Choosing a Firewall for Mac and How to Keep Your Mac Safe

Choosing a Firewall for Mac and How to Keep Your Mac Safe

Choosing a Firewall for Mac and How to Keep Your Mac Safe

It is a common misconception that Macs are not susceptible to malware like Windows machines. And a lot of Mac users do truly little to prevent malicious programs or attacks from hackers.

Due to this oversight, it can be difficult to find reliable information on how to combat these very real threats. The good news is that there are a few quite easy and free steps you can take. One is installing a firewall for Mac. It can go a long way to protecting your computer and the data that is on it.

The information below will lay out what other options you have for ensuring your Mac is secure and safe from malware and other cyber threats.

Malware Threats

Malware is a general term to describe any malicious software designed to attack and damage a computer system. It is true that historically PCs were more susceptible to malware, especially viruses, a subcategory of malware that spreads through computer programs and files.

There were two main reasons for this. One was simply how ubiquitous PCs were in the world––they presented a sheer greater number of targets. The other is that the integrated nature of Windows operating systems (OS) made it so that viruses could easily spread and infect different programs.

Macs and Linux machines, due to their smaller numbers and less-integrated systems, saw little vulnerability to viruses. So, the assumption was that they were (and are) safe from all malware.

The reality is that Macs are susceptible to many different cyber threats. One is adware, which can spy on and record your online activity. Trojan horses can prompt you to download programs that can access your usernames, passwords, or financial information.

Macs also can get viruses that infect files or ransomware that makes users pay money or risk losing data. Fortunately, there are guidelines for how to block viruses on Mac computers.

Mac Security Options

Your Mac OS has many built-in security measures. To get to them, navigate to “System Preferences,” then “Security & Privacy.”

Built-in Firewall for Mac

A firewall provides protection against cyberattacks by limiting access to or from a private network. They act as a safety buffer by monitoring your incoming and outgoing traffic. Fortunately, your Mac already has one installed.

In the “Security & Privacy” screen, click on the “Firewall” tab. The default setting is that the firewall is off. If that is the case, click on the lock icon on the bottom left of the screen. This will prompt you to put in your Mac OS password.

From here, you can click “Turn on Firewall.” The screen should indicate that your firewall is on and blocking all “unauthorized applications, programs, and services.”

You also can see a “Firewall Options” button on this screen. This takes you to a separate window that allows you to customize your firewall functionality. You can choose to block all incoming connections or add exceptions in the box.

There are other options here for automatically allowing or preventing individual built-in or downloaded programs from receiving incoming connections.

Other Mac Security Features

There are other security features already available on your computer. One is to limit the applications running on your Mac to have access to your location data.

To configure this preference, in the same “Security & Privacy” window, click on the “Privacy” tab. The first option in the list on the left should be “Location Services.” You may have to enter your password again to make changes, but this will allow you to block all or select which applications can access your location data. This is a front-end way of limiting what data is accessible through the applications you are using.

Also, on this screen, there is an option to turn on “Stealth Mode.” This makes your computer essentially invisible on public networks. This could be a useful option for when you are on Wi-Fi at a cafe or other public place.

A final built-in security option on your Mac is FileVault, which you can find on the second tab in the “Security and Privacy” section. Turning it on will encrypt the files on your Mac with a password. So, even if a hacker gained access to your computer, they would need to enter the password to access any of your files.

Third-Party Firewalls

Apple’s own firewall may be sufficient for your security needs, but it does have its limitations. The biggest one is that it will slow you down. For instance, if you are doing work in cloud or online applications like Google docs, it will frequently kick you out and require you to log back in with your password.

If you are looking for an alternative firewall for Mac, there are several free options. These include Murus and Radio Silence. They afford greater ease of functionality and have simple interfaces. They also have the option of paid premium features.

For more robust firewall defense, there are a number of paid options, including Norton, McAfee, Malwarebytes, and many others. However, they can be quite expensive.

Also, these products have become popular due to their virus protection. As stated earlier, Mac computers are less susceptible to these threats, so the added protection of these paid services may be negligible.

Additional Security Tips

In addition to or in place of implementing a firewall, there are some other simple safety precautions you can take on your Mac. These include:

  • Keeping your operating system updated
  • Looking out for suspicious email links
  • Using a more secure browser
  • Installing a VPN
  • Installing a password manager

Browsers like Brave and Opera have enhanced security features that keep you safe while online. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your data and disguises your IP address by replacing it with a different location. There are some free options out there for these, but you will most likely have to pay for a decent VPN.

Password managers like Dashlane will store and encrypt login information for various online accounts. You can use Apple’s built-in password manager, iCloud Keychain. However, it can only be used on Apple devices, including Safari browser.

Keep Your Mac Safe

Making these simple changes can help give you the confidence that your files and information are safe. And most of the tools and programs discussed above are free, or at least offer a free trial period. So, you can explore these options without risk.

A firewall for Mac may be the best way to prevent cybercrime. But the level of protection you need will depend on where and how you access online content.

Assess what your risk may be and err on the side of caution. It will give you peace of mind of knowing that your personal and financial information is safe and secure.

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