As our lives increasingly go digital, security is a major concern not only for the various online services we use, but also for the devices on which we save our data. Chances are that if you're reading this article, you own a Mac. And on your Mac, you'd like much of the work you do on it to be kept private.
While OS X is relatively secure by default, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure the data on your Mac is only accessible by you, even if your Mac is stolen. Take the following tips to heart to better protect your Mac and its data.
Enable the OS X firewall
The firewall in OS X is a network filter that allows you to control which programs and services can accept incoming connections. While classic firewalls do this on a per-port basis — regardless of which software is using the port — OS X's firewall can work on a per-application or per-service basis, giving you more flexibility.
To set up your firewall, go to the Security & Privacy system preferences, click on the Firewall tab, and then unlock the preference pane, after which you will be able to click the Turn On Firewall button. This basic option is the best for most purposes, but you can also click the Firewall Options button to see the specific settings for each application as well as access some additional features such as stealth mode (which hides your computer from outside access attempts) and an option for blocking all connections.
The firewall is a good option to enable if you're connected to a public Wi-Fi network, such as one at a cafe, library, or other hotspot. For home networks you can usually rely on your router's firewall for protection, though enabling the OS X firewall for added security generally won't cause additional problems.
FileVault is the full-disk encryption routine in OS X that will secure all files on the drive, including OS X system files, applications, caches and other temporary files; any of which may contain personal or sensitive information.
To enable FileVault, go to the FileVault tab of the Security & Privacy system preference, unlock the preference, and click Turn On FileVault. When you do this you'll be asked to choose the user accounts that are authorized to unlock the disk (you can add other accounts later, if you like). Click Continue and your Mac will begin encrypting your drive. This may take a while to do, especially with large mechanical drives, where both encrypting and optimizing may take a number of hours to complete. For a walkthrough on setting up FileVault, see this story.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.