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Protect Your Mac!

Tagged with gdpr, ico, data, freeadvice, security, encryption, mac, apple
by Arron O'Neill
in Blog

29-May-2018 11:19

Whether GDPR is on your mind or not, encryption certainly should be. With data security constantly in the spotlight, encryption is a great way to secure your business and its data. Thanks to modern encryption techniques, it’s never been easier to lock down the information that means the most.

The majority of people don’t realise that their computer already has the software required and it’s free to use! Encryption may sound like a scary buzzword but really the process is simple. Your data goes into the encryption software, which then scrambles it up and adds some special sauce to make sure that what comes out is complete gibberish and is only accessible by the owner. This is normally done with a password entered when the computer is powered on.

In the case of modern Mac computers, this process is done with FileVault. It’s included with every Mac made since late 2003 and allows you to quickly and easily encrypt the contents of your Mac. With FileVault enabled, any unauthorised person wanting to view your data will see a load of gibberish. FileVault uses the user's login password as the encryption passphrase and the type of encryption that is used is military grade.

On newer Macs that run OS X 10.8 or newer, FileVault can also extend to external hard drives and USB drives. This is a fantastic feature, particularly as drives that are used to backup the main computer can be encrypted too. This is often something that gets overlooked but if you have a carbon copy of your data, would you not want a carbon copy of security measures used to protect it too?

FileVault lets only unlock-enabled users unlock the drive. Once unlocked, other users may also use the computer until it is shut down. This allows the administrator to designate unlock access to trusted users only. Apple even assigns the user with a recovery key during the encryption process so that the data can be decrypted in the event that the password is lost. They allow this key to be stored in iCloud as well as a sort of backup.

So why doesn’t everyone enable FileVault on their Mac? Whilst it is a great, free tool. The main downside of encryption in general is that some processing power is required to scramble and unscramble all of the data. In the real world, this often translates to a slower experience for the user especially on startup of the computer. Another issue with encryption is that if the encryption key is forgotten, the data is lost. FileVault does try to mitigate this issue by using the user’s login password and by setting a cloud storable recovery key. If both of these are lost however, not even Apple can recover your data.

So here’s how to manage FileVault in three easy steps:

Enabling FileVault – From your Mac’s launchpad or Dock, open “System Preferences”. From here, navigate to the icon labelled “Security & Privacy” and then the tab labelled “FileVault”. Click the “Turn on FileVault...” button to launch the wizard that will walk you through enabling FileVault. Once the wizard is complete, it will prompt you to restart the machine to begin the encryption process.

Logging on to a machine with FileVault enabled – After powering on your machine, you’ll be greeted with a prompt to enter your password in order to decrypt the disk. Once this process has completed, you’ll be able to login the normal way.

Disabling FileVault – As with enabling FileVault, open “System Preferences”. From here, navigate to the icon labelled “Security & Privacy” and then the tab labelled “FileVault”. Click the “Turn off FileVault...” button. Decryption occurs in the background as you use your Mac, only while your Mac is awake and plugged in to AC power. You can check decryption progress by returning to “Security & Privacy” in “System Preferences”.