Apple Has a New Kind of Security UpdateReading Time: 3 minutes
Apple is rolling out a new type of security update for your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Look, I like software updates, and I’m not alone—some of us enjoy seeing what new features developers have cooked up. But even though they’re less exciting, I’m an even bigger fan of security updates…and Apple is introducing a new type of security update for iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It’s called Rapid Security Responses.
What are Apple’s Rapid Security Responses?
Rapid Security Responses are Apple’s latest update to their updates. Rather than deliver any new features or major software changes, Rapid Security Responses patch security vulnerabilities that pop up in between regular updates. If Apple or a third-party discover a security issue with Safari, the WebKit framework stack, or critical system libraries across Apple devices, the company can patch the issue and deliver it to users as soon as possible.
The first patch rolled out Monday, May 1, for iOS 16.4.1, iPadOS 16.4.1, and macOS 13.3.1. After running into an issue which prevented the patch from installing, the first Rapid Security Response is installing fine—although Apple isn’t specific about what’s actually in it.
As security-focused as Apple is, its prior approach to patches wasn’t the best. Other operating systems like Android separated their software updates from their security updates. That way, whenever Google would patch a critical security flaw, they could quickly issue it through their security update channel. Apple, on the other hand, usually waited until there was enough of a reason to update everyone’s iPhones, unless the issue was so dangerous they needed to push an update, which would then change the entire OS version. (That’s why we sometimes see weird versions of Apple’s software, like iOS 16.4.1. That’s a version of iOS 16.4 that needed to include security patches before an iOS 16.5 was ready.) The one caveat was Safari, which, on Mac at least, Apple would issue security updates separately for as needed.
To be clear, Rapid Security Responses aren’t for every Apple device. Rather, they’re available starting with iOS 16.4.1, iPadOS 16.4.1, and macOS 13.3.1. If your iPhone, iPad, or Mac isn’t running the latest software, you won’t have the option to install the latest Rapid Security Response, and you’ll need to wait for the next major update to reap the security benefits. That said, if a security vulnerability actively threatens Apple users, chances are the company will expedite the new update.
You can even uninstall security updates in the event something goes wrong. You won’t want to do this unless the update messes with your device, though, since you’ll risk exposing yourself to the security vulnerabilities that the update patches.
How to install Rapid Security Responses on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac
Apple, by default, grants your iPhone, iPad, or Mac permission to install Rapid Security Responses automatically. That’s obviously a good thing, but it isn’t foolproof: Like traditional automatic updates from Apple, Rapid Security Responses might not update right away, even with this setting enabled. If you want to keep your iPhone, iPad, or Mac fully up to date at all times, you’ll want to check for patches regularly.
It’s easy to do, since Rapid Security Responses appear in your device’s Software Updates page. On iOS and iPadOS, that’s under Settings > General > Software Update, while on Mac, that’s System Settings > Software Update. You can install it like any other software update.
The Rapid Security Response shows up with the same version number as the latest iOS, iPadOS, or macOS update, but with an (a) attached to differentiate itself. For example, this latest update shows up on iPhone as iOS 16.4.1 (a).
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