How to secure your Mac computer: expert tips to stay safe

How to secure your Mac computer

Guides you through how to secure your Mac computer, with expert tips to make sure you are digitally safe, and what you should avoid.

Recent research shows that cyber threats that target macOS (Mac computers’ operating system) are on the rise. As reported by USAToday, there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of malicious programs designed to attack Mac devices.

Once, Mac computers were considered immune to the threats that have always plagued Windows PCs, but this distinction is gradually shifting. 

Granted, most of the nefarious software programs that wriggle into Mac systems are adware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), but several distinct malware programs have also been detected. For example, in early 2021, security researchers at Red Canary flagged a mysterious program that has been dubbed Silver Sparrow. 

According to PCMag, the program has now infected over 30,000 Mac computers across 153 countries. It is also capable of infecting Apple’s M1 ARM architecture devices, only the second known malware program to do so. Additionally, because Silver Sparrow utilizes Akamai and Amazon Web Services for its command infrastructure, it could prove incredibly difficult to contain.

Mac threats are becoming more sophisticated and dynamic. Plus, as Mac computers gain in popularity, more users will buy a Mac, and, accordingly, more threats will be released that specifically target these devices. 

Suffice to say, Mac computer owners now need to take additional steps to secure their devices. With that in mind, here we go over how to secure your Mac and keep both your physical device and data safe.

How to secure your Mac computer: 7 steps for 2021 and beyond

Take the following steps to boost your computer’s security credentials:

Uninstall Flash Player

Of late, security experts around the world have been calling for the complete removal of Adobe Flash. Unfortunately, the Player has consistently been riddled with security flaws and vulnerabilities and has been linked to more than one type of infection. You can find instructions on how to remove flash from your Mac here.

Keep your device updated, always

Always run the latest version of macOS whenever possible. Apple releases updates for its operating systems for several reasons, including to fix and patch known exploits and vulnerabilities. Not updating your device is akin to leaving the house for the day but keeping your front door wide open — practically inviting threat actors over your doorstep.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Networks, which are more commonly known as VPNs, were once primarily thought of as privacy tools, which they definitely are, but VPNs also provide an added layer of security.

When you use the internet with your VPN connected, all of your traffic is encrypted and you browse on a private network, one that cannot be seen or detected by would-be threat actors. Install a VPN for Mac and secure your online activity. 

Choose high-quality security tools

While Apple does include its XProtect software as standard in each macOS system, this security tool is lacking when it comes to preventing adware, which is the most common threat that plagues Macs. According to TechRadar, you are better off choosing high-quality tools from third-party suppliers. 

Note that you will have to pay for both antivirus and antimalware programs, but given the cost of a new Mac device, and the difficulty involved in removing threats that do manage to get into macOS, this is a small price to pay for both peace of mind and data security.

Enable full disk encryption

Now that you have encrypted your online traffic with a VPN, it’s time to start encrypting all the information and files that are stored on your physical device’s disks. Once your disks are encrypted, even if your Mac computer is stolen, threat actors cannot gain access to your private information. You should turn on your computer’s FileVault, an in-built macOS tool, to encrypt your full hard drive with XTS-AES128 encryption.

Avoid peer-to-peer file sharing

While sharing files with others on peer-to-peer forums and torrenting sites might be a great way to spread some joy and love, it’s also an exceptionally excellent way to share malware, viruses, and other threats. Because these sites do not get the files that users share, there is every chance that the audio files you’ve downloaded come with some digital nasties as well.

Practice robust digital hygiene practices

Digital hygiene refers to the ways in which we can keep our devices and data secure, both offline and online. For example, use strong, complex passwords with a minimum of 12 characters and a mix of numerals, letters, and special characters.

Additionally, sign out of accounts when you are finished, use a different password for each account (a good password manager such as LastPass can help keep your codes in order), and never use personal identifying information, such as your date of birth or address, in your passwords.

Mac devices are fast, intuitive, and user-friendly. They’re also far more expensive than most PCs, and as such, represent a significant investment. Keep your Mac secure and safe by following the steps above.

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Nathan James lives for gaming, and is a fan of everything from vintage Pong to the latest virtual reality games. He also loves to tinker with hardware in that never-ending search for more power and speed.