Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Gadgets and Digital Lifestyle

This chapter is from the book

Mac Security

Passwords are, of course, no less important on OS X. Again, how seriously you take security may depend on a number of factors, such as whether your Mac is a desktop or laptop, where it’s located, who has access to it, and what information is stored on it. A computer left in your living room, to which all of your family members have access, for example, likely has different expectations of privacy and security than a personal laptop used for work.

User security

Mac security is managed in a couple different places in OS X. The Users & Groups preference pane in System Preferences lets you create users with different levels of privilege. In general, if your computer is in use by more than one person, it’s a good idea to create multiple accounts, both for the convenient use of certain features and for security.

To create a new account, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences and click the Users & Groups button.
  2. Click the Add (+) button at the bottom of the user list. You may need to first click the lock icon below the list and provide your current administrator password to enable the Add button.
  3. From the New Account pop-up menu, choose one of four types of user accounts: Administrator, Standard, Managed Account with Parental Controls, and Sharing Only (4.6). The Standard account suffices for most common uses, although certain tasks—some software installation, for example—require that an administrator’s password be provided. A managed account allows another user, such as a parent, to restrict exactly which features, functions, and capabilities are available. (You can also convert a Standard account to an Administrator or Managed Account after the fact, or vice versa.)


    4.6 Setting up a new Standard user account

  4. Enter the user’s full name; an account name is provided automatically based on what you typed, but you can change that if you want.
  5. Under OS X Yosemite, you can choose whether or not an account’s password should be the same as the person’s iCloud password. In fact, if you set up a new user under Yosemite, the default action is to use your Apple ID. However, we recommend creating a separate password instead; if your iCloud account is compromised, your Mac would also be vulnerable or rendered inaccessible to you. Click the Use Separate Password button.
  6. Enter a password in the first field (marked with the gray “Required” label); OS X’s Password Assistant, the key button to the right, will gladly help you generate one if you need help (4.7). You can change the password later in the Users & Groups pane or in the Security & Privacy pane.


    4.7 Password Assistant creates strong passwords.

  7. Click the Create User button.

Once you’ve created a user with a password, you can opt to have your Mac automatically log in to a certain user account when it’s booted up, without requiring a password. In the same Users & Groups pane, select Login Options, and then pick an account from the Automatic login dropdown (4.8). This option is useful for a Mac that’s primarily used by one person in one location; it’s not a good choice for a MacBook you take out of the home or office, since it gives anyone access to your data.


4.8 Turn off Automatic Login on mobile Macs.

The Login Options section of Users & Groups can additionally be used to configure what’s in the login window: whether a full list of users is displayed or simply fields for a username and password. You can also choose to view or hide the Sleep, Restart, and Shut Down buttons, the Input menu, and password hints.

Security & Privacy preferences

Additional options related to passwords and security can be found in the Security & Privacy preference pane of System Preferences. Since it deals with security, the pane includes the same ability to change the password of the currently logged in user as in the Users & Groups pane. You can also choose—as on iOS—how soon a password is required after your Mac goes to sleep or the screen saver starts. Options range from Immediately to 8 hours (4.9). Again, shorter intervals, while sometimes less convenient, ensure tighter security. (You can control how long your computer is inactive before triggering the screen saver or display sleep in the Desktop & Screen Saver or Energy Save preference panes, respectively.)


4.9 Choosing how quickly to engage the password request

The Security & Privacy preference pane also allows you to display a message on the login screen, such as contact information in the event that your computer is misplaced or stolen.

One of the most abused attack vectors for malware is convincing people to launch applications that are actually Trojan horses—normal-looking apps that harbor a destructive payload to which the unsuspecting user grants access to the system. Apple’s response to this threat is to restrict what can be installed by default. If an installer or an application downloaded from the Internet doesn’t match the criteria you specify, OS X does not allow it to be run.

The Allow Apps Downloaded From setting offers three options:

  • Mac App Store. Apple must approve any software sold through the Mac App Store, so these applications are safe.
  • Mac App Store and Authorized Developers. Not every company sells its products through the Mac App Store, but Apple maintains a list (which is automatically kept up to date on your Mac) of developers that have passed a certification process.
  • Anywhere. Choosing Anywhere effectively turns off this line of defense against potentially dangerous applications. It’s up to you to make sure the software you install is safe. That doesn’t mean anything not authorized or sold from the Mac App Store should be disregarded; it just puts the responsibility in your hands.

Note that this setting applies only to the first time a program is launched or installed. It won’t prevent a bad app from running entirely. OS X assumes that if you allowed it to run once, the app must be okay. (A more cynical view is that if you did install malicious software, the damage is already done.)

Clicking the Advanced button in Security & Privacy also gives you access to three other security options (4.10): an auto-log out action, with the ability to choose how many minutes of inactivity before it triggers; whether or not any system-wide preferences (those not specifically linked to the current user account) require an administrator password; and, if the Mac is equipped with an infrared receiver, the ability to disable commands from IR remotes.


4.10 Advanced security settings


Having a strong password on your Mac is a good first step, but what’s to prevent somebody malicious from simply pulling the hard drive out of your computer and accessing the data on it? In that scenario, there’d be no need to log in, rendering all your passwords moot.

That’s where OS X’s FileVault comes in. FileVault encodes your Mac’s entire disk with powerful encryption, making it incredibly difficult—if not outright impossible—to access without your account credentials or a secret key you set. While it may not be out-and-out bulletproof, it ought to keep anybody short of a particularly determined interloper out of your files.

The best thing about FileVault is that it does all its work out of sight. Once you set it up, you’ll never really notice its presence.

Configuring FileVault takes just a few steps.

  1. Go to the Security & Privacy preference pane in System Preferences and select the FileVault tab.
  2. If FileVault is not yet enabled, you’ll see a button prompting you to Turn On FileVault. (If the option is grayed out, click the padlock icon and enter an administrator username and password before proceeding.)


    4.11 Choose how to unlock FileVault if the password is lost.

  3. If you opt to create a recovery key, the next pane displays it (4.12). Make a copy of the key, either written down somewhere secure (a safe or even a safe deposit box), and/or store it in a safe digital location, such as a password manager.


    4.12 FileVault recovery key

  4. Enter the password for any user accounts on the device beyond the one that is currently enabled. (That, among other things, prevents pranksters from, say, encrypting someone’s disk because they left their account logged in.)
  5. Once you’ve logged in all the current users, click Continue. Your Mac prompts you to Restart in order to begin the encryption process.

Upon restarting, you’re prompted for your account password. Once you log in, the encryption process begins in the background. Again, it happens transparently; you don’t need to do anything, and your other activities shouldn’t be affected while the encryption is in process. You can check the progress of the encryption by going to the FileVault section of the Security & Privacy preference pane; a progress bar reflects how much of the disk has been encrypted, and how much is left to go.

Once FileVault is finished with its encryption, the only difference you will notice is that OS X prompts you to log in as soon as you start your computer, rather than once the OS has loaded. You’ll see a slightly different login screen—all gray, rather than a translucent one that shows your desktop image behind it.

Master Password

People forget their passwords. It happens. OS X provides a variety of ways to reset passwords: Administrators can reset passwords for other admins, as well as for standard, managed, and sharing accounts; if you’ve enabled it, you can also reset your password using your Apple ID, which is Apple’s recommended method for recovering a forgotten password.

One additional option is to create a master password for your machine, which you can use as a sort of override to reset any user account password—even on an account protected by FileVault.

To set a master password, do the following:

  1. Go to the Users & Groups preference pane and click the gear icon at the bottom of the list.
  2. Choose Set Master Password, and you’ll get a familiar-looking dialog.
  3. Enter and verify the master password, along with an optional password hint (4.13). Click OK.


    4.13 Setting up a master password

Once a master password is set, if you attempt to log in to an account and fail several times, you’ll be prompted to use the master password and create a new password for that account. You can change your master password by going back to the Users & Groups pane and choosing Change Master password from the gear icon, but keep in mind that you’ll need to provide the current master password in order to do so.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020