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Back to School: Securing your Mac for public use

Cory Bohon

TUAW's going Back to School! We'll be bringing you tips and reviews for students, parents and teachers right up until the bell rings in September.

It's time once again to head back to school. Some are entering high school, while others are going to college for the first time. If you're taking your Mac with you, you need to learn some security basics. In this post, I will show you how to secure your operating system and hardware.

Operating System (Software)
Mac OS X makes a great operating system for students and businesses because of its inherent security. However, any computer without a strong password or other means of security is an accident waiting to happen.

The first thing you need to do is set a login password. To do this, go into Accounts in the System Preferences pane. Once there you will be able to set your password for logging in. While in Accounts, you might want to disable automatic login. This forces your computer to ask for a password upon startup and makes it harder for someone to walk up to your computer and use it (or steal it and use it).

Turning off Sharing services is another way to protect someone from remotely connecting to your Mac. Go to System Preferences > Sharing. Once there, un-check all sharing services that you don't use. Disabling File Sharing, Remote Login, Screen Sharing, and other services such as these can save your Mac from being "hijacked." If you must have these services turned on, then make sure you have a secure password set.


Securing Mac OS X isn't the only thing you need to do. If you live in a dorm, or in a shared apartment, then you may want to consider securing your hardware. No matter what security measures you put into place, they can always be circumvented by someone just stealing the machine.

Most Macs have a standard security port to connect a lock. This is a great way to protect notebooks as well as desktops and even printers and other peripherals. The locks are fairly inexpensive (around $40 US) and can save your expensive hardware from being stolen. You can find them at most big-box computer retailers and even online from companies like Kensington.

More on security...
If you want more information on Security and your Mac/iPhone, then visit TUAW's Security category. You can also get more TUAW Back to School goodness by visiting our Back to School page.

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