On July 10th, Apple released a “Rapid Security Response” to fix a code execution flaw in the Webkit browser component found in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Ventura. Although this, update was pulled back the subsequent remediation, was released in quick succession on July 12th. In fact, Apple has long held a reputation as a leader in user privacy and security. Their commitment to protecting user data and maintaining robust defense mechanisms against cyber threats has made the tech giant synonymous with trust and reliability in an era of rapid digitization. After the release of their new VR wearable “Vision Pro”, Apple has also promised they won’t share eye focus movement due to security risks, marking another instance where Apple seems dedicated to their user’s security.
Admittedly, Apple’s products often carry a premium price tag, reflecting the advanced security and privacy features they offer. Yet, in the increasingly hostile cybersecurity landscape, this premium could be viewed less as a luxury and more as a strategic security investment. Moreover, as corporations continue to shift away from native applications and into the cloud, Apple’s platforms now face fewer software compatibility and availability issues that require software to be explicitly ported to macOS.
Apple’s commitment to privacy and security potentially also represents a promising Return on Security Investment (ROSI) as mitigating cyber risk is a substantial financial payoff considering the high cost of a data breach. There has been much debate in the past about why Macs aren’t more visible in the office landscape . Despite the initial outlay, Apple’s security-oriented architecture makes them an increasingly attractive choice for wider deployment in corporate settings due to the significant value they offer in terms of security and privacy.
Let’s take a look at Apple’s security and privacy features as we ask the question; Does anyone care as much about their user’s security and privacy as Apple?
[ How Is ROSI Calculated?
Return on Security Investment (ROSI) is a metric used to evaluate the effectiveness of cybersecurity investments in an organization. It helps businesses assess the value they derive from their security spending and enables them to make informed decisions on allocating resources to different security initiatives. When products support improved security posture out of the box, they represent a better ROSI and are more attractive for companies to use in their operations due to the potential cost savings associated with a data breach.
The formula for calculating Return on Security Investment involves comparing the cost of security investments with the potential cost savings or avoided losses resulting from these investments. The ROSI value is typically expressed as a percentage or a ratio. A positive ROSI indicates that the benefits gained from the security investment exceed the associated costs, indicating a positive return on investment.
Here’s the formula for calculating ROSI:
ROSI = (Total Cost Savings – Total Cost of Investment) / Total Cost of Investment
- Total Cost Savings: This represents the monetary value of the benefits gained from the security investment. It includes tangible cost reductions, such as preventing financial losses from security breaches, reducing recovery costs, and saving operational expenses due to improved efficiency.
- Total Cost of Investment: This includes all costs associated with implementing and maintaining the security measures. It comprises hardware and software expenses, training costs, personnel salaries, third-party services, and any other related expenditures.
[ Apple’s Newest Security And Privacy Features
[ Lockdown Mode
Reducing attack surface is well expressed using the old IT security adage, “The only surefire way to secure a PC is to unplug it”. It’s wise to disable risky functions that users don’t need. Lockdown is an optional feature first included in iPhones with iOS 16 but has since been added for iPads and macOS running Ventura. The feature is designed to protect high-risk individuals such as celebrities and political figures from targeted attacks by disabling many of the host device’s services such as message file attachments, embedded links, link preview images, web technologies and fonts, Facetime video chats and conferencing, Apple smart home services, photo album sharing, and device connections.
[ Advanced Data Protection for iCloud
Starting with iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and macOS 13.1, iCloud supports a new configuration known as Advanced Data Protection which will extend the number of services that use end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and also remove Apple from the privacy equation altogether. With Advanced Data Protection Enabled, Apple will no longer be able to decrypt a user’s iCloud data, instead transferring the responsibility solely to the end-user to store their decryption keys. Users can also turn off Advanced Data Protection at any time, reverting to standard data protection for iCloud
Here is a list of the new data security features:
- Extending End-to-End Encryption of iCloud Data: Advanced Data Protection extends end-to-end encryption to 9 out of the 12 remaining types of iCloud data that did not have this level of protection before. These include iCloud Backup, iCloud Drive, Photos, Notes, Reminders, Safari Bookmarks, Siri Shortcuts, Voice Memos, and Wallet passes. With Advanced Data Protection, the number of data categories protected by E2EE rises to 23.
- Increased Security: By enabling Advanced Data Protection, users gain increased security for their sensitive data, as it prevents unauthorized access even for Apple, which means Apple won’t be able to access or decrypt the data even when legally compelled by law enforcement agencies.
- Account Recovery Methods: When enabling Advanced Data Protection, users must set up alternate recovery methods, preferably two. These include a printed recovery key that should be stored securely and an account recovery contact, a trusted person who can help verify identity and regain account access.
- Limitations and Trade-offs: Not all iCloud data types can be protected with Advanced Data Protection. Certain data, such as iCloud Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Pages, Numbers, Keynote collaboration, Shared Albums in Photos, and shared notes and reminders, remain under standard iCloud protection.
- iCloud.com Web Access: Enabling Advanced Data Protection disables Web access to data at iCloud.com. Re-enabling access requires authorization from a trusted device, and the connection only lasts for an hour, making it less convenient for heavy users of iCloud.com.
[ iMessage Contact Key Verification
This feature, expected to roll out later in 2023, automatically alerts users that advanced adversaries are able to breach the communications of people in your contact list.
[ Passkey Support
Signing in to one Apple device should sync your passkeys’ access to other Apple devices via iCloud, and the same goes for Android via a Google account, but not Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS. Syncing, by the way, is your escape hatch if you lose your phone. Everything is still backed up to your Google or Apple account.
[ Other Notable Apple Security Features
Here is a list of other standard Apple security features that are worth mentioning:
- App Sandboxing: macOS employs a sandboxing mechanism that isolates applications from each other and the underlying system. Sandboxing restricts an application’s access to sensitive resources and limits its capabilities to only what is necessary for its intended functionality. This containment helps prevent malware from spreading across the system or accessing sensitive user data.
- Granular Service Sharing: macOS provides users with granular privacy controls, allowing them to specify which applications have access to sensitive resources such as the camera, microphone, location data, and contacts. This feature also prevents unauthorized access to personal information by requiring explicit permission for apps to access folders such as Desktop, Documents, and Downloads, mitigating the risk of malware abusing these resources.
- Touch ID and Face ID: Apple’s biometric authentication technologies, Touch ID (fingerprint recognition) and Face ID (facial recognition), add an extra layer of security by allowing users to unlock their devices or authenticate certain actions using their unique biometric data.
- Time Machine Backups: While Windows’ built-in tools do provide some basic backup functionality, they aren’t as comprehensive or user-friendly as macOS’s Time Machine. Many Windows users are forced to use third-party backup solutions while rotating Apple Time Machine allows very convenient full system and file version history backups in one easy tool.
- Find My: Apple’s Find My app helps users locate their lost or stolen devices. It allows users to remotely lock their devices, display a custom message on the lock screen, and even erase all data on the device to protect sensitive information.
- Gatekeeper: helps protect users from downloading and installing malicious software by verifying the digital signatures of applications and ensuring they come from trusted developers, reducing the risk of malware infections. The gatekeeper displays a warning message when executing untrusted files, but users can override this warning and proceed if they explicitly trust the application’s source.
- System Integrity Protection (SIP): System Integrity Protection, also known as “rootless mode,” is a security feature introduced in macOS El Capitan and later versions that restricts the modification of system files and directories, even by users with administrative privileges. This protection prevents malware from tampering with critical system components, enhancing the overall security of the operating system.
- XProtect: XProtect is a built-in antivirus feature in macOS first introduced in 2009 that scans downloaded files and detects known malware threats and is still active in the most recent versions of macOS. It periodically updates its malware definitions to stay updated with the latest threats to provide an additional layer of defense against common types of malware, safeguarding the system and user data.
Apple’s reputation for trustworthiness and data protection was reinforced by its rapid response to a Webkit browser component flaw, underlining its dedication to user safety. While Apple’s products often come with a premium price tag, the escalating cybersecurity landscape suggests that this cost can be viewed as an essential security investment rather than a luxury. Additionally, as businesses transition to cloud-based operations, Apple’s platforms experience fewer software compatibility issues.
Apple’s strong focus on privacy and security presents an attractive Return on Security Investment (ROSI) because Apple’s security-oriented architecture offers substantial financial benefits, particularly in light of the steep costs associated with data breaches.