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The Mac OS is one of the most secure computer operating systems around. By default, the OS is installed so that it's nigh even impossible for someone to break into your computer over a network or the internet. But if they actually have your computer in their sneaky little hands, that's a different story. The Security & Privacy system preferences help you maintain your Mac's security when someone is using it. You can additionally configure what internet services you will and won't allow as well as control applications that ask for your Mac's location. Let's take a look now.
Go to System Preferences and Security & Privacy. now by default this system preference is locked and for a good reason, because well, it controls your security preferences. So you need to click on it and then enter an administrator's name and password, and click unlock. So this General tab is for protecting your Mac from people who have physical access to it, those who can sit down at your computer when you're not there and do things. Now here are the important ones. You can require a password immediately after the computer goes to sleep or you've had a screensaver kick in.
I referred to this when I was talking about screensavers. That can be Immediate, 5 seconds, a minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, an hour or 4 hours for example. This can be useful if you've set up a hot corner for a screensaver, so you drag your cursor down to the corner, the screensaver kicks in, and then you can walk away from your computer. If somebody else were to sit down at your computer and try to get into it, the screensaver would be on, they try to get in, and then they would be queued for a password to get into the computer. I'm going to turn that off for now.
Another important feature is Disable automatic login. Let's suppose that you have this unchecked. Now, I've a laptop here. I'll leave it alone. Somebody comes in and they lift up that lid and the computer comes on, then they can automatically log in if I have that option set in Users and Groups. That's not such a great idea if your Mac is out there in the public. So it's a good idea to leave this on, so that if you've logged out, nobody can automatically get into your computer without having a password to do that.
You notice at the very beginning of this, I had to click this lock icon and enter an administrator's password and that's what this option is here, Require an administrator password to access system preferences with lock icons. This system preference is different in that by default it asks for that, but other system preferences, if you turn this on, they will all ask you to enter a password. You can log out after a certain number of minutes. So again, step away from your computer and five minutes after, it will log you out and as long as you can't automatically log back in, a person needs to know the password.
You can show a message when the screen is locked, letting people know that you're very serious about security. This last option, Automatically update safe downloads list, there are very, very few problems with viruses and malware and Trojan horses on the Mac. However, recently there have been a few Trojan horses that have appeared. These are files that you download from the Internet that appear to be okay, you run them, and then they perform in some way that you don't expect and some of that is often bad where it will even steal a password for example.
Apple keeps a list of websites and files that can be harmful, and it will automatically update that list. This is a good option to keep enabled so that when you go to a website that has some of this stuff, you'll be warned about it. FileVault is a way of encrypting the data that's on your Mac. This could be a really good idea for a laptop because you're traveling somewhere, you've left your laptop in the bus station, somebody picks it up. If they can get into your computer, they can also get into your data. However, if you turn on FileVault, all your stuff is encrypted, so you have to have a couple of passwords to get in there.
You can't get to it in some other way because this stuff has been turned into a format that can't be easily read. Firewall is off by default. What the Firewall does is it prevents certain ports from being open on your Mac, and a port is an avenue to the internet. So by default common ports are open so that you can get onto the World Wide Web for example through your browser. But there are other ports that are closed. You can also turn on the Firewall and when you do that then you can configure certain applications.
As we see from this dialog, we can deny that connection, or we can allow it. I'm going to turn this off, so I don't keep getting these things. Worth noting is that Lion's Firewall is really broad. There is not a lot that you can tweak here. If you want to do more tweaking, you can using a third-party tool. One that I use is called NoobProof and this is from Hanynet. It's a free tool. What it does is it gives you a long list of the ports that you can open and close. It's called NoobProof for newbie because it really is fairly easy to operate.
If you're really concerned about using a firewall with your Mac, I suggest that you install this and give it a try. Then there is the Privacy tab. On the left side, it says, You can help Apple improve its product and user support by having your Mac automatically send Apple information. If you want to do this, if you want to be a good person, go ahead and enable this checkbox and every so often when you do something on your Mac it may send some anonymized information to Apple that will help them. Generally, I'm kind of a private person, so I don't enable options like this.
I figured the company can figure it out on its own without my help, so I leave this unchecked. On the right side you're going to see an option about location services. There are certain applications that will ask permission to use your location in their operation. So for example, maybe in a maps application of some kind, if you're looking for directions or a local services application. It will ask if it can use your location data. When it does so, it will add the application to this list of applications here.
At that point, you can select one and you can turn that off. So after a while, you say, yes, it's perfectly fine for this restaurant application to tell me where I can find local restaurants but I don't want to have that location data sent to that website any longer, and you can turn it off. And as it tells you at the bottom, these are applications that have asked for your location in the last 24 hours. This is another feature that's been added with Lion. And that's Security & Privacy on the Mac.
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