How to use your MacBook safely in public

Those who regularly use their MacBook in public places and connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots, such as in cafes, must be aware that by doing so they face the risk of hacking. Such free Wi-Fi hotspots pose a risk as you are not aware of who else is sharing the same network. Also, there have been cases when hackers have deliberately set up free Wi-Fi networks to hack those using it.

One option to keep you safe is to completely stop using public networks. However, this is not possible for everyone. So, another option that you have is to take precautions and use in-built and third-party tools to use your MacBook safely in public.

The best solution to this problem is to use a connection only you control like home broadband or a 3G/4G hotspot on your iPhone. If this isn’t possible, follow the steps in this guide to keep your data as safe as possible.

1. Disable sharing options

Apple allows you to share folders and files with other users on your network. This may be something you want to use when you are on your home network, however you do not want external users to have access to your information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi.

By default, File Sharing is disabled on your Mac but you can double check this by going to ‘System Preferences > Sharing’. Confirm ‘File Sharing’ is unchecked.

Make sure to work through the other sharing options such as ‘Remote Login’ and ‘Screen Sharing’ to check these are disabled too. You can always reactivate them later.

2. Use a VPN

If you’re using an unsecured Wi-Fi network – and by that we mean no password is required to log in – then it’s fairly simple for hackers to monitor data passing between your device and the Internet.

You can make life much harder for the them by using a VPN, which establishes an encrypted connection to your providers servers. Information such as passwords, emails and social media photos is sent via this encrypted connection, so hackers will have a great deal more difficulty harvesting your data and working out which sites you’ve visited.

If you don’t need super-fast speeds there are a number of VPN providers such as VPNBook. Ideally choose a provider which supports the ‘OpenVPN’ protocol, it keeps ‘no logs’ of customer activity and uses ‘DNS Forwarding’.

We’ve also got a roundup of the best VPN’s of 2019.

3. Use 2FA

2FA (Two Factor Authentication) is a simple but very powerful way to protect your online credentials. It works by requesting a six-digit code to a mobile device such as an iPhone whenever you log in form a new location.

This code has to be entered along with your password, which means that if someone wants to break into your account they’d need to know your password and have access to your mobile. This is ideal for situations where hackers may be trying to steal your password on public Wi-Fi.

To get started you’ll need to install a dedicated 2FA app on your devices such as Google Authenticator or Free OTP. Many online services such as Facebook and Twitter now offer 2FA and the specific steps for setting it up will vary from platform to platform, so you should contact them for help with setup.

4. Use safer browser extensions

Simply by choosing to use an Apple Mac, you’ve already protected yourself from the vast majority of malware on the internet, which is designed to run only on Windows machines.

However, some free Wi-Fi providers insist that you connect to their network via a landing page with 3rd party ads, which can sometimes link to harmful content. You can block 99% of these using the browser extensions AdBlock Plus.

This extension is available for all major browsers and will present ads from loading, so you’re less likely to click the wrong link. Consider also installing the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s extensions ‘HTTPS Everywhere’. This forces your browser to use the ‘secure’ version of websites where available, encrypting the connection between you and the site.

Some organizations may ask you to install a 3rd party app on your Mac before you can use their free Wi-Fi. If this happens, you should always refuse as there’s no way to make sure the program’s safe.

5. Lock it down

One of the easiest ways for identity thieves to steal your password info is either by looking over your shoulder or stealing your Mac altogether.

Each time you enter a public place, try to seat yourself with your back to a wall or corner. Invest in a cable lock for your MacBook and attach it to something sturdy like a radiator if possible.

If you’re using a MacBook made in the past few years, FileVault encryption should be enabled on your device by default. This means that even if your Mac is stolen, thieves won’t be able to access your data without the correct password.

You can check if FileVault’s enabled by going to ‘System Preferences’>’Security & Privacy’. Click on ‘FileVault’. If FileVault hasn’t been set up, follow the steps on Apple Support.

Apart from these, other common precautions that you should practice is to use the on-screen keyboard, turn Bluetooth off and make tougher passwords.

Source : techradar