Coffee bars all over the world are filled with serious Apple Mac wielding remote and / or freelance workers – but are they taking steps to protect themselves in a public place? Follow this checklist to make sure you are protected.
12 ways to use your Mac safely in public places
1. Worried about Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous places, not least because you do not know how the network is set up or who is on the same network with you.
Criminals are known to set up legitimate apparent hotspots that their software is wondering about, attempting to capture data (including bank and intranet pass codes) in transit. Please note:
- Do: Make sure the network you access is really the network that belongs to the place you are in ̵
- Not: Access your financial, personal, confidential or medical records of unsecured public Wi-Fi – you better set up your own iPhone hotspot and use it when opening services like that in a public place.
- Do: Delete free networks from your Mac after using them. Your Mac cannot determine if a network you are accessing is the real network and will only go by name.
2. Use a VPN
If you use a VPN from a reputable company, you can make yourself much safer when working in that coffee shop next to your gig economy friends.
I do not recommend using a free service, as they may suffer from poor performance and some are uncertain, more reputable services include NordVPN, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN, as explained here. These things create secure and encrypted tunnels for the VPN provider, which means you can continue to work on what you are working on in relative security, even on a public network.
3. Turn on the Firewall
Firewalls attempt to prevent unauthorized persons or software from accessing your Mac if they happen to be on the same network. Apple has built-in protection against this in the form of the MacOS firewall. This should be on by default, but you should check:
- Open System Settings on Mac
- Select Security and Privacy and then click Firewal ] l tab.
- If the firewall is turned off, press the padlock entry, enter your password and turn it on again.
There are also a few additional firewall settings you can choose to use.
Touch Firewall Options and you can check Enable Stealth Mode . While in this mode, any attempt to investigate and find your Mac over the network (using ping, for example) will be met with stony style, as if your Mac is not there.
Final Firewall Options ] also lets you block all incoming connections other than those essential for using basic internet services, while the Advanced tab in the firewall panel lets you enable a function that requires an administrator password to access system dependent preferences .
4. Don't share
You can share things like printers, files or even the screen when you're at home or in the office, but when using your Mac in the wild, turn off all your sharing items.
(Note: If you have set the firewall to block all incoming connections, these services should also be protected – but you should turn them off to be safe.)
- Open System Settings> Sharing .
- Review the list of services you find on this page and make sure they are all uncontrolled (off).
Don't worry about turning them off – you can always re-enable them if you need to take advantage of them.
5. Create tough passwords
Did you know that most passwords start with 1? Or that many use birthdays, or simple repetitions like 1234?
This makes no sense when everything you do on your Mac, sends emails to family members and trades on Amazon, so it makes even less sense to use a weak password when your computer has all the keys to your kingdom.
You should make sure your password kicks fast and ensures that your Mac in the unlikely event you have to leave it unattended in a public place.
Open System Settings> Security & Privacy> General and Set Require Password for the shortest time you can handle – many of us like the convenience of a little thinking time staring at the Mac .
NOTE: You should also make sure that automatic logon is not enabled on your Mac in System Settings> Users and Groups so it means that everything on your Mac is insecure .
6. Unlocking Fast
If you need to get away from the Mojave Mac, the fastest way to unlock it from unauthorized access is to write Command-Control-Q or select Lock Screen on the Apple menu.
You can also set your Mac so that a quick swipe to a warm corner of the screen will lock it: Open System Settings> Desktop Savers> Screen Saver and then select Hot Corners . In the interface that appears, select a hot corner and select Lock Screen from the drop-down menu.
7. Leave a message
You can get a message displayed on your Mac home screen.
Creating this message:
- Open System Settings> Security & Privacy> General My Mac has a message that encourages anyone who has it to call me and return it to a non-requested reward.
- Touch the padlock icon and enter your password.
- Check Display a message when the screen is locked to and you are prompted to create a message you want to leave.
The message is now visible when the Mac is locked.
8. Enable Find My Mac
If you're using a Mac with iCloud, make sure you've turned on Apple's useful "find" feature. While smart bugs know how to get around this protection, giving you a chance to protect your data if you lose your computer can help you find your computer. Open System Settings> iCloud and enable Find My Mac .
While this feature requires your location services to be on and only works when your Mac is online, it can help you track down a lost or stolen machine.
9. Turn off Bluetooth
There are Bluetooth-based attacks, and while Macs are not so affected by them, you don't want to receive random, tasteless pictures from some deeply worried people sitting near you while working in it public . You also do not want random invitations to connect to people you do not know.
Therefore (unless you are going to use it). Disabling Bluetooth can be a good idea when you are out and about. Just disable it using the menu icon, or use System Settings> Bluetooth if you do not hold a switch for this in the menu bar.
10. Secure AirDrop
When you disable Bluetooth, you also disable Apple's built-in AirDrop feature so you prefer to keep it if you work with others in a public place. You should make sure that you set AirDrop to only allow contacts in The Small Drop at the bottom of an AirDrop window.
(The easiest way to open an AirDrop window is to press Command-Space and type AirDrop.)
11. Encrypt your Mac
If you lose your Ma or it is stolen, you will not make it easy for people to access the data on your computer. That's why you should enable FileVault protection, which encrypts the data on your disk, and makes it impossible to access without the right password. Enable this feature in System Settings> Security & Privacy> FireVault .
12. Think of a firmware password
I hesitate to recommend using a firmware password, mainly because if you set one up, be absolutely sure you will not forget it.
However, it adds an extra level of protection in case someone steals your Mac and tries to reset your password using Terminal in recovery mode to access the content.
This is because when a firmware password is set, you must enter it to enter the Recovery mode – and if you do not have that password, you must take your Mac to Apple to restore access to it. So be sure you remember it. Take a look at Apple's website here to see how it's done.
Stay safe out there!
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