MacOS privacy settings: Medium level

Learn how to change your privacy settings on MacOS. These steps adjust your privacy and security settings to Medium level protection.
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How to protect your Mac

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Create a strong Mac password

What for: So you don't get hacked.

If you use a short or easy-to-guess password, hackers will be able to crack it and gain access to your computer. The longer and more complex your password, the stronger it is. Use a reliable password that:

  • Consists of 8 or more characters,
  • Contains lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters ($, @, and others),
  • Is not an actual word or well-known phrase,
  • Is not the same as your password for any other account, including your Apple ID,
  • Does not consist of information that strangers could easily find out (your name, date of birth, pet's name, etc. — or those of your relatives and friends).

To change your current password:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Users & Groups section.
  4. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  5. Click Change password.
  6. In the resulting window, enter the current password and then enter the new password. If necessary, create a hint in case you forget the password.
  7. Click Change password.


Configure automatic locking

What for: To prevent strangers from gaining access to the system while you are away.

If you are not using the computer for a certain amount of time, macOS can lock it. In this case, the screen will show a login window and you will have to enter your password again to continue working on the computer. The sooner the computer is locked, the less chance that someone else will be able to use it.

To configure the time to wait before locking the computer:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the General tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Click Advanced… in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  7. In the resulting window, select the check box on the left of Log out after … minutes of inactivity and set a time interval that is convenient for you.
  8. Click OK.

You can also configure the computer to lock when it goes to sleep:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the General tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Select the check box next to Require password… after sleep or screen saver begins and select the amount of time after the computer goes to sleep when the application should start requiring a password.

If you set an interval that is too large and leave your computer unattended, other people will be able to use it.

Enable protection against modification of your system preferences

What for: So that no one can change important settings on your computer.

If you are sharing your computer with someone else, you can disable their capability to change system preferences and security settings. To do so:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the General tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Click Advanced… in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  7. In the resulting window, select the check box on the left of Require a password to unlock each System Preferences pane.
  8. Click OK.

Turn on the Find My Mac feature

What for: To find your computer or erase its data in case it is lost or stolen.

The Find My Mac service will help you find your computer in case it is lost. You can use it not only to determine the location of your device and turn on its alarm, but also to remotely lock it or wipe its memory. This will protect your data from prying eyes if your computer was stolen.

The device search feature works even when there is no Internet access and location services are turned off. In this case, the computer sends a signal over Bluetooth that other nearby Apple devices receive. After receiving this signal, these devices send their location to Apple and the company forwards this data to your account. Using this feature, you will be able to see the approximate location of your computer in the Find My app.

To enable the Find My Mac feature:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  4. Select the iCloud tab.
  5. Select the check box next to Find My Mac.
  6. In the resulting window, click Allow.
  7. Click the Details... button.
  8. Make sure that the Offline Finding function is enabled.

If you don't want to rely on unfamiliar Apple gadgets, grant Find My Mac access to your location:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the Privacy tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Select Location Services.
  7. Select the Enable location services check box.
  8. Find System services at the end of the list and click Details...
  9. In the resulting window, select the check box next to Find My Mac.
  10. Click Done.

After the Find My Mac service is enabled, Activation Lock is turned on automatically. This function will prevent other users from logging in to the system with their own Apple ID, which means they will not be able to use your computer or sell it even if they delete all data from the device.

You can find, lock, or wipe a lost or stolen device by using the built-in Find My app on your iPhone or at iCloud.com. When you find your Mac, log in to it with your Apple ID to unlock it.

Please keep in mind that your Apple ID account credentials are also deleted along with the files when the drive is formatted, so in this case you will not be able to see the location of your computer. Therefore, use this option in extreme cases only.

Configure App Control

What for: To prevent your computer from being infected by a virus disguised as a normal program.

Hackers frequently embed malicious code into well-known applications and distribute them disguised as safe software. To protect users from this type of attack, only apps from the Mac App Store or from trusted developers can be installed on Mac computers. If you attempt to start an unverified application, the system will warn you about the risk. You can choose which software sources should be considered safe. To do this:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the General tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Select the sources from which you allow software to be installed:
  7. App Store is the most strict setting. In this case, you can install applications only from the Mac App Store.
  8. App Store and identified developers is a less strict setting. It lets you install applications from Mac App Store and applications from developers that have been verified by Apple.

Controlling the sources of apps is an important part of security, but you can add an application to the exclusions list if you are absolutely sure the app is safe:

  1. Start the application that you want to add to the exclusions list.
  2. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  4. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  5. Select the General tab.
  6. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  7. On the General pane, click the Open Anyway button. This button is available for one hour after you attempt to start an application.

In addition to programs, other files may also be malicious, such as archives, office documents, and media files.


How to protect your Apple ID

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Create a strong password

What for: To prevent your data and devices from being hacked.

An Apple ID account lets you synchronize music, photos, contacts, and other data on different devices. If your account is hacked, criminals will gain access to all of that data. Once they have access to your Apple ID, they can also remotely lock your device or format your hard drive.

Make sure that your account is protected by a strong password that complies with the following requirements:


  • Consists of 8 or more characters,
  • Contains lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters ($, @, and others),
  • Is not an actual word or well-known phrase,
  • Is not the same as your password for any other account, including your Apple ID,
  • Does not consist of information that strangers could easily find out (your name, date of birth, pet's name, etc. — or those of your relatives and friends).


To change your Apple ID password on a Mac computer:


  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  4. Select the Password & Security tab.
  5. Click Change password...
  6. Enter the current password of your Apple ID account.
  7. Create a new password and confirm it.
  8. Click Change password.

You can also change or reset your password for your Apple ID on the Apple website.

Enable two-factor authentication

What for: Greater protection against hacking.

Two-factor authentication helps provide additional security for your Apple ID. If you enable it, the system will prompt you for a one-time code each time you attempt to sign in from a new device. It will also show a notification on all gadgets on which you are authorized.

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  4. Select the Password & Security tab.
  5. Click Turn On….
  6. In the resulting window, click Continue.
  7. Enter your phone number and choose how you want to receive the code: Text message or Phone call.
  8. Click Continue.
  9. In the resulting window, enter the verification code that you received on your phone, and click Continue.
  10. Click Done.


How to protect your data

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Turn on FileVault

What for: To keep your data private.

There is a built-in file encryption system in macOS called FileVault. If you turn it on, access to your data cannot be obtained without your password, even if someone puts your hard drive into another computer. To turn on FileVault:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the FileVault tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Click Turn on FileVault.
  7. Select how you would like to reset the password in case you forget it:
  8. Allow my iCloud account to unlock my disk.
  9. Click Continue.
  10. Create a recovery key and do not use my iCloud account.
  11. Copy or write down the recovery key and store it in a secure location.
  12. Click Continue.
  13. In the resulting window, click Restart.

If you want to use iCloud to restore access, ensure that your Apple ID is secured. If your account is hacked, a criminal will be able to reset your FileVault password and sign in to the system. If you are using a recovery key, write it down and store it in a safe place. Without the key, it will be impossible to restore access to your files.

Encryption of the boot drive will begin the first time the computer is started after FileVault is turned on. It will start automatically in the background when your Mac is connected to the network.

Downside: After turning on FileVault, your computer may run slower, you will not be able to automatically log in to the system, and you will have to enter the password each time the computer is started.

Create a backup copy of your files

What for: To not lose your data.

Your Mac can automatically copy all important information to iCloud servers. A backup copy will help restore your data if your computer is lost or broken. These backup copies will also save your passwords, preferences, documents, and photos.

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Click the Apple ID button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  4. Select the iCloud tab.
  5. Select iCloud Drive.
  6. Click the Options... button and select the check boxes next to the data that you want to save in iCloud.
  7. Click Done.

Please keep in mind that information is copied only when connected to the Internet. In addition, you cannot save more than 5GB of data in iCloud with a free account.

Downside: Saving data in the cloud increases the risk of data leaks.

You can create a backup copy on a physical drive, such as an external hard drive. To do so, use the built-in automatic backup tool called Time Machine. In this case, your data is not transmitted over the network, and the size and number of copies is limited only by the capacity of the drive.

To turn on Time Machine:

  1. Connect a backup drive to your Mac. For a list of devices that are compatible with Time Machine, visit https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202784.
  2. The system will prompt you to use this drive to store backup copies.
  3. In the resulting window, select the Encrypt backups check box.
  4. Click Use Disk.

If you don't see a window prompting you to use a drive to create copies after you connect the drive:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Click the Time Machine icon.
  4. Click the Select Backup Disk… button.
  5. In the resulting window, click the drive name.
  6. Select the Encrypt backups check box.
  7. Click the Use Disk button.

Time Machine will create a copy of data and update it every hour. It will also separately store daily copies for the past month and weekly copies for the entire previous operating period. When the drive runs out of free space, Time Machine will start replacing the oldest entries with the newest ones.

Downside: You have to connect an external drive to the computer. The first data backup may take a long time.


How to protect yourself from snooping

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Block applications from accessing the microphone and camera

What for: To prevent applications from spying on you.

The system and certain applications can obtain access to your computer’s camera and microphone, for example during a video call. Malicious applications may also try to exploit this access to spy on you. Check the list of applications that have access to the microphone and camera, and revoke that access from applications that you don't use:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the Privacy tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Select Microphone or Camera.
  7. Clear the check box next to the application whose access you want to block.

You can restore access in the same menu.

Downside: Applications that you block from using the camera and microphone will not be able to take photos, record videos, or execute voice commands.

Revoke universal access permissions from applications

What for: To prevent hackers from taking control of your system.

Universal access allows applications to directly interact with the interface and the system. For example, if you want to use a voice assistant or a screen reader app, they must have the ability to see the contents of windows and to click buttons. However, malicious applications may also try to obtain universal access. For example, they may try to follow ad or phishing links on your behalf.

Check which services have this access, and close it for suspicious applications.

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the Privacy tab.
  5. Select Universal access in the menu on the left.
  6. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  7. In the list on the right, clear the check boxes next to the names of applications that you want to prevent from having universal access.


Restrict access to contacts, calendars, and reminders

What for: To prevent Apple and app developers from knowing more about you than necessary.

Applications and websites may have access to your contacts list, calendars, and reminders in iCloud. For example, if you allow a messenger to view your address book, you will be able to find acquaintances who also use the app. However, some applications may abuse their access and collect and sell databases of contacts, for example. You can check which services have access to your data and revoke it if necessary:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the Privacy tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. One-by-one, select Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders.
  7. In the list on the right, clear the check boxes next to the applications whose access you want to block.

Downside: Some application functions will become unavailable, such as event scheduling and sending messages to your contact list.

Disable location services

What for: So macOS and apps do not know where you go.

Apple devices continually gather information about your location. Among other purposes, this information is used to choose contextual ads and for searches on your Mac. Because the data is stored on Apple servers and may be transmitted to third parties, there is a risk of data leaks. You can disable access to location for all services and apps, and enable it for individual applications when necessary.

To check which applications and services have access to your location, and to revoke unnecessary permissions:

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences in the drop-down list.
  3. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  4. Select the Privacy tab.
  5. If you enabled protection, click the padlock in the bottom left corner of the screen, enter the administrator password, and click Unlock.
  6. Click Location Services to view a list of applications that have access to device location data.
  7. Clear the check boxes next to the applications that you want to prevent from having access to location data.
  8. Find System services at the end of the list and click Details...
  9. In the resulting window, clear the check boxes from all unnecessary items. It is advisable to retain device location access for at least the Find My Mac feature because it will increase your chances of finding your device in case it is lost or stolen.
  10. Click Done.

Downside: You will not be able to use location services, such as for nearby searches.

Privacy level
?

Relaxed

Basic privacy settings, maximum convenience.


Medium

A golden mean respecting privacy matters but preserving convenience.


Tight

A choice of security over convenience; instructions contain a lot of details.

Relaxed
Medium
Tight
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