Do you know about all of the security features that are in-built to macOS? Some of them work silently in the background to protect your Mac device, while others need to be switched on to start working.
It’s also helpful to get to grips with these tools to get an understanding of the scope of what your macOS is able to do in terms of cyber security. To briefly recap on the most important insights from our macOS articles so far: 1) Macs are not invulnerable to cyber threats 2) it is best practice to combine these in-built tools with other technical and organisational measures such as user awareness training, data backup, and antivirus solutions. With this said, let’s jump into it!
What Security Layers are and why they Matter
You can imagine the security features of your Mac as being like a multi-tiered castle. There are outer walls which can fend off most invaders from getting access to your Mac and the network it connects to, while the inner walls offer a deeper defence that tries to protect your Mac by detecting and preventing threats within it, including its data and configurations.
Gatekeeper: Your Mac’s First Line of Defence
Whenever you click to open an app on a Mac, you’re also indirectly interacting with the Gatekeeper feature. This tool ensures that only apps from the app store and identified developers can run on your Mac, which automatically reduces the risk of malware being installed and executed on your Mac device. It’s rather like the guard at the castle gates of your device, which vets each visitor’s credentials.
Gatekeeper runs by default, but you can adjust its settings in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General tab.
XProtect: Your Mac’s Silent Sentinel
You can think of XProtect as being like a silent sentinel. It’s a tool that works in the background, actively scanning your device for malicious software and the tell-tale signs of it. It’s constantly updating its definitions of malware to do this, and if there’s a match found against a file, it will then alert you to the potential threat. XProtect runs automatically and it takes no action on your part to use it.
FileVault 2: Mac File Encryption
In the event that someone manages to access your Mac’s files, FileVault 2 steps in. It encrypts your entire hard drive, ensuring that your data remains locked away unless the correct password is provided.
To enable FileVault, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault tab. Just ensure you keep your recovery key safe – losing it can result in inaccessible data.
Malware Removal Tool (MRT): Your Mac’s Cleanup Crew
If a piece of malware does manage to get best your Mac’s defences, MRT can step in to locate and remove it from your Mac. It works automatically and in the background like XProtect, so there’s no need to configure it. If it does remove an infected file, it will let you know.
Safari: Safer Mac Browsing Safari is the native browser for macOS that is oriented towards protecting users with features such as blocking cross-site tracking and the ability to sandbox pages. By default, it does have good security settings, but these can be refined and upgraded by navigating to Safari > Preferences > Privacy.
App Sandbox: The Mac App Container
Typically, when apps are working, they are able to communicate with other applications and parts of your system which can present vulnerabilities to exploit for more sophisticated hackers. One way that Apple tries to mitigate this risk, is through using App Sandbox, which limits what your running apps can access, without compromising their functionality.
It’s another hands-off feature, App Sandbox automatically sandboxes the native macOS apps and those that are downloaded from the app store.
Firmware Password: An Extra Layer
Alongside the login password that you use to access your Mac, setting a fireware password offers an extra layer of access protection. It stops users who do not have your login password from bypassing it by starting your Mac up from any internal or external storage, or by resetting your device in recovery mode.
If you set a firmware password, even booting your Mac via recovery mode requires this password. With this said, it’s important to make sure you remember it! Otherwise, you will need to hand it over to an official Apple Store to remove it. To set up a firmware password, restart your Mac, then hold down Command + R until the Apple logo appears. From the Utilities menu, choose ‘Firmware Password Utility’ and follow the on-screen instructions.
MacOS offers a layered synergy of in-built features that offer more protection compared to Windows PCs, this said, they are not foolproof. Most of the in-built tools work automatically without the need for intervention, others can be configured more securely. Other solutions, such as implementing advanced antivirus, patch management, and network intrusion detection and prevention systems, can all help to solidify your Mac and network’s castle of defences, ensuring that your operation is truly cyber secure.]
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