If you’re using Mac OS X, you don’t even need specialised third-party security software to keep your precious data out of nefarious hands. Coupled with a strong user account password, the FileVault option in the System Preferences automatically encrypts your entire disk.
Mac OS X does a great job of keeping my data protected most of the time. Ironically, the most sensitive time for my data is when I’m actively using the computer.
I’m not talking about trojans or other such digital intruders. No, the pest I’m talking about goes by the name of shoulder surfing. The strength of my security doesn’t matter if everyone looking over my shoulder can see my most sensitive data. This is one of the main reasons why I keep my precious files hidden from sight at all times, by using tools like MacHider. It’s security through obscurity.
MacHider was created by MacPaw, the same software developers that brought us CleanMyMac, CleanMyDrive and CleanMyPC. Just like the other software produced by MacPaw, MacHider is an incredibly beautiful and easy to use piece of software. Its purpose is as simple as the application is beautiful: it’s designed to quickly and easily hide lots of files on your computer.
It’s called security through obscurity. Encryption, like the FileVault feature built into Mac OS X does one part of securing your computer. Hiding the files helps because it keeps from alerting surrounding minds (whether they be nefarious or simply curious) to the existence of those files in the first place. Security aside, hiding your files also keeps innocent snoopers at bay. This way, teenagers can hide their games from their parents, or spouses their secret diaries from their better halves.
Regardless the reason for keeping those files out of sight, MacHider is a great tool to help you out.
To start using MacHider, simply drag and drop files onto the main panel, which adds them to the overarching collection of All Files. Each and every one of these files can be selected and hidden individually, by toggling the big Hide switch in the top right corner of the application. You can also select the All Files group and hide all of your files in one big swoop.
More fine-control over your hiding activities comes in the form of custom groups. Some of these groups, like Secret Pictures and Private Files, will have been added to the sidebar during program initialisation to illustrate the concept. However, you can edit these, and add as many additional custom groups to the list as you’d like. Each custom group is adorned with a name and—more importantly—a group icon that’s easy on the eyes.
Creating custom groups goes a long way in organising your secret files and toggling the visibility status of large batches of files as well.
You’ll notice there’s already an AutoHide Group when you first run MacHider. However, you can toggle AutoHide on or off for every individual custom group. It’s such a useful feature that it deserves to be highlighted separately, even though the idea behind AutoHide groups is decidedly simple.
Whenever you run MacHider, all the groups with the AutoHide option enabled will automatically reveal all contained files. These files are immediately hidden when MacHider is closed once more. This is especially useful if there are groups of hidden files you like to access frequently. Just open MacHider while you need access and close the application when you’re done.
MacHider actively advertises the fact that the application does not modify any of the files it hides or unhides. This is a good thing, particularly if you’re worried about file corruption. It does however bring into question just how secure the application really is. As it turns out, not very secure at all. When you hide a file, MacHider creates a hidden folder to which it moves the file with a reversed file name (probably so it doesn’t show up in Spotlight).
The password feature in MacHider keeps others from easily accessing your files, but a tech-savvy user will always be able to get access to those files, even if you’ve set a password in MacHider.
Now, it’s very important to be aware of the above. For me it does not diminish the worth of MacHider. We talked about security through obscurity, which is only one tool in the security toolset. If you want to create an impenetrable digital fort, you’ll have to combine many such tools and even though MacHider won’t keep your files ‘secure’ on its own, even superficially hiding the files can be very useful if you rely on other tools for encrypting your files.
MacHider works as advertised, and it does so very well. The application is beautifully designed and incredibly easy to use. With the addition of custom groups and the AutoHide feature, MacHider is a top notch tool for keeping certain sensitive files out of sight. However, MacHider is not a complete security tool: it hides your files, but it only hides your files.
Download: MacHider ($9.99)
What applications are part of your Mac OS X security toolbox? Let us know about your favorites in the comments section below the article!