There are almost no viruses for Mac and Apple has done a great job protecting their users from many of the vulnerabilities that plague other platforms, but what if I told you that anyone, including your 10 year old, could take complete control of your computer in under 1 minute if they’re sitting in front of it? What if I told you that simply losing your laptop could expose all the client data you have on that computer?
When we first started working in Real Estate there were almost no Macs. MLSs didn’t support them, so as badly as most wanted to throw their PC out the Window (ha ha) Apple simply wasn’t an option. But now, you can’t pass two desks in your average Real Estate Office and not find one Mac. As it turns out, this isn’t a good thing. Here’s why:
We’ll just walk you through the process so you can see how easy it is, or even hack yourself.
Warning! Doing this on OS 10.6.4 or less has been known to cause crashes.
- Shut down your Mac.
- While the Mac is booting, hold down command+s. You’ll boot to a prompt.
- Type “mount -uw /” without the quotes and hit enter.
- Type “rm /var/db/.applesetupdone” without the quotes and hit enter.
- Type “shutdown -h now” without the quotes and hit enter. Your Mac will shut down.
You’ve just told your Mac that it’s new and that it should go through the initial setup again, as if it were just taken out of the box. The problem is that when you’re done with the guided setup of your “new Mac” you will have created a new Admin account. An Admin account you can use to reset the password on your old admin account, to turn off parental controls on any account on the Mac, or to access any files on the system.
Watch how it’s done by a 12 year old…
Once you’ve reset passwords in other accounts, you can log into them with the same access, opening browsers and using saved passwords, pulling up client information, contracts, personal information — THE WORKS! The ONLY thing anyone needs to access everything on your Mac, including private emails, contracts, documents, addresses, and those naughty photos you should never have taken, is simply physical access to your computer. That’s it.
I contacted Apple Support about this today. Their response: “There is nothing you can do to resolve this. We recommend keeping a very close eye on your computer and the child that’s using it.”
This isn’t new information, but it will be a surprise to many of you.
I’m writing this post on the last PC in our office. I guess I can now say it’s our first PC. Security of this type is less of an issue for us because we don’t maintain access to our client’s private data, but still… We can not justify purchasing another Mac unless this is fixed.
Test it if you like (but we don’t really recommend it). Call Apple and tell them how you feel about it. Personally, I think this is a deal breaker.
If your clients knew this (which they will shortly) do you think they’d give you one once of personal information with the glowing Apple logo on your desk? I wouldn’t!
(God I hope they do something about this.)
In the meantime, here are some things that might help Mac users address the issue of sensitive data on their Macs.
Is there a way to secure files I keep on my Mac?
Free Encryption options: http://mobileoffice.about.com/od/mobilesecurity/ss/how-to-encrypt-files-with-TrueCrypt.htmAnother solution for Laptop users would be to use an external hard drive and store all your sensitive data their, making sure to secure it when it’s not in use, but it too will be accessible if found by someone that wishes to access the data on it.
Is the same thing possible on my Windows computer?
The short answer is yes, but it is NOT easy and it does NOT take a few seconds to do. And depending on the setup windows version and setup, having a working admin account on a Windows machine does NOT allow access to other user files on the same system.