Mac OS X Keychain Access application hints and tips

Keychain Access is a Mac OS X application (password and certificate manager) that allows you to access the Apple Keychain and configure passwords for websites/applications, network shares, wireless networks, certificates and manage root certificates, keys and secure notes to name but a few features.

More importantly you can use Keychain Access to store application passwords, chip & pins/sort codes and ATM pin codes. You can choose to store this sensitive personal and/or business data in Secure Notes. As for encryption (rightly very important considering the subject), passwords are encrypted with the Triple DES standard.

Here is a simple way to find Keychain Access – From Spotlight type > ‘Keychain’ and click on the > application. Note: Applicable versions: Mac OS X Snow Leopard & Lion 10.7.2/3

If you reset a lost OS X Lion password using an Apple ID with FileVault 2 protection enabled a new Keychain will be created, but the old Keychain will remain. This method only works if you have an Apple ID tied to your OS X user account.

In the event you use Keychain Access to store sensitive information, you should set Keychain to lock automatically after a specified time of no-activity. Click > ‘Edit’ and then choose > ‘Change Settings for Keychain Login…”. You can then choose to lock Keychain after a specified time or when your Mac is sleeping. I suggest you also turn on the menu bar Keychain icon. To do this click ‘Preferences‘ from the Keychain Access menu and check ‘show keychain status in menu bar‘. You can now quickly see if Keychain Access is unlocked.

If you experience problems with logins and passwords then you can use the Keychain First Aid* utility. Click on > ‘Keychain Access’ and the choose the > ‘Keychain First Aid’ option and choose either ‘Verify’ or ‘Repair’ and click ‘Start’. This will repair your keys and permissions.

*I really like this Keychain open source utility called GPG Keychain Access. It’s a very useful Keychain utility.

Upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion will cause you to lose network connectivity. Here is how you can fix that issue:
1.        Remove all networks from networks list
2.        Open Keychain and remove all Airport passwords from System
3.        Reboot

Note to script buddies: Keychain Scripting and URL Access Scripting apps are no longer available in OS X Lion – I here you sigh 🙁

Keychain Access is a very powerful utility, however most of it’s features will never be accessed other than by Mac techies. The fact Keychain Access is protecting your everyday activities and providing added assurance (as well as this post), should be all you need to understand.

Safe surfing folks!

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