How To Keep Data Safe Regardless Of iCloud Lock

By Cory Orlando | Dec 14, 2012 09:35 AM EST

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A feature that many people enjoy on OS X is the lock option, which lets users remotely set a PIN for their Mac. However, iCloud's Find My iPhone service requires a password to enter the system upon booting.

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How safe is the PIN that iCloud offers? Enabling a feature like locking a Mac may sound like a great idea until one delves into it further. The PIN required is only four digits, which means that there are only a possible 10,000 options to cracking the PIN number. Apple does try to deter users or anyone from actually trying 10,000 times by locking users out of entering the PIN number through progressive wait times. Ways around this are by restarting the system and trying again.

While in theory this sounds like a safe and secure way to protect data and files, there are ways around it. The larger issue lies in the OS X lock option is a hardware based lock. If someone were to simply remove the hard drive from their Mac and place it into another successfully, the lock can no longer protect the data.

CNET author Topher Kessler gives three very useful options to users on what they can do to protect their data and files. According to Kessler, these three options joined together would secure your Mac as much as possible. The options are as follows:

"- Use a firmware password instead of a iCloud Pin - A firmware password allows for more characters than the iCloud PIN, offering better security. Unlike with the iCloud PIN, you can still boot to the default hard drive with a firmware password implemented, but it will be much harder to crack.

- Encrypt the drive - Using FileVault in OS X 10.7 and later, you can encrypt the Mac's entire hard drive and set up specific user accounts that can decrypt the drive and boot from it. Setting up this will in effect carry out a boot password and make up for the loss of one when using only the firmware password.

- Redundant encrypted backups - Since a thief my still wipe your system's drive by removing it and attaching it to another system, to make sure your data is safe, be sure to make redundant encrypted or otherwise secured backups."

For users wanting a little extra security on their Macs, Kessler advises to lock things up.

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