5 Dumb Things Mac Users Do to Compromise Security

by Dan

Whenever a new security threat — like the Heartbleed bug, for example — makes the news, owners of Mac computers have a tendency to be unconcerned. “I don’t need to worry about that,” they say to their friends, usually followed by some variation of “This is exactly why I use Apple products” and a listing of their Macs many virtues.

While Macs are, in theory, less likely to fall victim to some of the security issues that wreak havoc on PCs, they are not technological superheroes, completely impervious to every virus, bug or security risk that comes down the pike. In fact, as the popularity of Macs increases, the security risks are growing as well; cybercriminals are beginning to see Mac users as a viable — and largely untapped — pool of potential victims, with large amounts of valuable data just waiting to be stolen.

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However, Mac owners still continue to claim that they are invulnerable to security problems, and often fail to fully protect their sensitive data. This is a mistake, and it could be a costly one. If you own a Mac, consider whether you are making any of these errors, and potentially putting yourself in the sights of dangerous cyber criminals.

Not Using Antivirus Protection

“But Macs don’t get viruses!” you’re probably shouting. The thousands of people who discover malware and viruses on their Macs each year would probably disagree with you.

Whether or not it is necessary to install antivirus protection on Macs is a hotly contested issue, butgiven that the number of OSX-specific viruses increases every day, it would seem that the answer is a resounding yes. Recent security demonstrations have shown that Macs can become infected simply by visiting an infected website, negating the argument that the only way that the only way to get a virus is by downloading malicious software. Not to mention, Macs can actually carry viruses that will infect PCs, creating a security risk for other machines. Since the best antivirus for Mac is inexpensive and doesn’t slow down the computer, isn’t it worthwhile to just add the program for extra peace of mind?

Not Installing Updates

The vast majority of virus-infected Macs were running out of date versions of OSX or software. Hackers often take advantage of security loopholes in operating systems, software and plug-ins to gain access to machines, but these holes are usually patched with updates. Apple doesn’t have a regular schedule of updates like Windows, but when a new update is released, take time to install it. In addition, because web browsers and Adobe tend to have the most issues in terms of security holes, stay on top of those updates or risk being infected.

virus detected

Not Encrypting Files

If your computer is lost or stolen, are your files vulnerable? What if your computer is hacked without using your username and password? Everything you have stored on the device can be viewed, including any sensitive information such as bank record. OSX makes it very easy for users to encrypt the entire disk with a standard encryption solution, adding another layer of security that only made sense to use…

Not Turning Off Java

The Java plug-in is one of the most common targets for cyber criminals, who regularly exploit vulnerabilities to compromise both Mac and PC machines. Very few applications or websites require Java for full operation, so it only makes sense to disable to the plug-in to more effectively protect your Mac. If you stay on top of your operating system updates, the plug-in will be automatically disabled (OS X version 10.9, known as Mavericks, has this feature), further underscoring the point that staying on top of security updates is important.

Not Changing the Keychain Password

Realizing that remembering all of the passwords required for daily life can be a challenge for many people, Macs include a feature called “Keychain,” which stores all of the log-in credentials for email, social media, shopping sites, corporate networks and more. The problem? Most people never set a unique password for their Keychain, allowing it to be unlocked by the standard user account password. In other words, all someone would need to access all of your online accounts is the username and password required to start your computer. Take a moment to disable this default and create a unique Keychain password to keep all of your accounts secure even if your main user account is compromised.

Many of the most common security risks to Mac appear simply because users do not take full advantage of the security features that are already present on their machines. Take a few moments and adjust some settings, install some protective software and lock down your information, and you can more confidently say, “My Mac is safe.”

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