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(Pocket-lint) - Ask any Mac user and they will proudly tell you that Apple Mac's don't get viruses and therefore they don't need to worry about all that kind of stuff.

What they don't tell you however is there are still apps that can do things that you don't want them to do - like raid your contacts book or peer into the files you have on your computer.

To stop any of this becoming an issue before it even starts to become an issue, Apple is adding a new feature to its next version of its operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, called Gatekeeper.

The new security feature aims to help Apple tighten its grip on apps created for the operating system ,while at the same time giving you control over which applications can be downloaded and installed on your Mac - and in the extreme case, letting users restrict downloads all together.

"One of the biggest threats to personal computer security is malicious software downloaded from the web. Users can be tricked into installing malware when they download and install applications that seem safe, but actually contain harmful software," Apple tells Pocket-lint.

To combat this, the new system will have three options allowing users to take their own approach to securing their Mac without hindering them if they like to live on the "edge".

The first option will be to set Mountain Lion to allow apps to be downloaded only  from the Mac App Store - ideal if you are trying to stop a new user do anything other than download safe apps - while the second is to allow users only to download apps that are either in the Mac App Store or by identified developers. The third is to let you download apps as and when you want, but with same warning notices that Apple serves in Mac OS X Lion.

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Aside from just three security settings, Apple is also instigating a new developers programme that it hopes will create a list of "safe" developers that can be trusted.

While some will see it as a way to eventually control all the apps that make it to the desktop, in the same way the company does on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, Apple seems to have the interests of users at heart.

The new safe list will work by allowing them to sign their work digitally with an ID key shared with Apple to then be used with the new Gatekepper feature. No key (which will cost £100 a year), no access through the gate, it is as simply as that.  

Developers keen to take advantage of the new Gatekeeper "club" can do so by becoming a part of Apple's Developer ID programme and users will be able to change the settings in the Security and Privacy settings panel in system preferences.

The new feature is available in the new version of Apple OS X Mountain Lion.

Apple has told Pocket-lint that the new features and new operating system, Apple OS X Mountain Lion, will be out in the summer. Developers who want to get started with the new features, can do so via the Apple Mac OS X Mountain Lion developer preview out on Thursday 16 February. 

- For more news on the latest from Mac OS X Mountain Lion check out our dedicated Mac OS X homepage.

Writing by Stuart Miles.