Security

Fine-tune OS X security and privacy settings

OS X offers a range of customizable security and privacy options. Here's a quick tutorial on what's available.

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Image: James Martin/CNET

It's no surprise that the Apple/FBI story is making headlines, as digital security and privacy worries increase with each reported breach, hack, and unauthorized intrusion. Fortunately, Apple OS X offers a range of customizable settings, enabling businesses and individuals to configure Macs to meet their specific needs.

SEE: Apple vs. FBI: TechRepublic members speak out, side with Apple

OS X users can access their Mac's security and privacy settings by opening System Preferences and selecting Security And Privacy. Within El Capitan (OS X version 10.11), the app appears within the top tier of icons.

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OS X's Security and Privacy settings enable configuring a wide range of general, FileVault encryption, firewall, and privacy options.
Image: Erik Eckel/TechRepublic

General

From the General tab, users can specify that a password is required to access the system after a predetermined number of minutes after sleep or the screen saver starts. This setting helps prevent unauthorized users from walking up to an unattended Mac and accessing its data without permission.

The app's Advanced button permits users to log themselves out automatically after a preset number of minutes, which further increases security when a system is left unattended. From the same Advanced menu, users can specify that an administrator password be required to access and change settings that apply to the entire system.

The General tab also permits disabling automatic login, meaning a user will be prompted to log in each time the system is started. Disabling automatic login helps prevent someone who finds a lost Mac or who somehow gains unauthorized possession of a Mac from easily starting up the system and accessing its data.

The General tab is where users can change the login password and restrict app permissions; users can specify apps be allowed only from the Mac App Store, from the Mac App Store, identified developers, or from Anywhere, a less secure option.

FileVault

OS X users can encrypt their Mac's entire hard disk by enabling FileVault, OS X's built-in encryption technology. Users choosing to enable disk encryption by clicking the Turn On FileVault button should record the login password and subsequent recovery key in a safe place to help ensure data can be recovered.

SEE: OS X El Capitan: The smart person's guide

Firewall

OS X includes its own integrated firewall. When enabled, the firewall assists in controlling connections to the Mac. Users can choose to permit specific applications to receive incoming connections. The firewall can also block all incoming connections or enable a special stealth mode that prevents the Mac from responding to requests, such as pings. Apple provides instructions for configuring the firewall.

Privacy

Users and organizations can customize individual privacy preferences from the Privacy menu. Among the settings users can configure are privacy options for Location Services, which enables apps to track a user's location, and Contacts, which determines which applications can access a user's contacts.

Other privacy options that can be set include those for Calendars, Reminders, third-party programs such as Twitter and Facebook, which are often used to fulfill marketing responsibilities, and diagnostics and usage information.

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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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