Most of us know that strong passwords are required to protect our accounts and devices from unauthorized access. However, we can fail to take advantage of additional security features from software and hardware manufacturers.

Apple offers several built-in tools that you can use to protect your Mac from thieves, malicious operators, and anyone else who shouldn't have access to your personal information. These features are easy to use, easy to set up, and can save you future troubles if someone attacks your device. Let's take a look at some of the most important ones.

1. Back up your data with FileVault

In newer versions of macOS, the setup wizard asks you to enable FileVault during the installation process. Those unfamiliar with the feature may avoid turning it on if they don't understand it, and those rushing through the setup process may not even notice the option.

FileVault adds an extra layer of security beyond your admin user account password by encrypting the entire macOS volume. This means that no one can access the data on your hard drive without the decryption password.

The added protection prevents unauthorized persons from physically accessing the contents of your computer. Without FileVault enabled, an experienced user can bypass your admin user account and manipulate your files as long as they have access to your drive.

Fortunately, using FileVault is an easy and effective way to increase device security and protect your data. Proceed as follows to enable encryption:

  1. Open minded System settings.

  2. Choose Security and privacy.

  3. Choose Data vault Tab.

  4. Unlock the safety lock.

  5. click Enable FileVault.

FileVault settings window in macOS.

If your device has multiple users, you will need to choose Activate user for each account that should have permission to unlock the disk.

click Keep going, and a prompt will appear asking how you'd rather reset your FileVault password if you forget it. You have two options for this: with your Apple ID / iCloud account or with a generated recovery key. Both options come with a warning. If you choose to use iCloud as your reset method, you should have strong security for this account. Alternatively, if you prefer to generate a recovery key, you must keep it in a safe place that no one but you can access.

If you lock yourself out of an encrypted volume, you will need to erase the entire drive to regain access. So you should be careful with your password and your recovery method.

When activated for the first time, FileVault works in the background to encrypt your drive. You should plug your device into power and let the process complete. The encryption time depends on the size of your hard drive and it is best not to interrupt the process. Once complete, your newly encrypted volume will make it difficult for potential data thieves to physically access your personal data.

Related: What is FileVault on macOS and how do I use it?

2. Protect your Mac with a firmware password

A firmware password adds an extra layer of security to your device. With this feature enabled, you will be prompted for a password every time you try to boot from an alternate volume, such as a diskette. From the recovery partition, attached external storage, or using most Mac startup key combinations.

By default, unauthorized users can use certain Mac features like recovery or single user mode to tamper with your device. But a firmware password prohibits access to these areas.

Because newer versions of FileVault include similar safeguards, Apple Silicon Macs no longer require a firmware password. However, many people still have Macs with Intel chips, so they can take advantage of the added security.

To set a firmware password on an Intel Mac, start your recovery partition by pressing. hold Command + R during the startup process and follow these instructions:

  1. Press the Utilities Menu.

  2. Choose Boot Security Utility or Firmware password utility.

  3. Enter a strong password that you will remember.

  4. Start anew Your Mac from the Apple Menu.

That's it. A firmware password now protects your device against unauthorized manipulation and is the ideal complement to FileVault encryption.

It is important to remember your firmware password. If you forget your entry, you will need proof of purchase, a trip to an Apple Authorized Service Provider and an invoice for the malfunction to access your device again.

This rigorous process ensures that only the device owner can request the removal of the security feature if necessary. We recommend that you write down your firmware password in a password manager.

3. Use Find My Mac to track, lock, and erase your device

Find My Mac is the ultimate technological defense against thieves. The iCloud feature lets you track your Mac if it's lost, remotely lock your device with a firmware password, and erase your hard drive to protect the data. You can even check the battery level of a caught device so you know when and where it is losing power.

There's no good reason to avoid using Find My Mac, and it only takes a few minutes to set it up. How to configure it:

  1. Open minded System settings.

  2. Choose Apple ID or Internet accounts.

  3. Choose iCloud from the list.

  4. Tick Find my Mac, then Allow enter.

iCloud Settings window in macOS with Find My Mac highlighted.

To use the Find My Mac features, go to iCloud.com, sign in, and select Find iPhone. From here you can access a list of your devices and take the necessary actions.

iCloud web panel with "Find iPhone" highlighted

Find My Mac is such an important feature because it not only helps you protect and recover a lost or stolen device, but it also discourages thieves by its very existence. When more users take on these and similar security functions, theft of a computer, phone, or other protected device becomes pointless.

4. Apple ID two-factor authentication

Enabling two-factor authentication for all of your accounts, including your Apple ID, is a simple and effective way to increase security. While most people are familiar with this measure, some have yet to perform the function. Having a secure Apple ID is paramount to overall device security as access to the account allows anyone to reset their FileVault password and disable Find My Mac.

If you haven't enabled two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, we strongly recommend that you do so now. The fastest way to set up the function is through the Apple ID Panel in System settings. Just choose the Password and security Option and follow the instructions.

5. Protection of system integrity

While the above tools require your activation, in macOS Apple also offers automatic security features, including System Integrity Protection (SIP).

SIP, introduced in El Capitan (macOS 10.11), prevents the root user account and malicious operators from changing important parts of the system. The function runs automatically and does not require any additional setup. With SIP, only Apple processes are allowed to modify system files, which limits the damage that malicious operators can do when they access your system.

While SIP is an automatic function, it is missing on devices with a macOS version earlier than 10.11. If you are using an outdated operating system, we strongly recommend upgrading unless you have a good reason not to. If you can't upgrade, it's probably time to replace your Mac.

Related: What is SIP? macOS System Integrity Protection explained

Is Your Mac Safe?

When it comes to Mac security, Apple offers a number of useful tools. FileVault encrypts your hard drive to protect your data, and a firmware password for devices with Intel chips adds an extra layer of security. ICloud's Find My Mac feature is an invaluable tool for deterring thieves and managing lost or misappropriated devices.

In the meantime, enabling Apple ID two-factor authentication is one of the first steps a security-conscious user should take as it helps to reinforce other safeguards on your Mac. SIP prevents unauthorized manipulation at the system level and is an automatic function that is integrated in macOS 10.11 and higher.

Taken individually, each tool offers remarkable security benefits. But the combination of these features makes your Mac an almost impenetrable fortress.

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About the author

Matt Moore
(2 articles published)

Matt is an Australian freelance writer with a degree in creative and critical writing. Before his studies, he worked in technical support and gained valuable insights into the technology and its users. His real passion is storytelling and he hopes to one day write a well-published novel.

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