Keeping your Mac free of malware and using strong passwords for your online accounts are two important things you need to do to stay safe and secure. But even if you succeed at these, you can still be vulnerable to common scams that use social engineering to trick you out of your money, privacy and security. Even the most intelligent person can fall victim to a scam if they don’t recognize it when it happens to them. The key to keeping yourself safe is to know the common scams so you recognize them when someone tries to trick you.
Your Mac as a password generator built into the Keychain Access utility. It takes a few steps to access, but it can be handy to generate passwords outside of Safari or in unusual situations. You can vary the length and type of password and copy and paste the result.
Mojave changes how apps ask for privacy settings and gives you easier control of those settings. In System Preferences, Security & Privacy, Privacy, you can see all of the permissions that have been granted to apps and change them. However, for typical users it is often hard to determine why an app needs access to a specific type of information.
While each piece of unwanted software that tries to get on your Mac is slightly different, there are some general steps you can take to check for and remove malware. The LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons folders are usual locations to check. You should also look for unwanted browser extensions and do an audit of the files in your Applications folder.
You can set your Mac to not require a password when you start up, wake up or log in. However, you should never use this function. Doing so leaves all of your information vulnerable to anyone who gets physical access to your Mac. Even if you are using a Mac that is stationary and locked up, it doesn't make sense to take the risk. Entering a password every time you use your Mac is a small price to pay for good security. You can mitigate the number of times you enter your password by setting the Require Password time to something reasonable, such as 5 minutes.
You may want to download third-party (non-Apple) apps for your Mac from time-to-time. When doing so, it is important to keep safety and security in mind. Four rules will help you stay safe when downloading apps: Don't get an app unless you really need it, get it from the Mac App Store if you can, only get an app if you trust it, and only download from the app's official site.
iPhone passcodes that are only 4- or 6-digits long can be easily broken by the same equipment law enforcement agencies use. While it is unlikely to be an issue for typical users, you can opt to use longer passcodes or even an alphanumeric password for your iPhone to make it nearly impossible to break.
If you need to encrypt your documents for security or legal reasons, you can do this easily in Pages, Numbers and Keynotes with the Set Password option. It is important to remember your password or you will lose access to the document. You can also just opt to use File Vault to encrypt all of the data on your Mac.
Every Mac user should be backing up the files on their Mac. The easiest way to do this is to use Time Machine, which is part of macOS. You can get a cheap external hard drive and start doing this today. Time Machine is simple and automatic and can save you from disasters, as long as you start using it.
As long as you have Find My iPhone activated on your iPhone, you can then use a computer and log on to the iCloud web site to trigger Lost Mode. This will lock your phone, and enable you to display a message and phone number on the screen. You'll also get location updates sent to you via email. You can turn off Lost Mode if you find your iPhone.
Many Mac news sites and blogs are reporting about a way that someone can gain access to your Mac without your password. However, the danger is usually overstated as someone needs physical access to your Mac to use the exploit. In this video I'll show you the problem and also a simple way to prevent it. However, Apple will probably have a fix for this in the next few days or even hours.
Mac, iPhone and iPad users get inundated with phishing attacks that appear to be official Apple emails but are in fact attempts to steal your Apple ID password. These fake emails play on emotions to get you to click on false links and then enter your password or download some malware. Take a look at some common examples. Thanks to those who contributed these examples!
If you use USB flash memory drives, also known as thumb drives or jump drives, you can encrypt them to make sure no one else can access your data if they get a hold of your drive. This is a system function in macOS Sierra that can be accessed in the context menu for that drive. Since these drives are easy to lose, it can be a good idea to encrypt them as standard practice.
The recent dangerous WannaCry ransomeware attack should be a wake-up call to all computer users to keep their machines updated. While this malware does not affect Macs, that may not be true of future attacks. Keeping the operating system up-to-date would have protected victims of WannaCry. Please keep your Mac OS and apps updated, don't download software from sites you don't trust, and keep a good backup.
It is relatively easy to use a VPN service on your Mac. Simply install the software that the service provides, and then set some preferences. From there it is usually automatic. Some services let you pick a server location and set some networks to be trusted at all times.
What is VPN and why do people use it? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it allows you to establish a secure connection from your device, though Wi-Fi and your ISP, to the VPN service, and then out to the Internet. Using a VPN you can mask what you are doing from your ISP, which is particularly useful if you don't trust your ISP, such as when using a connection in a public place.
You may be surprised to learn how most passwords are hacked. It isn't by breaking into the account that is threatened, but by stealing the password from another site entirely. This happens because many people use the same password for different sites. You can easily protect yourself against this.
You can set a text message to appear on your Mac's lock screen. Use this to put contact information or instructions for someone who may find your lost MacBook. Change the message often to fit your situation.
In Sierra the system Gatekeeper function has been changed to only allow apps either from the App Store or from identified developers. But if you need to run other software, such as special software in a work environment, you can still run any software if you know how to override Gatekeeper.
If you need to see your stored Safari passwords while on the go, you can get to them on your iPhone. While they are automatically inserted when using Safari on your iPhone, to use the passwords on another device you can go to the Settings app and view them there.
Over the last few weeks many people have been reporting unwanted Calendar invites, usually looking like junk email with a sales pitch and links. It is difficult to get rid of these invites without notifying the sender that you either declined or accepted it. But there is a method to quietly delete the invite. A better solution is to switch to email notifications of Calendar invites until Apple fixes the problem.
With Sierra and watchOS 3 you can set up your Mac so it unlocks automatically for you while you are wearing your Apple Watch.
If you need to hand your iPhone or iPad over to a child, consider using Guided Access to lock them into a single app and restrict what they can do. Guided Access allows you to turn off buttons and controls and even set time limits. You can regain access to your device with a password or Touch ID.
A new feature in Mac OS X 10.11.4 and iOS 9.3 allows you to lock some or all of your notes in the Notes app. You can assign a single password that works for all locked notes in your iCloud account. You can lock and remove the lock on notes on your Mac, iPad or iPhone. This provides an extra layer of security if you store sensitive information in some of your notes.
In OS X you can use Gatekeeper to protect your Mac from malicious software. Most users should have it set to only allow apps from the Mac App Store. When you do so, it is easy to allow other apps on a case-by-case basis, so even export users should consider this setting as the default.
The best way to protect yourself against online scams is to learn about them. Here are three web sites that report scams. By browsing these sites a little each week, you will become knowledgable about these scams and learn to recognize when someone is trying to pull one on you.
If you find yourself stuck on a web page in Safari that is claiming that you are infected with a virus or that your computer needs to be scanned, it is a scam. But sometimes you can find that these pop-up warnings are hard to get rid of. Even if you quit and restart Safari, they reappear. It is easy to restart Safari without returning to the same page that starts the cycle all over again. You can also get help from Apple if you are infected with a more serious problem.
Chances are you regularly get fake email claiming to be from companies that you do business with. However, these scam emails are trying to trick you into giving up your passwords and other information. It is important to be skeptical of every email message you receive and to learn to recognize the signs of phishing scams. Even email messages that seem to come from friends and relatives can be scams.
You can use the Keychain Access app on your Mac to create secure random passwords for things that are not necessarily online. For instance, you can create random ATM pins or passwords for apps and other services. You can also store these passwords in your Keychain so you have a backup in a secure place in case you forget the password later on. Check out my book The Practical Guide to Mac Security at http://macmost.com/j-macsecurity