Tips to Bolstering Mac and iPad Security

If you’re using your Mac or iPad every day, you probably care about having a safe and seamless experience online. The foolproof security of Apple products has unfortunately been the subject of controversy, becoming somewhat of a mythical thing in recent years, as more and more evidence showing its vulnerabilities has emerged.

The latest major example came in February, when Apple confirmed the existence of an SSL flaw affecting iOS and OS X (known as the “goto fail”), which meant that unencrypted communication via unsecure Wi-Fi connections could be intercepted by hackers. In other words, bank accounts and other vital data would be easily compromised. A fix came soon for iOS, but Mac users had to wait four days to get their version of the patch.

Luckily, Mac and iPad users don’t have to gamble their security and privacy on the chance that a fix will come before their data is stolen.  There are a few things you can do to improve security on your end, such as avoiding vulnerable software and using trusted security apps to regularly scan your system for problems.

Avoid vulnerable apps

While Safari is the default Apple browser, it doesn’t rank the highest in terms of security and privacy, so switching to something else may be a good idea.

Google Chrome is currently the browser with the highest security ratings, and it’s no surprise that it is also the most widely used browser in the world. Privacy, on the other hand, may be an issue with Chrome, because Google is not known for being particularly keen in that regard.

The open source Mozilla Firefox offers a good balance of security and privacy, so it’s a strong contender for replacing Safari. On iOS, making the right call may not be as easy, given Safari’s OS integration which tends to make it preferable to other browsers.

You can also change your email client from the classic Apple Mail to something more stable and secure, such as Mozilla Thunderbird, which is free to use or, for about $2, you can grab the Gmail oriented Airmail from the Mac App store.

Perform a few crucial system tweaks on Macs

The built-in antivirus protection that comes with OS X is basic, but there is a suite of small precautions that, when taken together, can make a massive difference in terms of security.

For example, the Java platform is notoriously unstable and insecure, so it’s is important to have it disabled altogether.  Additionally, you can enable and configure your firewall settings to halt or block incoming connections.

Gatekeeper is a neat little feature on OS X that ensures that only software from trusted sources (such as the Mac App store) can be installed and run on your Mac. Turning it on will help reduce the risk of accidentally installing unsafe programs from unknown sources.

Run security and privacy software

Free privacy apps, like Clueful for iOS, are ideal for privacy-conscious individuals. Clueful keeps tabs on iOS applications, and helps you understand how your private information is being used, more often than not, without your knowledge.

The rudimentary antivirus found on Macs can be replaced with something with a much better scope and reach, and the choice may ultimately come down to personal preference. All major antivirus companies, like Kaspersky, Avast!, Bitdefender, Sophos, AVG etc, offer compelling products with numerous added security benefits.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network, or VPN, extends the benefits of a private network across a public network, which would otherwise be unsecured. While a VPN may not do much to stop a top tier hacker with access to the internet backbone, it’s still very useful for enhancing the security of unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in hotels, restaurants, airports and other public places.

VPN services can also keep you anonymous online, which means that no one, not even your ISP, can track your online activity. This, in turn, can grant you access to geo-restricted services, and in some cases it can even boost your speed by rerouting you through a less crowded internet lane.

Get rid of Genieo

Adware is very easily overlooked when we think of security, mainly because it is not seen as harmful as viruses that can potentially do irreversible damage to a computer. However, USA Today reports that adware infections are on the rise for Mac OS X users, and that having adware could mean that your search results are polluted by affiliate links instead of legitimate websites. Some adware, like the famous Genieo program, can be very annoying and resilient to removal attempts, because it can come bundled with other popular apps that you may need or want.

The internet abounds with guides and tutorials to removing Genieo, and while the solution for Windows PCs is usually a simple uninstall routine, things can get a little complicated on Macs. Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool is completely free, and can be a more elegant solution to adware removal.