With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference around the corner (June 8 to 12 to be exact), rumors about new features and changes to the company’s OS X and iOS operating systems are working their way to the press.
The introduction of OS X 10.11 will more than likely happen, as will be threads in comments by users who seem confused that point releases don’t work the same as decimals, as will iOS 9. The rumors point to OS X looking more like iOS with the speculated addition of a Control Center for the desktop OS and both OSes getting a font makeover with the adoption of San Francisco, which was developed for the Apple Watch.
iCloud drive is also supposed to be beefed up because Apple will be transitioning many syncing services from IMAP to its own cloud. The pluses will be increased security by stronger end-to-end encryption. Wi-Fi connections to unknown routers will also be hardened, unless the user specifies it’s on a “trusted network”. The new OS versions are expected to work on iDevices with A5 processors; no word as to the processors/desktops/laptops OS X 10.11 will work with.
Power users will have particular interest in “rootless security”. Root directory access gives OS X and iOS users the ability to install software and make changes at the system level. If you know what you’re doing, this can be convenient. But if you’re a regular user, it’s probably something you’re not aware of.
However, root access is something malware seeks. It can monitor what you’re doing, hijack your computer and does all kinds of things that are not a good thing if it has access to the root directory. Rootless security will be a boon for most users.
iPhone, iPads and all of Apple’s mobile devices all run iOS or variants of iOS, which doesn’t grant root access to anyone. However, some users “jailbreak” their phones — that is, they use exploits Apple hasn’t patched to get root access. It allows for functionality that hasn’t been blessed by Cupertino, but it also opens devices to malware and exploits. In fact, the only reported malware and exploits that have taken hold on the iPhone were because the device was jailbroken.
Apple’s had no love for jailbreaking and has not made it a secret. Take a jailbroken iPhone into an Apple Store and they’ll refuse to see it at the Genius Bar. But to be fair, iOS has steadily included features that users have had to jailbreak for.
Eliminating the root will be huge from a security point of view. Apple’s also been steadily plugging the holes in iOS that developers have used to jailbreak iOS. By eliminating the root entirely, the company may also put a stake through the jailbreaking community’s heart.