MacMost Now 3: Locking Down Your Mac

Gary Rosenzweig looks at ways to secure your Mac. You can set a login password, require the password when waking from sleep mode, and encrypt your data.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. Today let's go ahead and take a look at ways that you can lockdown your MacIntosh, whether it's a laptop or whether it's your desk top you may want to restrict access to make sure it's only you that's accessing your computer. You can do this through some system preferences.
So the first thing you want to do is you want to make sure that you have a log in password. In order to use a Mac you've got to have an account. Everybody's got an account. The default account on this computer is just called MacMost. MacMost has a password. I can change it here or if you have it set to no password at all you can actually add the password in by putting your old password in and typing the new password twice. You can also give a password hint which of course will make your machine a little less secure so you may not want to do that. But if you're prone to forgetting passwords it may help. Once you have a password that means in order to log onto the machine and use it you've got to know the password. Another thing you may want to do is change the log in options, right here. Log in options you can actually set it for things like, for instance, when the log on window comes up don't even display a list of users. Only display name and password. That way they have to both the name of the user and the password to get on. You can also disable automatic log in, make sure everybody's forced to log in before using your machine.
Now that's just the beginning. If you really want to be paranoid there's a whole bunch of other ways you can restrict access to your machine. Let's take a look at another system preference panel.
Okay, so in the aptly named security panel we see a bunch more options and this is a key one here: requiring passwords to wake up from sleep. So you've set a password for your machine, so somebody has to know the password to log on. But being a Mac user you don't necessarily shut your machine down all the time. We don't need to. So you leave it on and now somebody can come by your desk and access everything there because you logged in previously. Well, one of the things you can do is log out before you leave your desk but that's hard to remember to do every time. So you can just basically have your machine go to sleep after five, ten, or fifteen minutes, like you might do anyway for energy savings. And this option here will require the password in order to wake up again. So this is a great level of security here. You could also, if you don't have your machine go to sleep after a while, simply have you log out automatically after a period of inactivity so the machine stays awake but it goes back to the log in screen.
Now what if you're just not concerned about security but you're downright paranoid and you want to make sure nobody can get to your stuff. Well, there's an option that allows you to encrypt all the data on your machine. Let's take a look at it. This option is in the security panel also and it's the second tab and it's called File Vault. What File Vault does is it takes all of your files, everything in the home directory, and it will encrypt it so in other words the file stored on the drive is an encrypted version of the file you normally would be editing. Every time you open a file in an application it decrypts it for you to edit it and then it will encrypt it again when you save it. This will protect your files from, say a malicious hacker, trying to get into your machine and take your data. It'll also prevent somebody who gets a hold of your machine or your hard drive from basically bypassing all the log in stuff and going right to your files. But it does have its disadvantages. It slows down your machine quite a bit for file saving. So, for instance, when I on my previous lap top had this turned on I wasn't able to actually capture video at a full frame rate and save it to the drive because the encryption process was slowing it down a bit too much. So use this one with caution and only if you really feel it's necessary.
The last thing I would do in trying to do some simple security on your machine is to check all your sharing settings. Turn off what you're not using. If you're not using web sharing, if you're not using file sharing, turn them off. And if you are using file sharing Leopard has a really great set of controls that allow you to restrict access to only people that have passwords and only to folders that you want them to go to. So check through those things.
So these were some simple steps that you could take to securing your machine. It's nothing too high tech and it's nothing that's really going to prevent somebody from breaking into your machine if they really wanted to. But at least it will stop prying eyes from seeing your work.
This is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost.

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 3: Locking Down Your Mac”

    Ian
    11/29/07 @ 2:30 pm

    These are great tips Gary, but I thought I would add something. On Mac we hardly need the type of security PC users need and update everyday(!) but as your Mac can still get stolen even with the mentioned system prefs tips, I think these applications are worth a look:

    iAlertU – Imagine a car alarm on your Mac! Any movement of the mouse or the Macbook itself and the alarm goes off. It’s worth it for the entertainment value alone. Just move away from your Mac and tell your colleagues “don’t touch”, they won’t be able to resist and will face the consequences! It is currently free and in beta.

    Periscope – Your Mac gets stolen, you phone a number, then when it connects to a network, Periscope takes mugshots of the thief and secretly emails them, and the computers location, to the developers who with the police can get your Mac back.

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