We live in an insecure world. It’s been said that in a capitalist society, everyone is out to get your money. If not your money, your stuff. If not your stuff, your privacy. Here are a few basic steps I take to keep my Macs clean from trackers and hackers.
First on the list is a password and a non-administrative, non-root user account on my Mac. Complex passwords. When I walk away from my Mac it goes into lockdown mode and requires a password to re-enter. Safari’s password maker can help create a good one with multiple components– upper and lower case letters, numbers, symbols (more of the former, less of the latter two).
Second on the list is the Mac’s built-in firewall. By default, the firewall in OS X is turned off (which should tell you something about Apple’s confidence that Macs are not easy to hack). It’s in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall. Set and use the options in the Firewall, including Stealth Mode. Then, in Advanced settings, set logout after x-number of minutes of inactivity, and require an administrator password to access system-wide preferences.
Third on my list is Onyx, a free Mac utility which helps to keep your Mac running just a bit better by checking the system file structure, and performing a number of maintenance tasks which should run automatically late at night (when my Mac is turned off).
There’s the added bonus of dozens of hidden and useful tweaks and features to customize OS X which can be turned on with a click, off with a click.
Fourth, there’s Cookie, a Mac utility which cleans browser tracks before, during, or after every browser session for Safari, Firefox, and Chrome (and other Mac browsers). Once setup, Cookie works automatically in the background to both manage and eliminate standard web cookies, Flash cookies, local storage options, web browser history, and much more.
Finally, I use Little Snitch. Think of it as reverse firewall. Instead of watching every incoming port, Little Snitch watches apps already on your Mac and tracks where and when they try to ‘phone home’ and make an internet connection without your knowledge. The controls are simple to setup and use (a bit annoying at first because many apps make network connections you don’t know about) and the security yet another layer for the semi-paranoid.
The number of hackers (mostly scripts and random access attempts) trying to get into your Mac seems to grow daily, so a few layers of security surely won’t hurt.