The 5 Best Security and Privacy Tools for Your Mac
Apple computers are famously immune to viruses, but there are still steps you need to take.
April 9, 2013 - 7:00 am
I’ve been using Apple computers since the 1980s, and I’ve lost track of how many I’ve owned.
(Right now I have two — an iMac desktop and a MacBook Air for travel/emergencies.)
I’m not an expert, just a (very) longtime user. And a smug one.
One thing we brag about is that viruses don’t tend to affect us.
That’s why installing anti-virus programs is not only unnecessary (most of the time), but can actually mess up your machine.
The last time I brought my (previous) iMac to the Genius Bar, complaining of slow performance, the Apple Store guys just trashed the anti-virus software and my machine was back to normal.
As far as viruses are concerned, Macs:
a) represent such small market share that malicious pranksters usually don’t bother targeting them, and
b) Apple continues to “harden” its hardware, operating system, and apps to keep invasions to a minimum.
That’s why it’s especially important for Mac users to download the very latest version of the OS X and other Apple software and apps.
(Here’s a great and very recent article about Macs and viruses that covers the special circumstances when you might want to install anti-virus software.)
If you still want to take steps to keep your Mac as secure as possible, there are safe, proven solutions out there.
For example, SecureMac makes two great programs:
MacScan and PrivacyScan.
They’ve won awards at international MacWorld events, and those recommendations aren’t handed out lightly.
MacScan and PrivacyScan target different things, with MacScan being focused on security, and PrivacyScan on, well, privacy.
Whereas MacScan is mainly an anti-malware and anti-spyware program, PrivacyScan will check for browsing history, cookies, flash cookies, cache files, recent searches, and many other items for supported web browsers, as well as recent items in the Finder, Preview, and QuickTime.
PrivacyScan offers the option to shred privacy threats, ensuring they cannot be recovered, thus keeping your private information private.
I run MacScan and PrivacyScan separately every evening, after I’m finished working for the day.
You can run “Quick Scan” on MacScan every day, and the “Full Scan” option once a month or so. The latter takes quite a long time to do its job.
I’ve set PrivacyScan to “shred” at the highest level. It’s set up to look like a real-life paper shredder — you can turn on the sound effects so that it will sound like one too while it works.
If that noise drives you nuts, though, you can switch it off.
I prefer keeping the sound on, however — it makes me feel the junk really is being destroyed.
Companies track you every time you visit a website.
The company Abine provides programs that will help increase your privacy when you’re surfing, no matter what browser you use.
I use DoNotTrackMe, a free browser add on that “blocks the tracking capabilities of advertisers, social networks, and data-collection companies.”
DoNotTrackMe is completely unobtrusive. Just set it and forget it.
I use another Abine offering called MaskMe to generate fake email addresses when I want to sign up for a new website or newsletter.
All the confirmation messages and newsletters will still be delivered to your real email address as usual; it’s just that the company won’t get hold of your precious legitimate address and possibly sell it to who knows who.
MaskMe also lets you generate secure, encrypted passwords.
(I already use and love 1Password so I don’t use that feature of MaskMe.)
For $5 a month extra, MaskMe will even issue fake phone numbers for you as well, to help cut down on those annoying telemarketers.
And the free “sync” feature means that you can access your MaskMe accounts no matter what device you’re using.
By the way:
On that same trip to Genius Bar I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I overheard an Apple Store employee talk a customer out of buying that “sweep” software that supposedly “cleans up” your Mac.
I gave him a thumbs up — I used one of those programs years ago and it left my computer almost fatally wounded.
(No, I don’t know why the Apple Store was stocking that junk software in the first place…)
If you feel totally compelled to “spring clean” your Mac, run Monolingual (a brilliant little program that strips out all those unnecessary foreign language dictionaries that come with every new software package) and do some of the stuff suggested HERE and HERE.
There’s a LOT of garbage software out there, promising to speed up your computer’s performance and get rid of bloated files.
Google the name of any Mac software before you buy it and read reviews and forum postings about it.
You’ll save yourself a lot of grief, not to mention the cost of lost work time and computer repairs.