How to encrypt your Mac with FileVault 2, and why you absolutely should | Macworld

FileVault 2 can make nations quake, apparently, but it’s just a bit of good information hygiene, letting you make choices about the degree of vulnerability you want to tolerate for your locally stored data and any software or stored passwords for services in your accounts. With it off, you’re not risking everything, but with it on, you have a high degree of assurance about who can access what.

My son’s MacBook Air got stolen last year when his apartment was burglarized. We spent a lot of time together changing passwords. With File Vault, we wouldn’t have had to do that. I strongly recommend using File Vault.

How to encrypt your Mac with FileVault 2, and why you absolutely should | Macworld.

Keep Flash Out of Your Face, and Protect Your Computer from Malware, with ClickToPlugin

I’ve long used the ClickToPlugin extension in Safari to prevent plug-ins from loading on web pages. This blocks Flash and other media plug-ins from running, and shows you a placeholder when you load a page with an element that is blocked.

It’s especially useful to block those annoying, moving Flash ads that serve no purpose other than to distract you from reading a web page.

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If you do want to load the Flash animation, just click it. (Well, don’t click the one above; it’s just a screenshot.)

As Graham Cluley points out in his security blog, this plug-in can also protect you from Flash zero-day vulnerabilities that can infect your computer; since Flash can’t run, the vulnerability can’t be exploited. Sometimes, the Flash animations that serve malware are tiny, and you don’t even see them.

There are two versions of the plug-in: ClickToFlash, that only blocks Flash, and ClickToPlugin, that blocks other media player plug-ins, and that also tries to force the plug-in to switch to Safari’s built-in HTML5 media player.

This saves time, battery power and bandwidth, and keeps your annoyance level low. And it protects you from annoying Flash animations.

You may simply want to uninstall Flash; you can do that, but you may find that you actually need it from time to time. I find this to be the best solution: I can load the Flash animations if I want to, but, if not, I’m not bothered.

If you use a browser other than Safari, see Graham Cluley’s article for links to plug-ins that work in other browsers.

iOS 8 Restrictions: Parental Controls Overview for Parents

You know that the internet is a source of knowledge and information, and, if you have children, you are probably torn between allowing them the freedom to explore and the desire to protect them from inappropriate content. On OS X, you can set Parental Controls, and you can adjust settings so your children can’t download just anything from the iTunes Store or App Store. You can apply settings to social media accounts to protect your kids’ privacy. And, on iOS, you can adjust a full range of settings to control what your children see on the internet, and which apps they can use.

In this article, I’m going to look at Restrictions, the iOS version of parental controls. Apple’s iOS 8 Restrictions let you lock down your kids’ iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

There are a lot of settings, so be prepared to take a few minutes to go through them and adjust them so they are appropriate for your child’s age. Be aware that if you simply enable restrictions, without tweaking individual settings, most of them are set, by default, to be appropriate for the youngest of children. But you should still go through all the settings when you have time to make sure you agree with all of them.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Protect Children’s Privacy on Social Media

If your kids use social media, as all kids do, you may be worried about protecting their privacy. Teenagers may be a bit unconcerned about such things, and not care who reads their Facebook posts, their Twitter feeds, or sees their photos on Instagram. As a parent, you know how important it is to keep your kids’ online life out of the public domain, as much as possible.

You can explain to your children why this is important, and help them choose the right settings to protect their privacy. They can always go back and change the settings, of course; you can’t lock their Facebook or SnapChat settings. But if you have a serious conversation about privacy, you can work together with your children to apply the appropriate settings.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How To: Block Spammers in OS X’s Messages App

Every now and then, I get spam in Messages on OS X. I assume that the spammers just try addresses at random; or they may have harvested a bunch of mac.com, me.com, and icloud.com addresses and target them. Lately, I’ve been getting one or more a day.

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As you can see above, the spammers send links, hoping you’ll click them. You’ll either end up on pages asking you to log into something, or the web pages could serve malware directly to your Mac.

These are annoying, but it’s easy to block these people to ensure that you don’t get any more messages from them. Right-click on an avatar in the sidebar, and choose Block [username]. This tells Messages to no longer accept messages from that user. You can block users who contact you by sending iMessages, or who send you messages over AIM.

How To Turn On Apple’s Two-Step Authentication

You’ve heard the stories about iCloud accounts getting hacked; the ones that make the news are celebrities’ accounts, but there may be people wanting to get into yours too. In addition to your Apple ID–the email address you use to identify your account–your password is the key that lets you into that account.

But anyone can pretend to be you, and attempt to get into your account, saying they’ve forgotten the password, and then attempting to answer the security questions that you chose when setting up the Apple ID. If they get through them, because they know the name of your first pet, your favorite sports team, and whatever else, they can access your account. Unless you add an additional layer of security.

Read the article on the Intego Mac Security blog.

Beware Tech Support Scams

The phone rang the other day. It was “Philip” from Microsoft calling because there was “a problem with my computer.” I told him “No there isn’t.” He said, “What?” I said “There’s no problem with my computer.” He hung up.

This is an increasingly common scam where phishers try and convince you that they’re going to fix some problem with your computer. They ask for remote access, then do some stuff that makes it look like they’re fixing something, but they also copy files, trying to get information about your identity to then access your bank accounts.

This is, of course, mostly targeted at Windows users, but similar scams, on infected websites, are also targeting Mac users. On the Malwarebytes blog, Jérôme Segura has an excellent article on this threat to Mac users. He shows examples of alerts that web pages may display, even on an iPhone.

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Some of these give you a toll-free number to call, where someone will probably ask for your iCloud login credentials or other information to access some of your accounts.

Obviously, you need to steer clear of these things. But the Malwarebytes article is good to read, because it points out that you may not be able to dismiss the alerts, and may need to force quit apps that display them.

As the article concludes:

“The fight against tech support scammers continues more than ever. They are getting more and more aggressive and using techniques that slowly but surely resemble those used by malware authors.

This is a serious development that should make all of us aware of how dangerous it is to deal with unsolicited calls or calls initiated after seeing such scare pages.”

Sony Pictures Employees Now Working in Air-Gapped Offices

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There is so much to say about the Sony hack, whether it has been perpetrated by the North Koreans or not, but everyone else is saying it, so I’ll just let them go ahead. I found one thing interesting about the situation: according to TechCrunch article, Sony Pictures employees are now working in air-gapped offices; offices with no internet connection.

“That is what a major corporate security breach sounds like: the squeal of a fax machine and the low murmur of co-workers now required to talk to each other instead of depending on email or instant messages.”

I can understand that they’re worried about more intrusions, but they would do better to hire some computer security experts and get on with things. I did note this interesting tidbit:

“”… A couple of people had their computers removed but people using Macs were fine,” she said. She said most work is done on iPads and iPhones.”

Help a Good Samaritan Return Your Lost iPhone, iPad or Mac

You know it could happen some day: you might lose your iPhone, iPad or laptop. If you’ve activated Find My iPhone (or the similarly named feature for other devices), you’ll get an approximate location for the device, but if it’s in an apartment building or office building, or if there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular access, you might not be able to track it down precisely.

If someone finds your device, it would be good to make it easy for them to get in touch and return the device to you. There are plenty of Good Samaritans out there, and it’s worth preparing your device so if one does find it, they can contact you.

Essentially, you want to add contact information to your device, in a way that anyone who turns it on can find your name, email address and phone number (obviously not your iPhone’s number), and get in touch. An easy way would be to paste a sticker on your device, but that might be ugly and it could wear out. Why not add contact information to the lock screens of your Macs and iOS devices? It’s easy.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

How To: Set a Long Passcode on an iOS Device

On the most recent episode of The Committed Podcast, we were discussing security and iPhones, and one of my co-hosts, Ian Schray, mentioned not using a four-digit passcode, that it’s too insecure to use such a simple passcode. I realized after the recording that a lot of people may not know how to set up a longer passcode. Hence, this how-to.

First, why would you want to use a long passcode? If you have a device that offers Touch ID, you’ll use your fingerprint most of the time, and only need to type a passcode when you restart the device, or when Touch ID doesn’t work. The latter only happens when my hands are sweaty; Touch ID has always been very reliable for me, though I know many people who have problems with it.

Your four-digit passcode isn’t very strong, and someone could try a bunch of combinations, unless you have activated a setting (in Settings > Passcode Lock) to erase the device after ten failed passcode attempts. So you might want something more robust.

To set a long passcode, open the Settings app, tap Touch ID & Passcode, and then enter your passcode. Scroll down to where you see a toggle for Simple Passcode, and turn this off.

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Enter your passcode to approve this change, then you’ll see a screen allowing you to enter a passcode. Unlike the standard screen, which only displays numbers, this one shows a full keyboard, and you can choose a passcode with letters, numbers, and even symbols and punctuation.

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Type the new passcode, and then tap Next; type it again to confirm, and you’ll have a long passcode. Now, whenever you access your device with a passcode, you won’t be limited to just a number pad; you’ll have a full keyboard, and can enter your passcode.

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You can still use Touch ID, but whenever you do need to enter a passcode, it will be more secure.