Introduction - Take Control of Security for Mac Users (2015)

Take Control of Security for Mac Users (2015)


In survey after survey after survey, security issues like credit card fraud, identity theft, and computer hacking rank among Americans’ top worries. Burglary is a bit lower on the list, while threats to personal safety are lower still, and concerns like global warming barely register (statistically speaking). Although poll results vary in other parts of the world, it’s still abundantly clear that the fear of having one’s devices and data violated is widespread and on the rise.

You might imagine, then, that books about computer security would fly off the shelves, but they don’t. (I’m speaking from experience here. I spent most of 2009 writing the massive Mac Security Bible, and even though it got great reviews, very few people bought it.)

One big reason for that disconnect is that computer security sounds like a scary, complicated technical topic that ordinary people wouldn’t be able to grasp. Yes, you’re afraid of being hacked—and sure, you want better security in order to prevent that. But you’re not a geek, and your eyes glaze over at the very mention of terms like SSL, firewalls, and two-factor authentication. No matter how scary the threat of computer hacking may be, to some people, the prospect of having to learn about computer security is scarier!

But authors like me also bear part of the blame. Who was I kidding to think that a 900-page brick on Mac security would seem accessible to the typical Mac user? Of course people are going to be put off when it looks like they’ll have to invest weeks of study into understanding and solving the problem. I understand. I’m sorry. I repent.

The book you’re now reading takes a much different approach.

For starters, it’s much shorter. As in, about 1/6 the length of Mac Security Bible. You can probably read the whole thing in an afternoon—but feel free to browse just the topics you care about.

Next, I’ve left out many of the gory details that only developers, system administrators, and other propeller-heads would care about. I tell you enough to understand the basics of Mac security problems and solutions so that you can make smart decisions about what steps to take. But I try not to overwhelm you with tech-speak.

Most importantly, my intention is to strike a more positive and reassuring tone. I don’t want you to be as scared of the cure as you are of the disease! On the contrary, my goal is to put your mind at ease. Because really, you don’t have to be afraid of bad guys hacking your Mac. Once you understand what the threats are and the (mostly quite simple) ways you can counter them, you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing that your Mac’s security is under control. Even if you should fall victim to a security breach, this book will teach you how to recover quickly and gracefully—no panic required.

And, because this is a Take Control ebook, we’re able to update it if and when the facts change—it isn’t doomed to be obsolete before it’s a month old.

This book is for Mac users—and especially those running OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Most of what’s here also applies to 10.9 Mavericks, but the older your version of OS X, the less relevant this book will be. I don’t go out of my way to spell out the differences from one version of OS X to the next, because one of the most important steps you can take to increase your security is to keep your software up to date. If you’re still running, say, 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, you can’t take advantage of the many security improvements Apple built into newer versions of OS X, and the best advice I can give you is to upgrade if possible.

Since it’s an integral part of the Apple ecosystem, I’ll occasionally mention iOS, too, but mobile security is another whole ball of wax.

You’ll notice that I emphasize network security—that is, helping you prevent attacks and intrusions that originate on the Internet. That’s not the only type of Mac security, of course, but it so happens that most of the threats you’re likely to encounter involve the Internet in some way. Keeping your Mac’s network interactions secure is much more than half the battle. We’ll also discuss physical security, protecting your data from other people you permit to use your Mac (not to mention thieves and snoops), keeping rogue apps from causing mischief, and everyday techniques to keep your data safe.

Of course, your security involves more than your Mac. I can’t prevent someone from stealing your wallet, hacking the payment terminals at your local department store, digging through your trash to find personal information, or breaking the lock on your back door. But I can help you achieve that all-important balance between security and convenience when it comes to your Mac and all the data it contains, and that’s an excellent start to living a more secure life.

One final note before we move on: I’ve written Take Control books on other topics that touch upon security. Although there’s inevitably some overlap, each book addresses a different core issue. I refer you to these other books where applicable for more detail on specific topics:

· Take Control of Your Online Privacy

· Take Control of Your Passwords

· Take Control of 1Password

· Take Control of FileVault

· Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac

· Take Control of CrashPlan Backups

· Take Control of iCloud