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MacBook Security Setup HOW-TO


MacBook Security Setup HOW-TO

In this article I cover how to securely configure your brand new MacBook laptop. It is assumed that the machine is new or has OS X freshly installed. At the end of this document, your laptop will be as secure as possible and follow the rules of NSA security configuration guides.

User account set-up

In order to mitigate against Trojan-horse viruses, we follow the two account rule. The rule states that there is an administrative log-in that is separate from a regular user account that is actually used for day-to-day activities. Following this rule will prevent you from a myriad of attack vectors.

We assume the first account created is the administrator account, as this is the default behavior of OS X’s installation procedure. If needed, renamed this account to something other than your name.

Next, add a new log-in account from System Preferences->User & Groups. Be sure to disable the Allow User to Administer This Computer setting.

Securing the Network

In order to prevent ourselves from network attacks we must enable the firewall that comes standard with OS X. Navigate to System Preferences->Security & Privacy and select the Firewall tab. Next, click on the button to Enable Firewall.

Disabling the guest user account

In order to ensure our network security, we’ll also explicitly disable the guest user account. To do this, navigate to System Preferences->User & Groups and select the Guest user account. Ensure that this account is disable from usage by un-checking the Allow users to login to this computer.

If file sharing is necessary, you may enable the Allow guest users to connect to shared folders option.

Now log-out of the administrative account.

Securing the hard-drive

Log-in as your user account and navigate to System Preferences->Security & Privacy. Select the FileVault tab and click the button to enable FileVault. You may need to click the lock icon in the lower left-hand side of the window.

This enables home folder encryption using the AES-256 standard encryption protocol. While not completely safe, some encryption is better than none. In an ideal world, Apple would allow the bits of encryption used.

Email

Understanding and using PGP encryption is critical. To make your life easier on OS X, the GPGMail suite of software exists. Download the latest version applicable for your operating system. Once installed, launch the GPG Keychain Access tool and either import your existing PGP key or create a new one of at least 4096 bits in key length.

NOTE: To assist others in sending you email, it is best to upload your public key to what is known as a key server. This is done by right-clicking your own key inside of GPG Keychain Access and selecting Send public key to keyserver. Other users may then retrieve your public key by querying the public key servers.

Screensaver

It is critical that the screensaver automatically start after 1 minute of inactivity. It is also recommended that a “hot-corner” be utilized to quickly enable the screensaver when walking away from your system. To enable the screensaver after one minute of inactivity, run the following command from Terminal.

# defaults write com.apple.screensaver idleTime 1

Password Security

I highly recommend that users utilize a password manager, such as AgileBit’s 1Password software. In doing so a single password locks away all of your complex generated passwords, so you can keep very secure passwords to all of the web sites you visit.

Software

Having a suite of standard security tools is essential. The best accepted way of achieving this is by installing Homebrew. Paste the following line in to Terminal to install Homebrew:

# ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"

After it completes, follow its instructions to run brew doctor.

Once complete, use the following line to install the base utilities used by many security experts:

# brew install nmap git lynx elinks clamav

Final Thoughts

While these instructions go a long way towards the ultimate security, they are not the complete answer. It is up to you to decide on what software you install, files you open, and ultimately what you do with your computer. These instructions are a starting point only.

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