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Secure Your Mac - Lock Keychain When You Leave Your Desk

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 2/5/2009

The Mac’s OS X’s Keychain feature is awesome but there’s one problem: if you leave you desk and don’t log off your Mac, anyone and everyone who wanders up to it has free reign to your passwords. To avoid this, lock the Keychain manually when you step away from your desk or automatically after a specific period of inactivity.

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    Secure Your Mac with Keychain

    When you log in to a Mac OS X you type in a password to identify yourself. You also have to enter a user name and password to visit certain Web sites. Before long, you have a list of passwords as long as your arm! You could save these passwords on a notebook or a document on your computer, but then it's easily accessible by anyone wanting to hack into your computer.

    Apple knows this is a problem and created Keychain, a program that remembers your passwords for you. It’s a no-brainer; you log into your Mac with a single password and it verifies you are who you say you are and offers up your other passwords automatically. Now you only have to remember one main password instead of bothering with passwords for programs and websites galore.

    The problem with Keychain though is this: If you leave you desk and don’t log off your Mac, anyone who has physical access to it also has free reign to your passwords. To avoid this, you can lock the Keychain manually when you step away from your desk or automatically after a specific period of inactivity. Here’s how to do both:

    1.      Open Applications> Utilities> Keychain Access.

    2.      To lock your Keychain manually, click Lock at the top of the window.

    3.      To lock your Keychain automatically, from the Menu bar, choose Edit>Change Settings For Keychain “Login.”

    4.      Check Lock After ___ Minutes Of Inactivity and/or Lock When Sleeping. Configure the number of minutes of inactivity. Click Save.

    5.      Close all windows.

    Tip: Because the Keychain Access utility is so secure, consider adding other personal information here. Choose File>New Secure Note Item from the Menu bar and configure as warranted.

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