July 17, 2015

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MacBook Viruses & OS X Security: Is Your MacBook Secure?

A few years ago, I had to admit a brutal truth about my grandfather: While he is more technologically savvy than many of his peers, he isn’t always great about following the digital security rules that everyone should follow when surfing the web.

Although I love him dearly, my grandfather sometimes clicks on links he shouldn’t and browses through sensitive information while on public Wi-Fi. And on more than one occasion I’ve had to work with him to adjust his password to something other than “mypassword1.”

So, to provide some measure of protection, I got him a MacBook. After all, Apple’s computers are known for having extra measures of prevention compared to Windows-based PCs. Thanks to Apple’s OS X security, even the operating system seemed stronger.

It appeared to be an easy choice. But recent news has started to give me cause for concern, and it should be top-of-mind for other MacBook users, too.

Mac Attack

In the early days of personal computing, most hackers targeted Windows systems. The reason? Apple had such a tiny share of the market, it didn’t seem worth crafting code to find OS X security flaws.

But with so many people now using Macs, criminals are seeing an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities. That’s leading to MacBook virus concerns and a growing number of MacBook hacks.

Here’s a look at two OS X security concerns:

  • Security firm Symantec noted that some pre-2014 Apple Mac models have a vulnerability that allows hackers to put malware into the operating system. The problem is related to the Mac’s sleep mode, used to conserve power by putting the machine into temporary hibernation. When the MacBook wakes up, it has a brief period where there’s no protection and malware can be installed. Symantec reports that this OS X security flaw can be used to remotely control a system and potentially steal user data.
  • Researchers from Indiana University and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently found OS X security holes that could be used in a MacBook hack. The flaws allow a malicious app to steal passwords from Apple’s Keychain, which is used to store passwords. With that information, an attacker would be able to have passwords to applications like Facebook, Twitter and even banking apps.

Locking Down

Unfortunately, there’s never been a computer or operating system that’s completely secure, and the increasing number of MacBook hacks and OS X security concerns only highlight that fact. But if you’re a Mac user, you can increase protection. Here are two tips:

  • Make sure the operating system’s security features are enabled. For example, a newer function called Gatekeeper checks software that you’re trying to download to verify compliance with security protocols. That means you can accidentally click on a link designed to install malware, but Gatekeeper will block it from getting into the system.
  • Turn on the built-in firewall. Although a firewall is included on Macs as part of OS X security, it’s not automatically enabled, since some people don’t like the hassle of multiple pop-up boxes confirming security connections. But if you are concerned about MacBook hack attempts, the firewall is easy to configure.

Even with these OS X security issues and MacBook virus concerns, I still feel comfortable seeing my grandfather tap away on his MacBook. But I’m also more vigilant about ensuring his security protections are in place and updated regularly.

Now, I just have to talk to him about those passwords.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns.

Melanie Medina

Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at IdentityForce
Melanie is a native of Bolivia who has lived in Boston for over 10 years. She likes to make time to travel, jog, read, and play backgammon. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, Melanie stays on top of her to-do list while also keeping abreast of identity theft issues. Serious data breaches are happening all the time in the U.S. and Melanie loves being part of a solution that brings peace of mind to families across the country.

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