How To Securely Hide (and Encrypt) Files On Mac OS X
Oct 03, 2016
How to hide/secure files on your Mac: An easy approach to protecting your data by securing, hiding, and encrypting selected files and folders in Mac OS X.
In a perfect world securing the files on a Mac would be easy. Yours would be the only admin account on the machine, only you would use that account, and you'd be using the FileVault option. Then nobody else could see your stuff.
Why Would You Want To Hide Your Files On A Mac?
There are a few good (reasonable, non-paranoid) reasons you might want to secure information on a Mac, including....
- Other people use the machine. If they use it under your OS X account they have access to all your files. If they use the machine under OS X account but one with admin access they still have access to all your files.
- You're being careful... unless you have the FileVault feature enabled (a good idea) it's relatively easy for even an intermediate user to connect to one Mac as an external HD, allowing you to see all files on that machine.
Otherwise... it gets tougher. For most Mac users the problem is that their OS X accounts aren't really private – we let other people use our machines with our account, or there are other admin users on the same machine (who can see all files). It's very easy for them to search and view all of your information. And without FileVault you are even more vulnerable – there are ways to get to your files without the login password.
Is there a way to secure specific files and folders in Mac OS X?
Yes. Several in fact, but some are better than others.
Some people take the security through obscurity route – they try and hide sensitive files in a place where they don't think anyone will look. This is a little like hiding a diary. It's great until someone does find it, at which point that person has access to absolutely everything. And all the text contained can still be searched – making it very easy to find.
Normally people start with a variation on the security through obscurity approach – they try and obfuscate the names of files and folders and/or place them where they think nobody will look. It's a little like putting a War & Peace dust jacket on your diary and then maybe hiding it under your mattress.
It might provide you some peace of mind, and some approaches are more secure than others, but security through obscurity just won't work on a Mac.
And, if you care enough to want to try it, you should care enough to do it properly.
Encryption Is The Only Real Security
The only way to truly secure data is through encrypting it. Take the diary example – no matter how much you try to disguise it, no matter how well you hide it, there are no secrets once it is found.
Unless of course it was written in code, a code proven to be unbreakable, a code only you could read. Then it doesn't matter if the diary gets found.
This is the kind of security that encryption provides.
Using Hider 2 To Hide & Encrypt Files On A Mac
The best way to secure files on your Mac is an inexpensive and easy-to-use app called Hider 2. Just download it to your Mac, drag it into your application folder and launch.
The setup is easy and intuitive, and there is an excellent getting started guide online. Arguably the most important is password selection and there are a couple of things to keep in mind...
- The password is really important. Your data will only be as secure as your password. If it can be easily guessed you are wasting your time.
- Remember that the password hint you provide will be made available to anyone trying to break in – so if the hint makes the password easy to guess you are again undoing all your effort.
- It should be different than the password for your OS X user account. Remember – one of the best reasons for setting up a folder like this is to secure files from other people that have access to your account. If you use the same password for both they'll have access to both.
- Do not save the password to Keychain. When the application asks "Would you like to back up your Hider password in Keychain" click "Don't Back Up". Otherwise Keychain will make the password available to anyone signed in under your account.
- Remember the password! If you lose it there is no way to recover it.
Using it is simple too. You just drag files into the Hider 2 window. At first the little slider will show that ...
Just click it, and the file is now hidden and encrypted:
If something is important enough that you want to hide it then do it right. Hider 2 is the best and easiest way to secure (hide and encrypt) files on a Mac.
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