Mac OS X Tips
10 Security and Privacy Tips
1. Disable "Open safe files after downloading"
If you do one thing this article suggests, this should be it. Unticking just one checkbox will protect you from most of the few dangerous Mac exploits around on the internet.
In Safari, choose Preferences from the Safari menu and then click on the General tab. Near the bottom, un-check the checkbox that says "Open safe files after downloading". There. Done.
2. Disable automatic login
Even if you only have one user on your Mac, requiring a username and password when starting up is great for security, especially if you have a laptop that can more be easily lost or stolen. You can do this from the Security section of System Preferences, by checking the checkbox "Disable automatic login".
While this isn't going to stop someone intent on stealing your personal data, regular thieves are more likely to just wipe the hard drive rather than going through all your personal stuff first.
3. Lock screen when away
There are a couple of ways to make your Mac require a password when you leave it. The easiest way is to set "Require password after sleep or screen saver begins" in the Security section of System Preferences. Here, you can also set a time limit so a password isn't required right away, but only after 15 minutes for example.
If you would prefer a keyboard shortcut to lock the screen, you can create this yourself. Open up Automator (in the Applications folder) and choose a Service template. From the library choose "Run Shell Script" and drag it across to the workflow area. In the text box paste the following command:
'/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/User.menu/Contents/Resources/CGSession' -suspend
Finally, change the "text" drop-down menu above the workflow to "no input" and then save you workflow as "Lock Screen". To add the keyboard shortcut, go to the Keyboard section of System Preferences and click the Keyboard shortcuts tab. Select Services from the list on the left, then scroll down to the bottom of the list on the right to find "Lock Screen". Double-click on the area to the right "Lock Screen", then press the keyboard shortcut you want. I used Command-Control-L.
4. Use 1Password to create and store internet passwords
One of the problems with having lots of accounts on the internet is that for them to really be secure, they should all have a different password. For example, if you use the same password for your bank account, your email account and some shady disreputable website, you are asking for trouble.
My solution to this is to use an application called 1Password to create and remember all my passwords for me. The only three passwords that I remember myself are my email password, my bank password and a master password for 1Password. All the others - for Facebook, reddit, Amazon, etc - are randomly generated 20 character strings that are created and remembered for me by 1Password. When I go to one of those web sites, 1Password simply prompts me for my master password, then fills in the rest for me.
Some of this functionality can be replicated for free using Keychain Access, but the real benefit of 1Password is its automation, and the fact that it works in Safari, Firefox and on your iPhone so you don't have to save your passwords separately for each.
5. Turn on the firewall
Mac OS X comes with a built in firewall, but it is actually turned off by default. You can turn it on in the Security section of System Preferences. The Mac OS X firewall is really simple to set up - just click start to turn it on. Some applications will have trouble working through the firewall, instant messengers for example. If you find you start having connection problems with an application, just add it to the allowed list in the firewall preferences.
6. Little Snitch
While a Firewall protects your computer from unwanted connections from the outside, Little Snitch does the opposite and blocks your private data from being sent out. If you start an application and it tries to send some data out to a server on the Internet, Little Snitch will inform you and ask if you want to allow it. Read more over at the Little Snitch site.
7. Encrypt and hide your private files
It isn't entirely obvious how to password protect files or folders in Mac OS X but there are a couple of ways.
If you just want to protect a single iWork or PDF document, you can do this from within the specific iWork application or from within Preview. In Pages, Keynote and Numbers '09 you can choose "Require password to open" from the Document section of the Inspector window. In Preview, when choosing "Save As.." on a PDF there is a checkbox to encrypt.
If you want to password anything else, you have to password protect an entire folder. The way this is done is using encrypted disk images. Once created these appear as a single file on your hard drive with a dmg extension. When you double-click on one, it will ask you for the password. If you enter the password correctly, it will mount a disk image on your desktop. So while unlocked, the disk image is just like a temporary folder on your desktop. You can copy files to it and delete files from it, and as soon as you eject it, the contents will be password protected again. Here’s a detailed article about how to set up a disk image.
8. Use FileVault
Personally, I don't use this option, but for those who want to be ultra-secure it is an amazing feature. It is similar to creating an encrypted disk image for some files, but instead it does this for your entire user folder. It is much more straightforward and transparent than setting up an encrypted disk image too. Just turn it on the Security section of System Preferences, and all your files will be unencrypted and encrypted on the fly when you log in and out of your computer.
I would say this is probably overkill for most users. If you have an encrypted disk image for your most sensitive files, then it is a bit redundant to then encrypt your entire user folder. It also causes some problems concerning Time Machine backups, and also huge problems if you happen to forget the password…
9. Secure Empty Trash
More and more people now realise that when you delete something off your hard drive, it doesn't actually get physically removed from the disk. All references to it are gone, but it stays there until something else is written over it. For private documents this is a bad situation because someone with some special software can recover you supposedly deleted files.
To prevent this, you can use the "Secure Empty Trash…" option which is in the Finder menu. This takes longer than the normal trash emptying, because your computer is actually writing nonsense data over the top of your deleted files.
10. Securely erase an entire hard disk
If you have an old Mac you are thinking of selling or throwing away, it might be a good idea to securely erase all the data from it. To do this you need to start up from the installer CD that came with your Mac by inserting it and holding the C key while the computer starts up. In the installer, choose Disk Utility from the menu bar.
If the hard drive you want to erase is not your main hard drive, you can skip starting up from the install disk and just open Disk Utility from the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder.
In Disk Utility, choose the hard disk from the list on the left, click on the Erase tab, and then click on the Security Options button. Now you have four levels of security to choose from. Each higher level of security takes longer to erase, so the 35-pass erase will take upwards of 24 hours and is only for the truly paranoid.
Of course, if you are throwing away the Mac or even just the hard drive, nothing works better and is quite as satisfying than the physical destruction option. Just take the hard drive out of the Mac and completely destroy it with a hammer.
Snow Leopard bug deletes all user data (Updated)
Posted by Jason D. O'Grady
Several posts on the Apple Support forums (1, 2) dating back to 12 September indicate that some users have been losing all their data due to a nasty bug in Snow Leopard, a.k.a. Mac OS 10.6.
On Saturday iTWire reported on the bug which rears its head when a user logs into their Mac’s Guest account and then tries to log back into their regular account.
In some cases, users have reported finding their regular account empty of data, as though it were a brand new account… The home directory still exists under “/Users/username” but is completely empty.
Affected users report that data is unrecoverable and cannot be found on the hard drive. The only way to recover is from a backup on external media. You do make regular backups, right?
Apple acknowledged the problem on Monday stating:
We are aware of the issue, which occurs only in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix,” an Apple representative said in a prepared statement Monday.
CNet has posted a technique for restoring a lost home folder from a backup if you’ve been afflicted. A work around – until Apple releases a fix – is to disable the Guest account, or disable it and re-enable it as a native Snow Leopard account. It’s highly recommended that you perform and maintain a complete and bootable backup.
Five unexpected uses for the Option key
Access hidden features with this keyboard star
by Sharon Zardetto, Macworld.com
The Option key is the unsung hero of the keyboard. Since the earliest days of the Mac, it has provided access to special font characters; revealed alternative commands in menus; and let you Option-drag to create a copy of something, such as a Finder icon or a graphic selection (from MacPaint to Photoshop CS4!). Its capabilities have only increased with time, so it’s always worth pressing Option to modify a click or drag, just to see what might happen. Here are five of my favorite Option key tricks.
1. Reverse your scrollbar preference
Most of the time, I use the scrollbar—for example, in Apple’s Safari or Microsoft Word—to move my view a full page or screen at time. (By default, when you click on a scrollbar, that’s what it does.) But sometimes—in a long document, for instance—I know that I want to go to a point about three-quarters of the way through the document. It’s easier to click where I want to go—three-quarters of the way down on the scrollbar—than to click and drag the scroller to get there.
You can choose between these actions—Jump To The Next Page or Jump To Here—by setting the Click In The Scroll Bar To option in the Appearance preference pane. Or, have it both ways: Option-click in the scrollbar to temporarily reverse the setting you’ve made in Preferences. So, if your setting is Jump To The Next Page, an Option-click in the scrollbar will instead jump you to a particular spot.
2. Open preference panes using function keys
You love the convenience of dimming or brightening your screen with a quick press of F1 or F2, but sometimes you need to adjust other aspects of your display. For instance, you might want to temporarily change the screen resolution to test something. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get to the Displays preference pane as quickly as you can change the screen’s brightness?
Wish granted! Hold Option while pressing either of the function keys that controls brightness, and the Displays preference pane opens. This works with other function keys, too: hold Option while you press any of the volume function keys (F3-F5 or F10-F12, depending on your keyboard), and the Sound preference pane opens. If you have your system set up so that you need to press the Fn key to trigger the special features on the function keys (the ones represented by icons), then just add the Option key to the mix: Fn-Option-F1, for instance.
3. Switch speakers from the menu bar
You need to switch from the internal speakers to your headphones for a Skype call, or you’re the last one in the office so you want to blast your iTunes playlist through your external speakers. If you’re using Snow Leopard, and your Volume menu is in the menu bar, you don’t have to open the Sound preference pane to switch output devices: press Option before you open the Volume menu, and instead of getting the volume slider, you’ll see a list of available input and output devices. (To make the Volume menu appear in the first place, go to the Sound preference pane and select the Show Volume In Menu Bar option.)
4. Option-click to open multiple Inspector palettes
The Macworld article Rule the Office notes that you can open multiple Inspector windows in Keynote and Pages by using the View -> New Inspector command. But this always opens a Document Inspector, so you must then click on the icon for the Inspector you need. Instead of using the menu command, Option-click directly on an icon in an existing Inspector palette to open a new Inspector for that category.
5. Choose a startup disk when booting
You’re staring at your blank Mac screen; you have two (or more) startup drives for your Mac, but you forgot to specify the one you want to use in the Startup Disk preference pane. You don’t have to start up, change the setting, and restart: just hold down Option when you turn on the Mac and you’ll see available startup drives displayed on the screen. Choose the one you want and you’re good to go.
Sharon Zardetto is long-time Mac writer. You’ll find another Option trick for volume settings at her MacTipster blog.
• See more like this: business, Finder, Mac OS
Five unexpected uses for the spacebar
Tap into this unassuming key's hidden productivity tricks
by Sharon Zardetto, Macworld.com
Ancient Greek and Latin writings had no spaces between words; you just had to be familiar with where words started and stopped in order to read textlikethis. But we should be grateful to the spacebar for more than just its sacred word-separation calling, because it can also perform quite a few tricks in various environments.
1. Play and pause
In any application that provides Play and Pause controls, you can use the spacebar to alternately play and pause the content. This includes movies and slideshows, as well as audio-only files such as those you play in Apple iTunes and GarageBand.
2. Open spring-loaded folders instantly
Spring-loaded folders are one of OS X’s most-overlooked timesavers. In the Finder, drag an item, hover over a folder, and after a brief pause (so the Mac knows you’re not simply hesitating before dropping the item in) a Finder window springs open, revealing the folder’s contents. This makes it easy to see that you’re moving or copying an item into the correct place if your folder names are less than descriptive. It also simplifies getting into subfolders.
You set the length of the spring-open delay in the General pane of Finder -> Preferences. Or, avoid the delay altogether by pressing the spacebar to open a hovered-over folder instantly.
Even if you turn off the spring-loaded folders feature by going to Finder -> Preferences and deselecting the Spring-loaded Folders And Windows setting, pressing the spacebar still opens a folder when you hover over it holding an item to drop into it.
Spring-loaded folders work from the Dock, too. Press the spacebar to open a folder in the Dock without waiting, whether or not spring-loading is turned on in the Finder’s preferences.
3. Access screenshot options
When you need to document some aspect of your Mac’s behavior, a screenshot of the full screen is seldom necessary. Sure, you can press Command-Shift-4 to select an area to capture to the Desktop (or Command-Shift-3 to save the whole screen as a file on the Desktop), but if you add the spacebar you’ll access more options.
Pressing the spacebar before you drag across an area to capture it changes your cursor to a camera and lets you select an entire window (or a dialog box, or a menu without its title) by clicking on it. Pressing the spacebar after you’ve dragged a selection rectangle—but before you let it go—allows you to move the selection rectangle around on the screen to adjust its position before capturing the shot; let go of the spacebar with the mouse button still down if you want to adjust the size of the rectangle after you’ve moved it.
4. Zoom in on windows in Exposé
One of the more clever feature tweaks in Snow Leopard involves the space bar. When you invoke Exposé, Mac OS X displays your open windows in a grid on your screen, at a substantially reduced size. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize which window is which when you’re in this view, and the window’s title isn’t always a good enough clue. Now you can use your space bar to zoom in and preview your Exposé windows. Just move your cursor over a window and press the spacebar. If it's the window you want, press Return. If not, you can press the spacebar again to zoom back out.
5. “Click” on items using the keyboard
With All Controls turned on the in Keyboard Shortcuts preference pane, tab to a menu (the blue halo shows it’s selected) and use the spacebar to open it. Use an arrow key to highlight a menu choice, and then use the spacebar again to trigger the command.
Prefer to move around in dialog boxes or Web pages using the keyboard instead of the mouse? Select All Controls under Full Keyboard Access in the Keyboard Shortcuts preference pane (in Leopard’s Keyboard & Mouse preferences, or Snow Leopard’s Keyboard preferences). With All Controls active, a press of the Tab key selects, in turn, every component of whatever you’re working in—a dialog box, for example. Once you’ve selected a component, press the spacebar in lieu of clicking the mouse.
So, for instance, with All Controls on, tabbing around on a Web page includes not only the search and other text fields on a form, but all its clickable spots, and the spacebar “clicks” the selected item.
Sharon Zardetto has been writing Mac tips since the Mac was born. One of her current ebooks is Minifesto: Time Machine .
See more like this: business, Mac OS, Finder