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Kernel IOS: Apple Did What?

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Kevin Marshall
Kevin Marshall
August 10, 2016

In what was a shocking event for many, when Apple released a preview for kernel IOS 10, they also left kernel, the core of the operating system, unencrypted. Apple has notoriously been secretive when it comes to their operating systems, so it was a shock when the information was released. When it comes to security, if we hear that something is unencrypted, we may think that it means it is not secure. However, that does not necessarily have to be the case for the kernel.

The kernel does not contain any user information. Instead, the kernel plays a vital role in the operating system of Apple products. However, this still does not mean that Apple products are now no longer as secure as they were before. Instead, leaving kernel unencrypted means that developers and researchers can now look through kernel’s code for the very first time. The upside of this is mainly that Apple’s code will now be able to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes. With new developers and researchers looking at the software code, they may be able to find any security flaws more quickly. Once these flaws are revealed, they can theoretically be patched up that more quickly, making the iOS 10 perhaps the safest operating system for users than ever before.

Jonathan Zdziarski, the iOS security expert at Apple, told MIT Technology Review that “Opening up the OS might help other researchers to find and report bugs, by giving everyone just as much visibility as an advanced and well-funded research team might have.” Apple is excited about what new possibilities this may bring in the future. It is unclear as to whether or not Apple will continue leaving updated operating systems unencrypted or not, but depending on how well this works for iOS 10, it may be likely.

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