If you are using Safari you should see a gray icon with the letters "https" and a closed lock icon in the address bar. Look there now. It means that you are using a secure protocol called Secure Sockets Layer. This means that you are secure.
However you are the master of the universe when it comes to security. If you click on a link in an email that asks for your username and password for your bank account, you are asking for trouble.
Yes. The Safari browser is a modern browser capable of connecting to secure web sites like onlline retailers. If the online store you want to buy from is legitimate you will see a little padlock icon indicating you have connected using https, an encrypted connection.
Your Mac does not come with general security software pre-installed like Windows machines because there is little in the way of viruses and malware out there for the Mac. The Mac OS X operating system has some basic malware detection built right in these days. If you would feel safer with security software installed there are also a number of commercial packages available.
Apple includes a number of security options, some of which are enabled by default and others that are optional. These include the following:
- Filevault disk encryption -- this will encrypt the entire contents of your disk.
- Application firewall -- This will block unwanted incoming transmissions from the Internet.
- XProtect -- This is a rudimentary malware scanner that will detect known threats to Mac users.
- Gatekeeper -- This is an execution prevention routine that will only allow signed programs or those from the Mac App Store to run without warnings, which can help prevent you inadvertently running a malicious program.
These options can be managed in the Security & Privacy system preferences in OS X, where you can enable them or adjust their settings.
For more information about security, with regard to malware, see my Mac Malware Guide.
If you are not referring to malware, there are many other aspects of security. Overall, a Mac right out of the box is pretty darn secure, as long as the user doesn't screw it up. What other things did you have in mind as a concern?
Topher Kessler wrote:
Apple includes a number of security options, some of which are enabled by default and others that are optional.
Another feature is File Quarantine -- For applications that support it, files you download from the Internet are checked for safety when you open them.