Apple might soon deliver standalone iOS security updates

Posted:
in iOS edited March 2021
Code discovered in the latest iOS 14.5 beta suggests Apple is planning a major policy shift that would allow users to download security patches separately from operating system updates.




Discovered by 9to5Mac on Monday, the new affordance could allow users running older operating systems to keep device security up to date without upgrading to the latest iOS version. For example, an owner of an older iPhone running iOS 13 could potentially download security updates typically packaged with newer iOS 14 point releases.

Some iPhone and iPad owners are reticent to upgrade older devices to Apple's latest and greatest operating systems, fearing the new software could result in poor system performance or excessive battery drain. Alternatively, some users simply prefer the feature sets of older operating systems. That can be detrimental to the safety of Apple's ecosystem, as the company packages security revisions with new OS versions.

Splitting security updates into standalone downloads, similar to the method applied on macOS, could greatly reduce the impact of new threat vectors for both new and old hardware. That might be a possibility in the near future, according to the code uncovered today.

It remains unclear if or when Apple intends to roll out the feature. The report notes code in the iOS 14.5 beta points to an option to delete older updates downloaded automatically, hinting that updates can be triggered manually.

Apple is expected to release iOS 14.5 in the coming weeks with App Tracking Transparency, Face ID unlock assistance with Apple Watch, game controller support, new emoji and more.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    That's great because sometimes I have people who won't update thinking it will slow their system down, which usually isn't the case.
    Alex1NdewmeOferOnPartyBusinesswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 8
    Alex1NAlex1N Posts: 52member
    That sounds like an EXCELLENT idea to me!
    CloudTalkindewmeOferOnPartyBusinesswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 8
    That's great because sometimes I have people who won't update thinking it will slow their system down, which usually isn't the case.
    Sorry but I agree with them and disagree with you.  I’ve had multiple fast iPhones 2+ years old immediately lag and stutter after upgrading to a major new OS.  And no they did not get faster later after all the indexing and behind the scenes stuff was finished.
    muthuk_vanalingamravnorodomOferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 8
    ppietrappietra Posts: 283member
    I don’t think that Apple’s implementation would make it possible to install a security update for let us say iOS 15 into iOS 14. Those versions would be too different to use the same security patches, it could break things in older versions. For older versions Apple just has to create its own security updates, just like with iOS12.
    Quite probably what Apple is implementing is to make it possible to do what we already can do in macOS, install all security updates inside the same version of the system, without having to install some new functionality... That would mean that people could keep version 15.0 always secure for 1 year with no need to update to iOS 15.1 (or .2... .5 ...)
    Oferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 8
    ionicleionicle Posts: 83member
    Both good and bad, this will surely increase fragmentation of os’s..... making a developers job harder (im not a dev btw), and cause more and more people to be left behind because ‘choice’
    but good that those who are left behind due to vintage or obsolete will theoretically be more secure....
    hmmm, mixed opinions
    Oferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 8
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 906member
    I wouldn’t characterize this as a policy change. The option to download updates to the OS  separate to security updates means the Apple, many OSes ago, modularized the OS to separate out the security subsystem. 

    So, I wouldn’t be surprised if this feature won’t be available for any OS before some version xx.y. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 8
    About damn time.  If this is the case, it's great news imo.  Smaller packages, quicker delivery, more frequent updates that don't require a complete OS update, and less customer reluctance.  Win for everybody.
    edited March 2021 dewmeOferOnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 8 of 8
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,172member
    About damn time.  If this is the case, it's great news imo.  Smaller packages, quicker delivery, more frequent updates that don't require a complete OS update, and less customer reluctance.  Win for everybody.
    Totally agree. I’m currently fortunate enough to have halfway decent download speeds, but when I was stuck on DSL all those multi gigabyte OS updates were a major time suck, especially when each device image was different (i.e., different iOS devices all running same iOS version) and the macOS Content Caching feature proved to be worthless. Hopefully the security updates will be similar enough across devices running the same version of iOS to make Content Caching useful, which would be an added bonus.

    In fact, if Apple simply tried to package all iOS updates, security related or not,  in a way that made Content Caching work more effectively they’d be giving their iOS customers who also own Macs a nice little bonus. Once you’ve seen the Content Caching work you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
    OferCloudTalkinOnPartyBusiness
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