There seems to be a general belief out there that Apple Macs are somehow ‘immune’ to viruses and other cyber threats such as hacking, spyware and ransomware. And whilst it is true that the Mac Operating System (MacOS) is less vulnerable than Windows, the number of attacks aimed at Apple machines is rising – and will continue to do so.
So why are Macs so widely considered to be safe? One reason is that once there were simply not as many Macs as Windows PCs. This made them a less lucrative target for cyber thieves, as there was less money to be made from ransomware attacks and hacking campaigns aimed at Macs. Macs also boast some more robust security features, which outstrip the standard protection you’ll get with Windows.
However, Macs are getting more popular, with a growing number of consumers and businesses choosing them over PCs. And despite the sophisticated security features built into MacOS, which includes malware scanning and anti-phishing tools, many cyber criminals are turning their attention towards the increasing number of Apple machines.
Two recent attacks were Meltdown and Spectre, malware that bypassed Apple’s security features and enabled hackers to steal data. Bug fixes have now been released to block Meltdown and Spectre, but new virus, spyware and malware strains are constantly entering the market.
This means that complacency around security is no longer an option if you use Macs and other Apple devices in your business. Here at Jalapeno, we’ve visited numerous clients running Macs with no security features beyond what’s built into the machines – not even anti-virus software! A few years ago, you could have got away with this, but in today’s climate, it’s extremely risky.
So, what are the best steps to take to protect your Macs from cyber-crime? Here are some simple precautions that will help keep your hardware and business-critical data secure.
- Keep MacOS up to date
Just like Microsoft, Apple releases regular software updates, patches and bug fixes to help your machines keep running at optimum performance. But they aren’t much use if they’re not installed. You can set your Mac to automatically check for updates every day, although this will only work if you’re logged on as Administrator. So, it’s important to manually check for, and download, updates on a regular basis, too.
It’s also important to keep your third-party applications up to date, to maximise your protection and make sure you’re using supported versions. Keep an eye on your software providers’ websites for the latest updates.
- Activate your Mac’s built-in security features
Apple have designed their Macs with lots of features to help you stay safe – so make sure you use them! They include:
- A range of security options in the System Preference application, e.g. disable automatic log-in, log out after 10 minutes’ inactivity, use secure virtual memory
- Keychain, a feature that generates strong passwords automatically
- FireVault, which encrypts your files if your Mac device is lost or stolen
- Preventing individual users from changing security settings.
- Install anti-virus software
Choose a business-grade application and keep it up to date. Yes, that will mean paying for it, but free anti-virus programmes just don’t offer enough protection for business users. What’s more, they’re designed and marketed for consumers, so downloading a free product for commercial use will invalidate your software licence.
- Check your firewall requirements
Macs have a built-in firewall, so firstly check this is activated. Next, consider whether you should invest in additional protection. This will depend on the nature of your business, how you operate online and the kinds of data you collect and store. If you feel extra security is required, you could opt for a Network Security Appliance – a sophisticated device that puts an extra layer of protection between your internal networks and the internet.
- Robustify your backups
Apple offers a couple of ready-made backup solutions which you probably use already. Time Machine is a ‘backup and restore’ software application that’s built into MacOS. It works by making hourly backups to an external storage device, such as a USB, hard drive or Network-attached Storage Device (NAS). Time Machine is useful to a point, but it won’t back up your data in real-time and you’ll need to remove and return the storage device to your premises every day.
For smaller businesses, iCloud – Apple’s online backup and file storage system – can provide an adequate solution when combined with Time Machine. Your data is saved in real time and can be restored from any location. However, iCloud isn’t recommended for companies with multiple employees, as there are concerns around its ability to sync business data to devices outside your network, which could pose a security risk.
A better option might be to invest in an enterprise-level online backup solution such as VSL OBM. As well as giving you peace of mind that your data can be retrieved if the worst happens, a robust backup process will also help you comply with GDPR.
Not sure where to start? Jalapeno can help.
Our expert engineers can analyse your security needs and recommend the right steps to take to protect your Macs. Book a FREE systems audit today, or call us on 01636 681 110 to discuss your requirements.