Monday, January 22, 2018

New macOS Too Secure?

The new security called 'System ‘Integrity Protection' (SIP)
behind macOS High Sierra is proving so secure that it appears to be stopping users from being able to delete (third-party) apps with ease.

What’s The Issue?

The process behind the SIP was first introduced to users during the ‘El Capitan’ version of macOS (10.11) in late 2015, and has a unique advantage in relation to macOS’s overall security infrastructure.

However, the SIP framework follows Apple Software Update processes that are so strict that it is impossible with the new macOS environment for runtime attachments or code injection infiltration to occur within an Apple Software Update setting.
All this means that not only will users find it less easy to delete certain third-party software / apps, but also that the past bugs may be made exempt by the ‘rootless’ SIP framework, and could, therefore, become a future risk.

Why?

Apple is essentially undertaking a simple bunkerisation / sandboxing of app behaviour within the macOS environment from a binary level in order to prevent third-party developers who have not sold their wares through the macOS App Store from being deleted with ease. Therefore, the only software affected by this security change is software developed outside of Apple.

Sealed


The ‘sealed’ nature of the software environment in iOS means that ‘permissionless’ app distribution on an iPad or iPhone can’t really happen and actually goes against the terms and conditions of use. The only way around it would be to ‘jailbreak’ the device, which would also wave the owner’s right to a legal warranty. However, the macOS App Store allows for permissionless app distribution in the context of online software distribution.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Security is a priority to businesses today, particularly with the proliferation of potentially devastating malware and phishing scams. With Android phones, for example, there have been some problems and scares recently with 36 fake, malicious apps turning up in Google Play, and with a fake version of WhatsApp being downloaded from Google Play by more than one million unsuspecting people. Apple systems have always been seen as a more secure option, a benefit that is very much valued by Apple users. Any move to protect the Apple environment is, therefore, something is likely to be valued and understood by many users, and any talk of potential ‘security’ problems causes alarm among the Apple community.

The problem, in this case, isn’t really that there is any kind of immediate security flaw as such, but that there is a more of a new user annoyance in relation to personal choice, as the High Sierra system allows third-party app installation but not its own singular removal. One possible potential security risk is that a user could be tricked into installing a virus or phishing app which is then protected by the sealed SIP framework.

It is, however, possible to restart the system in ‘recovery mode’ and delete any offending app because ‘recovery mode’ suspends any SIP framework protection during the ‘recovery’ boot-up mode sequence.

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