The latest macOS update is chock-full of ways to better safeguard your data..
is live and out now for the masses to download—and Apple being Apple, it's packed with features focused on user security and privacy. Here's how Catalina promises to make your Mac safer and better protected than ever, from warnings about weak passwords to smart ways to retrieve a lost MacBook.
Improved Data Protection.
MacOS Catalina makes apps jump through more hoops—as in, forcing them to ask for permission—if they want to access the parts of your computer where documents and other personal files are kept. That includes iCloud Drive and external drives, for example.
Another change, which isn't as visible to end users, is that macOS itself is now being stored on a separate disk volume. In other words, it's isolated from the rest of your data and programs, so apps won't be able to mess with important system files; they simply won't have access to them.
Weak Password Warnings.
Safari on both macOS and iOS has been pushing better password security for a while now, but with Catalina's arrival, the desktop browser will actively warn you if you sign into a site with a weak password—one that's short and simple enough to be easily cracked.
When this happens, you'll be prompted to change your password to something stronger, though you can ignore the advice. When you sign up on a new site, meanwhile, Safari recommends a new, strong password for you that it'll then remember.
To see all of your passwords, and to see which ones Safari has detected as weak or duplicated, open Preferences from the Safari menu and choose Passwords.
Sender-Block in Mail
You no longer have to put up with emails from unwanted contacts, because Mail in macOS Catalina has been upgraded to let you block senders. With an email open, click the arrow next to the sender name, then choose Block Contact. All future emails from that individual will go straight to the Trash folder.
To see a list of all the senders you've blocked, and to unblock them if you're feeling charitable, go to Mail > Preferences > Junk Mail > Blocked. You can add email addresses to your block list manually here, too.
Better Screen Time Limits
With macOS Catalina, Screen Time makes it to the Mac—that means as well as seeing just how much time you spend on Netflix each day, you can also keep your kids safe on a Mac by putting limits on their usage, with these configurations protected with a passcode you specify.
Open up Screen Time via System Preferences from the Apple menu on macOS. The tool lets you put time limits on access to certain apps or websites, and to restrict the viewing of adult content, both on the web and with music and video purchases from Apple. It doesn't just limit the hours your kids spend the computer, but helps you to keep tabs on what they're doing when they are.
Enhanced Gatekeeper Technology
One of the biggest under-the-hood security upgrades in macOS Catalina is to the Gatekeeper component of the operating system—basically the part of macOS that's in charge of keeping viruses and malware off your system. It's now harder than ever for malicious software to do damage to a Mac computer.
In particular, any software installed outside of the Apple-approved walled garden that is the Mac App Store is now checked every time runs for malware and other problems. Previously, this would only happen the first time the app launched. Code from these apps must also be submitted to Apple by developers to be pre-approved as safe, a process known as notarization.
What's more, programs now need to specifically request permission to get access to record what you're typing, or to record what's happening on the screen. That's on top of existing permission management for access to your Mac's location, webcam, and more.
View-Only Notes Sharing
A small change amongst many in Notes with macOS Catalina, but you now have the ability to share Notes (and folders of Notes) with read-only access. That means you can pass them over to friends or colleagues without worrying about them making unwanted edits. With a Note on screen, click the Add people button on the toolbar, then make sure you select Only people you invite can view from the Permission drop-down menu.
'Find My' Mac Location Smarts
There's a new app on iOS 13, iPadOS and macOS Catalina, called simply Find My. It's the place to find out where your devices have gone, and (a little confusingly) where your friends and family are, too.
The new service lets you find a Mac after you've lost it or had it stolen, by tracking down its location on a map. Even if the missing computer isn't connected to the web, Apple anonymously and invisibly enlists an army of iPhones, MacBooks, and other Apple gear owned by other people to to try to detect your Mac's low-energy Bluetooth signal. If another Apple product passes by, you'll be able to know where in the world it went.
Secure Activation Lock
Secure activation lock comes to all Macs with Apple's T2 chip installed, which is those sold in the last year or two. Previously available on iPhones and iPads, it means only you can get into your Mac, and lets you effectively brick it remotely. That makes it less appealing to would-be thieves, who would have to break it down and sell the parts rather than reuse it.
Apple ID Access
This tweak isn't likely to grab many headlines, but you can now get at various parts of your Apple ID account from System Preferences inside macOS, rather than having to go through a web browser each time. Open up the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, and you'll see the Apple ID link at the top.
The new screens let you see devices connected to your Apple account—always useful from a security standpoint—review your email address, phone number, and other personal information, and edit your payment details.
Secure Home Video
As an extension of macOS Catalina, Apple's HomeKit smart home standard introduces tighter guidelines for any home security cameras looking to join the platform. Any kind of detection process—to tell the difference between a car and a human being, for example—must happen locally, while any video stored in iCloud for archival purposes must now be fully encrypted under the new standards.