Researcher reveals Mac privacy bug, blasts Apple for ‘security theater

published 30.06.2020 16:08

by Jeremy Horwitz from
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Developer Jeff Johnson promptly told Apple about a zero-day exploit that gives malicious actors access to a Safari browser user’s private files — an issue affecting even the beta version of macOS Big Sur.

As Johnson explains, this exploit is possible because Apple’s Transparency, Consent, and Control (TCC) privacy protection system allows exceptions that only look at the app’s identifier, not where the file is being run from, and “only superficially checks the code signature of the app.”

Apart from the exploit, Johnson notes that Apple’s intermittent responses haven’t instilled confidence in either the speed or likelihood of timely payouts from the Security Bounty Program.

Johnson’s story of delayed responses and problematic payouts certainly isn’t unique, but it arrives with the warning to users that “macOS privacy protections are mainly security theater,” harming legitimate Mac developers while permitting malicious actors to weasel through cracks.

“You have the right to know that the systems you rely on for protection are not actually protecting you,” Johnson says, adding that despite claims to the contrary, “Apple’s debilitating lockdown of the Mac is not justified by alleged privacy and security benefits.”