall
The firewall that comes with Mac OS lets you decide which applications and services can accept incoming connections to your computer. Most firewalls work based on port numbers, but Macs are a little different — Mac’s default firewall can utilize per-application or per-service filtering, increasing security and user-friendliness. The default options are usually good enough, but feel free to explore all the firewall settings and adjust based on your needs.
2. Turn on FileVault encryption
Mac OS includes full-disk encryption (FDE) built into every Macintosh computer since 2003. When enabled, you’ll need a special password or recovery key to access any of the information stored on it without permission. To turn this on, click the Apple logo and go to System Preferences. From there, head to the Security & Privacy icon and click FileVault. Once you turn this on, you’ll need to keep track of the password you set — you’ll not want to forget it or else you might be re-installing your computer. This will protect your information in case your computer is lost or stolen.
3. Disable automatic login
Back in the Security & Privacy section, choose the General tab and make sure you have a strong user password set. Be sure to check the “Require password” box and choose Immediately from the selection list. This will require your user password every time the computer wakes from sleep or screen saver. If you have the Apple Watch, you can even set it to unlock your Mac for you automatically when you’re within range (2013 or newer Macs only). The user password is your first line of defense on any computer, be it Mac or Windows.
4. Install a reverse firewall
The default Mac firewall protects you from incoming connections, but what happens when there’s something malicious already on your computer? A reverse firewall alerts you of connection attempts coming from your computer to the internet. This means that if you accidentally downloaded, let’s say, malware that’s trying to steal your Outlook contacts, you would be prompted to allow or deny this activity. It’s always good to know what exactly your Mac is connecting to. For this, I recommend an application called Little Snitch. It takes some getting used to, but once you enable your most frequent activity from programs (Safari, email, Skype, etc.), it’s a piece of cake afterwards! I have it installed on all of my Macs religiously and they didn’t pay me to type that.
5. Check for software updates
Macs have two great tools to keep up-to-date with the latest software and security changes. The first one is Software Update — go to Apple, About This Mac, and click the Software Update button. Alternatively, you can find the App Store icon in Applications and drag it to your dock. The Mac App Store provides both important Mac operating system updates and updates for the software titles you use daily that were purchased through the App Store.
6. Install Mac antivirus software
Believe it or not, Macs aren’t immune to viruses. They’re not as common as computer viruses for Windows, but they’re out there in the wild and one “bad” download could leave you infected with multiple problems. We recommend checking out the following free software if you’re looking for an antivirus solution for your Mac computer (they’re free!): Avira Antivirus for Mac, Malwarebytes for Mac, Avast Antivirus for Mac.
7. Find My Mac
Apple has included a nifty little feature to help geolocate your lost or stolen Macintosh computer with a couple of clicks using Find My Mac. If you go to Apple, System Preferences, and click iCloud, you’ll see a bunch of iCloud options (provided you’ve signed in to iCloud already). Towards the bottom of the list, you’ll see an option for Find My Mac: check it! If your computer is ever lost or stolen, you can log in using the Find My iPhone application on any iOS device (iPhone or iPad). You can also locate it using the iCloud website.
The best part about Find My Mac is that not only can you locate it, but you can also lock it down, have it play a loud sound (if you misplaced it somewhere), and even completely wipe (delete) the entire computer.