Safe Computing Tips for Mac Users

Ever since the Leap_A worm/trojan appeared on the scene a couple of weeks ago, Mac users have had the relative absolute safety and security of their platform dinged pretty badly. The Macintosh is still, at least in my opinion, one of the most secure platforms out there and Mac OS X one of the most secure, mostly because Apple identifies vulnerabilities and patches them quickly and takes security into account when designing features and elements of the operating system. (Now before everyone goes nuts, I think that other operating systems are secure also, but I wanted to hit on this specifically)

In response to the Leap_A issue, and to the fact that Mac users will likely see more and potentially more dangerous and harmful malware coming to the fore in the near future as Macintosh computers become more popular, the Macintosh operating system becomes more popular, and more and more crackers target Mac users, we’ve decided to refesh the Mac audience’s memory on a couple of useful pages in the Apple Knowledgebase that will help you practice safe computing and keep your computer clean of malware and keep your data safe. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The first is all about proper handling of email attachments and things you’ve downloaded from the net. To the power users in the audience this may seem pedestrian, but it’s important for even the most practiced of geeks to remember that lurking behind every email attachment and file you’ve downloaded from a website could potentially be something harmful to your computer, and that includes those of us who use the Mac. Apple’s Safety tips for handling email attachments and content downloaded from the Internet is a good refresher course in making sure you’re downloading safely and opening files you’ve downloaded from email or websites with care.

[ Apple :: Safety tips for handling email attachments and content downloaded from the Internet ]

Next, we move on to something a bit more difficult, but important for protecting your data both online and offline-choosing a good password. I know, I know, I hear it all the time: “Why does my password have to be so complicated!” “I have so many passwords I have to remember!” “It has to have letters and numbers? Ugh!” I know it seems like a great big inconvenience, but remember that the more complicated a password you choose, the less likely someone will be able to break into your account at your bank, or your retirement plan’s website, or your email, or even your actual computer if someone steals it or tries to get into it remotely, and those are all very good things.

I know, I can hear the excuses now: “But I don’t have anything I need to protect!” “I don’t work at the Pentagon, you know!” But this is still not a good argument-would you really like someone you don’t know poking around your email? I’m sure your employer wouldn’t like if they knew someone was reading your company mail, especially if that “someone” was a competitor from another company! Or what about your bank account? Sure you may not care that much, but remember that a lot of banks and credit card companies make your account info available online, and if you use their websites to see that information, you’d better have strong passwords to back yourself up, because there are people looking to get that information from you, I guarantee it.

On the Macintosh in Mac OS 10.4, there’s a handy little app called “Password Assistant,” that will help you choose a password that’s both strong in the technical sense (having letters and numbers and symbols) and easy to remember. To get to it, follow this guide form Mac OS X Hints:

[ Mac OS X Hints :: 10.4: Create Strong and Memorable Passwords ]

And on to Apple’s article about choosing good passwords and how easy it can be:

[ Apple :: Choosing good passwords in Mac OS X ]

Happy, safe computing!

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