Protect my new Mac

young-woman-in-front-of-macbook-image-from-shutterstockProtect my new Mac: a reader asks…

Good Morning Chris, I just bought myself a new Macbook and am in the process of getting it setup. I have setup my user account with a password, logged into my Apple ID (for iCloud, iMessage and Facetime), installed MS Office for Mac 2011, added my printer and copied over all my personal files from the old computer. I switched from a Windows PC because I heard that the Mac is much safer. Is there anything else I should do to keep my new Macbook safe?

The first thing you should understand is that computer and online security is an ongoing and evolving process. We are all happiest if we can find and install a ‘magic bullet’ program or app that will give us the protection we need. Sadly, that’s not possible. So my first and most critical piece of advice is to practice safe computing. I have an extensive list of do’s and don’ts in this article: Any protection program you add to your Mac can be easily circumvented by your own actions, so you should take the time to learn how to use your computer safely.

That said, there are some basic things to do when setting up your Macbook for maximum safety. Here’s the top three things you should do:

  1. mac-standard-user-account-system-preferences-screenshotCreate a Standard (not an Administrator) user account for you to use day-to-day. Keep your Administrator account on the system, but don’t use that. Anytime you do something in your regular user account that requires admin privileges, it’ll prompt you to put in the Administrator account username and password. This helps to protect you from inadvertently installing things you shouldn’t.
  2. Be sure your home Wi-fi network is secured with WPA2 (not WEP or even WPA). If it isn’t, you’ll need to log into your router’s control window and change the network security. If you leave a comment and tell me what brand and model number of router you have at home, I can give you specific instructions on how to do this.
  3. hacker-with-code-superimposed-image-from-shutterstockBe very wary about using your Macbook on public Wi-fi networks like at Starbucks or Panera Bread. Hackers love to hang out there and snoop on unsuspecting people. If you have to use a public Wi-fi, make sure that any website you visit has the secure padlock showing on the URL bar and begins with https:// (not http://). If you’re using either Mac Mail or Outlook, make sure your email service is connecting with SSL enabled. If your email service doesn’t have that capability, don’t check or use the email program anytime you’re on public Wi-fi.

I agree that Macs are generally much safer than Microsoft Windows PCs, but they’re not invincible. The risk of your Macbook being infected with a virus or malware is fairly low, but if you want to make sure you’re protected, you might want to install these two programs to add another layer or two of protection.

  1. bitdefender-antivirus-for-mac-box-and-malwarebytes-anti-malware-for-mac-icon-robotMalware detection & cleaning: I like the new Malwarebytes Anti-malware for Mac (free, new on the scene, but just a rebranding of the excellent AdwareMedic program they purchased recently. Download the .dmg file from the website, double-click it to open it, then drag the icon to your Applications folder. You can then run that program anytime.
  2. Virus prevention, detection and disinfection: I like Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac ($60 at Expensive, but provides top-notch protection from viruses and also good detection of malware. There are also some good free virus detection programs like Sophos Antivirus for Mac (free, from or even Bitdefender Virus Scanner (free, get it at the Mac App Store).

Malwarebytes Anti-malware for Mac is not a full-time protection program, but can scan your Macbook anytime you want to detect and remove malware. I’d suggest you run that program once a month or so. If you pop for the $60 Bitdefender program, it will provide full-time scanning for prevention, but you should also run a manual scan once a month or so. Both Sophos and the free Bitdefender programs are like Malwarebytes – on-demand scanning to detect and quarantine or delete anything they find.


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