Now that Apple’s market share is growing and Macs are more popular, OS X is a bigger target for security threats. While there are still fewer security threats, exploits, and viruses that can affect your Mac than those directed at Windows, Mac users can no longer boast that OS X is an impregnable fortress.
Apple is aware of that and has revamped security in Lion to help keep your data safe and protect your privacy. Unlike the introduction of Snow Leopard in 2009, which offered mostly incremental security enhancements, OS X Lion represents a major overhaul, said the researchers, who spent the past few months analyzing the OS.
The New Security Features in Lion OS:
Backups and Encryption
OS X now makes it extremely easy to protect all of your data at once. Not only can you encrypt your entire hard drive, but you can also encrypt your backups. Apple introduced FileVault a while ago, but Lion’s FileVault Ver. 2 implementation makes major improvements.
Once you turn it on, FileVault will now encrypt your drive while you work in other programs, so you do not have to stop what you’re doing and wait for the encryption process to finish. Not only can you encrypt your hard drive, but you can also encrypt your external USB and FireWire drives as well.
Apple also incorporated FileVault’s encryption into the Time Machine backup process. When you back your Mac up to an external drive, you can also encrypt that drive so no one can use your data even if your external drive is lost or stolen.
Sandboxing and ASLR
Apple has made some changes at Lion’s core that will help prevent security attacks via the apps you use. Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) has been fully implemented in Lion, and it makes it extremely difficult for anyone to exploit bugs in the software on your Mac. It does this by changing the memory locations where system components are loaded. If the memory location keeps changing, it becomes extremely difficult for a hacker to execute code on your machine.
One of the easiest ways outsiders can infiltrate your system is by hiding malicious code in an application that you use. While you’re working, someone can steal your private information including passwords and credit card numbers, and you would have no idea. Apple’s implementation of sandboxing keeps this from happening by limiting what processes and operations each application can perform.
Browsing with Safari
One of the easiest ways for someone to steal your information is through your browser. You save passwords, form information, and leave a trail of browser history behind you that can also be used to obtain your personal information. In Lion, Apple makes it easy for you to remove all of your website data when you browse the Web with Safari. Just open Safari’s Preferences, and click Remove All Website Data on the Privacy tab. Once you do that, your cookies, Flash plug-in data, cache, local storage, and other related data are all removed. If you want to, you can also remove your data on a site-by-site basis.
These are just some of the ways that Lion can protect your privacy and data, but none of these features will keep your data safe 100% of the time. Sandboxing and ASLR are entrenched in the OS, but the other features require you to take the initiative to invoke them to protect your data. While all of these features are convenient, you still need to take the time to set them up and learn how to use them to protect your information.