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Law Firm Security: 10 Mac Security Tips for the Apple Using Attorney

To all Mac acolytes who soldiered through the early years to the Mac neophytes who have only recently fallen in love with Macs, it’s time to take the idea of Mac security seriously. It’s true: Macs can be maliciously attacked. Not quite “just like” PCs, a law firm using Macs is still open to suffering through a maliciously attack. I say not quite “just like” because the volume of attacks is still significantly less than that of PCs. 

Clayton Weeks, writing for AVG, a company that handles Mac security, reports that, “We’re detecting more Mac threats in 2018 than the same time last year.”

Fear not, brave Mac users. One of the things that makes a Mac so desirable is its long list of Mac security features. Where do we start tinkering with the Mac so that we can kick in that security? As an enchanted woman once advised, it’s always best to start at the beginning.

In the UK version of MacWorld, Keir Thomas points to three areas where a computer may be cyberattacked. These include, “over the internet, via an email, or from someone with direct access to your Mac.”

Before doing anything else, make sure to check all of your law firm Mac updates are made. Go to the Systems Preference panel, reached via the little Mac apple icon in the topmost right corner of your display. In the third row of the opened panel, go to Software Update and click on the “Check for Updates” box. While you’re in there, check the little box that automatically keeps your Mac up to date.

In fact, the large majority of tinkering is accomplished through the Systems Preference panel. Once you’ve found the Systems Preference panel, go to the Security & Privacy settings. There are four tabs to note, including General, FileVault, Firewall and Privacy. To be able to change the settings in this panel, you’ll have to unlock the little padlock at the bottom by clicking on it and entering your password.

This is where we’ll jump off into the top 10 Mac security tips.

1. Turn on the Firewall

Go to the Firewall tab and turn this feature on. Doing so will “prevent unauthorized applications, programs, and services from accepting incoming connections,” says the dialog box. Take note; the Firewall feature prevents incoming connections, not outgoing connections.

2. Outgoing Connections

To prevent outgoing connections, it’s best to find a third-party app like Little Snitch, Murus Lite or Radio Silence. Check ratings for these and other apps.

3. Enable Stealth Mode

As its name implies, enabling Stealth Mode will allow you to cruise the Internet invisibly, and further aid your efforts towards thorough Mac security. Stealth Mode prevents your Mac from responding to unauthorized requests like pings that probe to see if anyone is out there. Enable it through the Firewall setting, under Firewall Options.

4. Use a Password

Especially useful for lawyers who must guard attorney-client privilege, managing passwords is a necessary task for proper Mac security.  Under the General tab of the Systems Preferences panel, you will see where you can enable or change a password. You can also set how many minutes after sleep until a user will need the password to be able to wake up the Mac. You can also use the Advanced button (located at the bottom right of the panel) to log out after a certain amount of time has passed.

5. App Download

This feature protects your Mac from malware by allowing only those apps that originate with the App Store or from a developer that you trust. You can enable this feature at the bottom of the General tab. You can choose whether you want applications only from the App Store or you can choose to allow applications from the App Store and trusted developers.

6. Disable Automatic Login.

If you don’t have FileVault turned on, you get a somewhat dubious option that allows you to uncheck “Disable Automatic Login.” Lawyers, leave this button checked! As an attorney, you want to go to great lengths to protect your law firm client data.

7. FileVault

Speaking of FireVault, under this tab you will find a nifty feature that encrypts your data automatically. It encrypts and decrypts information as it is added to the hard drive.

8. Privacy Settings

Upon opening this tab, the panel may appear to be a bit intimidating. It’s really not. Let’s walk through this aspect of Mac security.

On the left side of the panel, you will find various apps and controls. If you click through these items, a different set of information will appear on the right side of the panel.

  1. The first item on the list is Location Services. This allows various apps and services to have access to your location. If you see any nefarious apps listed under the right side of the panel, Google it to discover what it is. You can uncheck the button if you don’t want an app to have location information.

  2. The situation is nearly the same for Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders. A list of apps or controls will appear on the right side of the panels. Uncheck any of these that you would prefer not to have access to your Contacts, Calendars or

  3. Clicking on the Photos, Camera and Microphone sections will again show you a list of apps that have permission to access your photos. Uncheck any that you don’t want messing with these multimedia controls.

  4. The Accessibility in the Security & Privacy section has nothing to do with the Accessibility pane in the overall System Preference pane. This Accessibility section here represents whether various applications can have control over your Mac in some way. Again, go through the apps and uncheck any that you feel to be unnecessary.

  5. Full Disk Access is self-explanatory at this point. Go through the same processes like those above.

  6. Automation allows apps to control other apps. The controlling app will be listed first, followed by the app that it is controlling.

  7. Analytics information helps developers improve products by sharing analytics of your Mac, letting them see where improvements might be made.

9. Are You Sure You Want to Share?

There are several aspects of the Mac that you can share. To ensure solid Mac security, review this panel carefully. Go back to the Systems Preference panel via the little Apple icon at the top right corner of the display and click on the Sharing icon located in the third row, last column. There you will see several opportunities to share various aspects of your Mac.

Go through and decide which you should leave on. If you’re not going to be using a particular share feature, it’s a good idea to disable it.

10. What’s a Firmware Password?

Sadly, it’s possible to boot up the Mac with a USB memory stick or other such devices. If you have FileVault enabled, all of your data will be encrypted. However, this doesn’t prevent some ne’er do well from entirely wiping the drive.

To prevent this from happening to you, apply a firmware password. This will prevent your Mac from booting up from a device or disk other than your start-up disk drive. The instructions below from Apple outline the process:

  1. Startup from macOS Recovery: Press and hold Command ()-R immediately after turning on your Mac, and release the keys when you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.

  2. When the utility window appears, click Utilities in the menu bar, then choose Firmware Password Utility or Startup Security Utility. This utility is available only on Mac models that support the use of a firmware password.

  3. Click Turn on Firmware Password.

  4. Enter a firmware password in the fields provided, then click Set Password. Remember this password.

Conclusion

Because setting up a Mac on a network running different hardware (including regular PCs), you may be running solo in your law practice with your Mac. Or the entire law firm might be running Macs. Especially younger attorneys enjoy putting the trio of Mac, iPhone, and iPad to work in their law practice. Whatever the case, make sure you use the Mac security features to the fullest. At some point, you will probably be very glad you did.

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About this Author

Jaliz Maldonado, Practice Panther Miami Legal Marketing and Law Office Management author

Jaliz Maldonado is an eight-year Army Veteran and is currently in graduate school at the University of Miami where she is studying for her MBA. When she's not working at PracticePanther as the Operations Manager or studying, she's hanging out with her English Bulldog named Dumbell, painting, or reading. Jaliz is also strong with the force and belongs to House Slytherin. Make sure to connect with her via Linkedin and follow her on twitter @JalizMaldonado.

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