Apple security has been an area of debate for years. One camp typically consider iOS to be secure, and for many years OS X was said to be virtually virus free; the other are sceptical of both platforms and believe that they don’t offer the level of protection needed to deal with sensitive data. Well, both groups are wrong. Macs may not be completely virus free, but Apple have worked hard to ensure that they’re ahead of the competition.
One of the Mac’s biggest benefits lies in its unified approach to security. Because Apple design both the hardware and the operating system, the entire machine works to secure the contents from threats and provide the very best security possible – from 128-bit encryption to a useful feature called Find My iPhone, which lets you use a web portal to locate lost Macs and iOS devices.
When downloading apps, OS X has a tool called Gatekeeper built into it, which protects you from downloading unsafe apps to the hard drive. Gatekeeper works by recognising whether or not your apps have been created by a developer with an Apple Developer ID. If it can’t find one, then the app won’t be allowed on the system, unless you want it to.
Then, once the app is on the machine, sandboxing takes place. Each app is isolated from critical system components, data and other apps, so that information can’t be shared between them – again, unless you want it to. If the app is compromised, sandboxing automatically blocks it.
Isolation of apps is a good example of the OS and hardware working together. Within the machine, an XD (execute disable) feature and Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) function build a strong wall between data and memory that prevents malware compromising the system and randomly changing the memory location of apps, making them hard to target.
File and data security
Compromisation of secure data on computers is costly. That’s why Macs have a built-in tool call FileVault 2, which ensures that your data is secure and that the contents of your machine (and removable drives) are protected by XTSAES 128 encryption.
For files not already on your drive, OS X takes a similar approach to the one it has for apps. When files are downloaded from Safari, Mail and Messages, they are screened for disruptive content. For extra protection, the first time you go to open them, you receive an alert warning that it is a newly downloaded file.
Finally, antiphishing tools within Safari will protect you from online attacks if thieves try to acquire sensitive information. If you try to access a suspect site, it will alert you rather than taking you straight there.
Your Mac security feature checklist
• Gatekeeper app protection.
• App sandboxing.
• Execute disable feature.
• Address Space Layout Randomisation.
• Automatic updates.
• XTS-AES 128 encryption.
• Strong pass codes.
• Find my iPhone feature.
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