Is your Mac Secure?

Is Your Mac Secure?

This post will be the first of a series about Macintosh security. It is not meant to be exhaustive. My audience for this series is the beginning to intermediate Mac user.

Macintosh computer security has been a big news topic this spring. Look at sites such as Google News, Yahoo News or even your local newspaper. You will find several articles each week detailing supposed Mac failings.

How secure is your Mac? It’s generally well-protected if you follow a few rules.

FIRST, keep your Mac up-to-date. If your computer is capable of running the latest version of the operating system, install it! The current operating system is Mac OS 10.8, Mountain Lion. It has been out for almost a year. While there were a few (very few) problems the day it was released, those issues have long been fixed.

If your computer cannot run Mountain Lion, make sure it is running the latest OS it can. Apple is still providing updates for Mac OS X 10.7, Lion , but they are not putting as much effort into Lion as they are for Mountain Lion. All bets are off for support in Snow Leopard and Leopard.

I hear all sorts of reasons (excuses?) why Mac users have not upgraded. Some still want to use Appleworks or a graphic application such as older versions of PrintShop (note that The Print Shop 2 from The Software MacKiev Company works fine under Mountain Lion). Some have an older printer or scanner that may not work with newer operating systems. Others think there is too much to learn when they upgrade to a new OS. Those are poor excuses, and they leave your computer vulnerable.

SECOND, be choosy about where you visit and who you accept files from. I have seen a few instances of Mac malware on client computers. In every case, the Mac owner admitted they had frequented some “sketchy” places on the Internet. You are more likely to run into malware downloads on porn sites, on gambling sites and on file sharing sites. If you see an advertisement for software to check your computer for viruses and malware, DON’T CLICK THE LINK. If there is a link for a new version of Flash or Adobe Reader, DON’T CLICK THE LINK! If you get a message about a funny picture, DON’T CLICK THE LINK. Instead, go to Adobe, Facebook or Twitter by going directly to that site. Type adobe.com, facebook.com or twitter.com directly into the address bar. Don’t be fooled by links to Adob3, FacebOOk. or Tw1tter. While carefully checking the address might spot the irregularity, the URL difference may be even more subtle!

THIRD, be password-wise. In the earlier days of the Internet, a six letter password was thought to be secure. Times have changed! Today, in addition to password length, it is suggested that we include both upper and lower case letters, a number or two and, in a few cases, a special character such as a ! or # or & is required. Today you need to have several passwords--and they should not be the same everywhere.

Look into a program such as 1Password to help you remember and enter your passwords. It can work everywhere--on your Mac or Windows computer, on your iPhone or Android device, even on your iPad!

If you prefer not to use a password application, plan your password strategy. Think about having different passwords for different levels of security. Think about a series of related passwords. But, whatever you do, don’t put them in a file called Passwords on your desktop or as an entry in your address book!

FOURTH, Keep your Internet connection secure. Just like your computer, your Internet equipment has software updates and it should have passwords. My modem is from Cox. It doesn’t do anything but deliver an IP address to my router. Your setup may be quite different from mine. If there is an antenna on your modem, then it is both a modem and a router and it can give you a wireless network. That network should require a password for access to the Internet. There are several different methods of keeping that password safe. The oldest software to keep that password from being easily hacked is the WEP protocol. It is easily cracked and provides almost no security. is WAP. It is much more difficult to hack.

Your router will occasionally require a software update. These updates are critical since the are patches to make your network more secure. A really good router is Apples line of AirPort devices. Since Apple is in charge of those updates, they are very easy to install. They are a part of your system software and Apple will tell you when a new one is released and the update is easy to install.
If your router is from another manufacturer, it is up to you to seek out the updates. You won’t get any notice that they are needed and available. Even worse, they rely on your Internet browser to configure them. It seems as though each router model must be configured in a different way.

While Apple’s AirPort routers may be a bit more expensive to buy, you won’t need a consultant or technician to help you with installation. It generally takes an hour or more to configure and update a router. So, any money you save is quickly eaten up.
The last piece to the puzzle is your firewall. With a Mac, the firewall is a part of the computer’s operating system. So when you travel, your firewall travels with you. You configure your firewall through the System Preferences.

In closing let’s review that list. Keep your computer up-to-date, watch where you browse, and plan your passwords. These simple rules will help keep your Mac secure.

If you need some help with checking on your Mac’s security, we are available. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to urgentrequest@boblevitus.com.

--Pat
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