I know some of my clients have all kinds of private or commercially or politically sensitive information on their computers.
If you have documents lying around on your computer which you’d prefer others not to read then how can you protect them? Apart from others who might share or visit the house or office, what say the computer is stolen? Are you happy for thieves to read your diary, your bank information, your list of clients addresses?
Encrypt Documents, Mac Tip#10/04-July-2001, explained how to encrypt individual documents under OS 9. Some software, such as Microsoft Word allows you to protect individual documents with a password. That can be tedious if you have whole folders full of private information.
Set a password on your Mac
One thing you can do is to set up your Mac to need a password to be able to use the machine. This has two elements. The first is to require a password to “log on” to the computer when it first starts up and the second is to require a password if the computer is left unattended.
The newer your Mac is the more likely you can easily require a password at startup time.
Older Macs had software called At Ease which was always a bit clunky to work with. If you have an older Mac check the documentation for information about using At Ease. It was also fairly easy to get around At Ease’s “protection”.
With OS 9 you can use the Multiple Users Control Panel to set up what can be a complex system of access privileges.
Mac OS X has security built in
Mac OS X though is a genuine multi-user environment. It expects that more than one person will use the computer and every user must have a password to be able to get into the machine.
Once each user has logged in they have their own private workspace which is independent of everyone else’s. They can have their own desktop picture, email settings, web bookmarks and so on.
And it’s incredibly simple to set up new users, so if your cousin comes to visit you can easily and safely give them access to browse the web, play games and so on.
If you are the only user on a Mac OS X computer you might have it set to not ask for your password. If you have any documents on your Mac which you wouldn’t want a thief to read though I suggest you set it to need a password every time you login. Look under the System: Accounts section of System Preferences.