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TMO Quick Tip - Leopard: Lock Down Your Root User

by , 7:30 AM EDT, June 13th, 2008

I've mentioned before why it's important to protect your Mac's Root user and explained how Mac OS X 10.4 users can assign a password to their Root user. The steps are different in Mac OS X 10.5, but they aren't any more difficult.

Just like in Tiger, Leopard's Root user is disabled by default, but does not have a password. Assigning a password to your Root user adds an extra layer of protection, which is a great idea because anyone that gains Root-level control over your Mac can do anything they want -- including deleting files, adding and removing applications, and changing settings without your knowledge.

Use Directory Utility to set your Root user password.

Here's how to add a password to your Root user account in Leopard:

  • Launch Directory Utility. It's hiding in Applications/Utilities.
  • CLick the padlock in the lower left of the application's window, and enter your administrator user name and password to authenticate.

  • Enable the Root user so you can assign a password.
  • Select Edit > Enable Root User.
  • Enter a password for your root user, and make sure it isn't a password that you are already using for another account on your Mac.
  • Click OK.
  • Now select Edit > Disable Root User.
  • Click the padlock to prevent any other changes.

Enter a password for your Root user.

Password protecting and disabling your Mac's Root user won't protect you from every possible attack, but it is one piece in the bigger security puzzle.

Jeff Gamet is TMO's Morning Editor and Reviews Editor. He lectures, teaches and speaks on Mac OS X and design-related topics, and is the author of The Designer's Guide to Mac OS X from Peachpit Press.

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