Choosing Firewall Options for Mac OS X

July 6, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Staying secure online is something that Windows users have become accustomed to, but thanks to the secure underlying code of OS X it is less of a worry for Mac users.

However, this confidence in the system is misleading. Threats can be found on Mac computers as readily as they can on Windows, regardless of the expertise of the user, which is why OS X features a useful built-in firewall tool.

While a firewall won’t remove malware from your system (although suitable Internet security suites might feature a firewall plus a malware removal tool) it will help you to protect files and folders from being accessed remotely and block any attempts to enter your Mac via a backdoor, as well as prevent any malicious or spyware software from access the Internet and sharing your data.

Choosing firewall options in Mac OS X

The importance of this cannot be overstated: a secure computer with a working firewall means that you have safe and secure data that you can rely upon. Once this security is compromised, reliance ends.

Activating the Mac OS X Firewall

By default your firewall should be enabled, but you might find that this is not the case; for instance, you might be part of a network, or might have disabled the firewall when trying to establish a connection to a local wireless router.

To enable the firewall, head to System Preferences > Security > Firewall, and click the padlock to confirm that you want to make changes by entering your password. Next, select Start to turn the firewall on, and instantly your Mac is protected! All that is left to do is to click the padlock button to lock the changes you have made, thereby protecting your Mac from any attempted changes by anyone else.

Activating the firewall shouldn’t affect the way in which you use your Mac, however, although you may receive notifications whenever unauthorized attempts to access your computer (or the web) are detected.

Advanced Mac OS X Firewall Options

In addition to simply switching the firewall on and off, some Advanced options are also available.

To begin with, you are able to Block all incoming connections via a single checkbox, enabling you to prevent any access to your computer except for those made across the DHCP, Bonjour and IPSec services.

By default, you can Automatically allow signed software to receive incoming connections, a useful option that will save you time configuring useful software (such as Skype) to use your firewall correctly, while the Enable stealth mode option which ignores attempts to access the computer from elsewhere on your network.

Finally, using the + and – buttons on the Advanced screen, you can add and remove applications to assign manual firewall settings. With these options configured and applied you will be able to                                                                                                                                                                                                              continue surfing the web safe in the knowledge that your Mac OS X computer is protected.

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