5 Ways How to Secure Sensitive Files and Folders on a Mac in 2023
Whether you are an individual or a business, the potential damage caused by unauthorized access to sensitive information can be significant.
One of the ways to secure sensitive files and folders on a Mac is to use the built-in security features provided by the operating system.
In this article, I will show you how to secure sensitive files and folders on a Mac so you don’t have to worry about unauthorized users accessing those files/folders and have them fall into the wrong hands.
The easiest way how to secure sensitive files and folders on a Mac is to use the built-in Disk Utility tool to encrypt your files and folders. To do this, launch Disk Utility from Spotlight and then tap on the “Menu” bar and click on “New Image” followed by “New Image from Folder“. Once the image is selected, choose “256-bit AES encryption” from the drop down and “Enter a Strong Password.” Tap on “Read/Write” from the Picture Format drop-down and finally tap on “Save” to store the disk image.
There are other options available too which i’ll cover below. So feel free to use the one that you find easiest as they all offer the same level of security.
How to Secure Sensitive Files and Folders on a Mac
Use the Disk Utility Tool to Secure Files and Folders
Disk Utility is a built-in application on macOS that allows users to manage and maintain their hard drives, partitions, and volumes.
One of the features of Disk Utility is the ability to create encrypted disk images. In this guide, we will walk through how to use Disk Utility to create an encrypted disk image to secure files and folders.
Step 1: Open Disk Utility
To open Disk Utility, click on the Launchpad icon on the Dock, and then click on the Disk Utility icon. Alternatively, you can open Finder, go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
Step 2: Create an encrypted disk image
In the Disk Utility window, click on the “File” menu and then select “New Image” > “Blank Image.”
- In the “Save As” field, enter a name for the encrypted disk image.
- Choose the location where you want to save the disk image. Make sure it’s a secure location and that you have read and write access to it.
- Under the “Encryption” option, select “128-bit AES encryption” or “256-bit AES encryption.” The higher the encryption level, the more secure the disk image will be.
- Set the image format to “sparse bundle disk image.” This option creates a dynamic file that only takes up as much space as the data you add to it.
- Set the size of the disk image to accommodate the files and folders you want to secure. Keep in mind that the disk image will expand as you add more files and folders to it.
Step 3: Set a password
In the “Save As” window, select “Set Password” and enter a secure password. Make sure you use a strong password that you can remember. You will need this password every time you want to access the encrypted disk image.
Step 4: Mount the encrypted disk image
After you’ve created the encrypted disk image, it will be saved as a .dmg file. Double-click on the .dmg file to mount the encrypted disk image. You will be prompted to enter the password you set earlier.
Step 5: Add files and folders
Once you’ve mounted the encrypted disk image, it will appear as a separate volume in Finder. You can drag and drop files and folders to this volume just like any other volume on your Mac.
Step 6: Unmount the encrypted disk image
When you’re finished using the encrypted disk image, make sure you unmount it to ensure that no one else can access it. To unmount the encrypted disk image, simply drag it to the Trash or right-click on it and select “Eject.”
That’s it! You’ve successfully created an encrypted disk image to secure your files and folders using Disk Utility on macOS.
If you find this to be a complicated task then check out how to use FileVault or other options i’ve listed beow.
Use FileVault to Encrypt your Hard Drive
FileVault is a built-in feature on macOS that provides full-disk encryption to protect the data on your Mac.
When FileVault is enabled, your Mac’s hard drive is encrypted, and all data on it is protected with a password that only you know.
To enable FileVault, follow these steps:
Step 1: Check if your Mac supports FileVault
FileVault requires certain hardware specifications to work correctly.
- To check if your Mac supports FileVault, go to the Apple menu > About This Mac > System Report > Hardware. Look for “FileVault” under “Hardware Encryption” in the System Information window. If your Mac supports FileVault, you will see “Supported.”
Step 2: Enable FileVault
To enable FileVault, go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault.
- Click the lock icon in the bottom left corner of the window and enter your administrator username and password.
- Click on “Turn On FileVault.”
Step 3: Choose a security method
You will be asked to choose a security method for your encryption key. You can choose to use your iCloud account or create a recovery key.
If you choose to use your iCloud account, your encryption key will be stored in your iCloud account, and you can reset your password using your Apple ID.
If you choose to create a recovery key, you will need to store it in a safe place, as it can be used to reset your password if you forget it.
Step 4: Start the encryption process
After you choose a security method, click on “Continue.” Your Mac will begin encrypting the hard drive. This process can take several hours to complete, depending on the size of your hard drive.
Step 5: Use your Mac while it’s encrypting
You can use your Mac while it’s encrypting the hard drive. However, some tasks may take longer than usual to complete, as your Mac is using resources to encrypt the hard drive.
Step 6: Log in with your password
Once the encryption process is complete, you will be prompted to log in with your password. From this point on, every time you start up your Mac, you will need to enter your password to access your data.
By encrypting your hard drive, you can prevent unauthorized access to your files and folders, even if your Mac is stolen or lost.
Encrypt your Files and Folders
Password protecting files and folders on a Mac is an important step in ensuring that your sensitive information is kept private and secure. Here are the steps to password protect files and folders on a Mac:
- Select the files or folder you want to password protect Navigate to the files or folder that you want to protect and select them.
- Once you have selected the files or folder, right-click on them and select “Compress Items“.
- Enter a password A new compressed folder will be created with the same name as the original folder. Double-click on the new folder to open it and then go to “File” > “Encrypt [name]“.
Enter a password for the folder and verify the password. Make sure to use a strong password that is difficult to guess.
- Once the compressed folder is encrypted with a password, you can move the original files or folder to the trash.
- If you want to change the name of the encrypted folder, you can right-click on it and select “Get Info“. Enter a new name for the folder in the “Name & Extension” field.
- To test the password protection, try to open the encrypted folder by double-clicking on it. You should be prompted to enter the password you created earlier. If you enter the correct password, the contents of the folder will be displayed.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication to Secure your Mac’s Files and Folders
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security feature that requires two forms of authentication to access an account or device.
This can include something the user knows (such as a password or PIN) and something the user has (such as a phone or key fob).
By requiring two different forms of authentication, 2FA provides an extra layer of security and makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access to sensitive information.
Enabling 2FA on a Mac is a straightforward process. Here’s how you can do it;
- Click on the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen and select “System Preferences” from the drop-down menu.
- In the System Preferences window, click on “Security & Privacy“.
- In the Security & Privacy window, click on the “General” tab at the top of the window.
- In the “General” tab, you will see an option to “Turn On Two-Factor Authentication“. Click on this button to start the setup process.
- Follow the prompts to complete the setup process. This will typically involve entering your Apple ID and phone number, verifying your identity with a code sent to your phone, and creating a backup code in case you lose access to your phone.
Once you have completed the setup process, 2FA will be enabled on your Mac. You will need to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password to access your Mac or any associated accounts.
This provides an additional layer of security and makes it much more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your Mac or accounts.
How to Secure Files and Folders using Terminal on Mac
The Terminal application on a Mac provides a powerful command-line interface that can be used to secure files and folders.
The easiest way to encrypt a file or folder using the Terminal is to use the built-in tool “openssl“. Here’s what you need to do;
- Step 1: Open Terminal and navigate to the folder or file you want to encrypt.
- Step 2: Type the following command to encrypt the file or folder:
- openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -in file_or_folder_name -out encrypted_file_or_folder_name
Note: Replace “file_or_folder_name” with the name of the file or folder you want to encrypt, and “encrypted_file_or_folder_name” with the name you want to give to the encrypted file or folder.
- Step 3: The terminal will ask you to enter a password to encrypt the file or folder. Make sure you choose a strong password and remember it.
What to Do if You Forget the Password to Your Secured File or Folder on Mac
If you forget the password to a secured file or folder on your Mac, you can reset it using the following steps:
- If you use a password manager app or software, search for the password in the app. If you find it, copy and paste it into the password field to unlock the file or folder.
- If you use iCloud Keychain, check whether the password is saved in it. Open Keychain Access from the Applications > Utilities folder, search for the file or folder password, and enter your Mac login credentials to access the password.
- If you have more than one user account on your Mac, try logging in to a different account that has administrator access. From there, you can navigate to the secured file or folder, right-click it, and choose “Get Info.” In the Sharing & Permissions section, add your original user account and give it full access.
- If you set up a recovery key when you created the password for the secured file or folder, you can use it to reset the password. Follow the steps below:
- Click the “Forgot Password” button in the password prompt.
- Enter your recovery key when prompted.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to reset your password.
- If none of the above methods work, you can try using a third-party password recovery tool. However, be careful when downloading and using such tools, as they could be harmful to your computer or data.
- Finally, If you have a backup of the file or folder, you can restore it from there. If you use Time Machine, navigate to the date when the file or folder was not secured, and restore it from there.
Securing sensitive files and folders on a Mac is an essential step in protecting your personal data.
By following the best practices outlined in this article, you can ensure that your files and folders remain secure and protected from unauthorized access.
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Hey there! I’m Chelsea and chief editor of macsecurity.org. I have always loved Apple products for its efficiency and performance. I love reviewing the latest Apple products and designing guides for old and new Apple users! And in my free time I love experimenting in the kitchen (though, it doesn’t work out 9/10 times)