Apple Backtracks on Planned Changes to VPN On Demand Behavior on iOS Devices

Earlier this month, we reported that Apple had announced upcoming changes to the behavior of VPN On Demand for devices running iOS 6.1 or later. The changes, which were planned to be deployed in a software update later this month, were necessitated by a $368 million judgment against Apple in a patent lawsuit brought by VirnetX.

Virtual private networking (VPN), which is most commonly used by corporate users to access company networks, allows a user to securely connect to a private network via public networks as if his or her device were directly on the private network.

vpn_settings_on_ios
Apple's changes to the feature were to see the removal of the "Always" configuration option for VPN On Demand, with the behavior defaulting back to an "Establish if needed" option. That option does not, however, perform ideally under certain circumstances, leading Apple to suggest that users may need to resort to turning VPN On Demand on and off manually, a potentially significant inconvenience.

The patent judgment covered previous infringement by Apple but did not address future use of VirnetX's intellectual property, and it seems that Apple had decided to simply remove the "Always" feature from iOS rather than agree to an additional licensing deal with VirnetX.

But it now appears that the two sides may have reached an agreement, as Apple on Wednesday updated its support document on the issue to note that it no longer plans to make the previously announced change.

Apple no longer plans to change the behavior of the VPN On Demand feature of iOS 6.1 for devices that have already been shipped. The "Always" option will continue to work as it currently does on these devices.

It is, however, currently unclear why Apple specifically mentions that it will not be changing the VPN ON Demand feature on "devices that have already been shipped", leaving open the possibility that it may make changes to devices that have yet to ship.

Apple's proposed changes had brought significant scrutiny from the enterprise-focused security community, with security firm Mobile Active Defense having released a detailed whitepaper (PDF) highlighting numerous issues with Apple's proposed changes.

(Thanks, Jorge!)

Update: Computerworld notes that in its 10-Q regulatory filing earlier this week, Apple reported that it is continuing to challenge the $368 million judgment in VirnetX's favor. The move suggests that Apple may simply be delaying making any changes to VPN On Demand until the case has run its course rather than the two companies having reached a licensing agreement.

Top Rated Comments

AdeFowler Avatar
144 months ago
No-one is interested.. few minutes, and not a single comment.

I’ll hazard a guess that the only people interested in this, are currently making money, not browsing MacRumors ;)
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
markfc Avatar
144 months ago
Somebody somewhere just got a load of cash...
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unlinked Avatar
144 months ago
"Apple says they don't infringe. But Apple developers testified that they didn't pay any attention to anyone's patents when developing their system."

Comment from the lawyer representing VirnetX. To me, that just seems to be acknowledging Apple didn't copy VirnetX, they just unwittingly ran into a 'roadblock' patent. While that makes no difference to the lawsuit, it does highlight that patents are just being given out too easily - including to Apple.

I think developers are instructed not to look at patents because if you know about them then any infringement can be found to be willful and the judgement against you will be larger.

Anytime I have looked at a patent is has left me more confused than informed so I'm pretty sure the whole system is failing at at least half its purpose.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
shiftless Avatar
144 months ago
How do you setup the "Always" on cause I've always had to manually turn my VPN Manually ON... dont have to manually turn off it turns off all by itself... as soon as screen goes to sleep it disconnects which drives me crazy...

This...

Where is the "Always" setting?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
whooleytoo Avatar
144 months ago
"Apple says they don't infringe. But Apple developers testified that they didn't pay any attention to anyone's patents when developing their system."

Comment from the lawyer representing VirnetX. To me, that just seems to be acknowledging Apple didn't copy VirnetX, they just unwittingly ran into a 'roadblock' patent. While that makes no difference to the lawsuit, it does highlight that patents are just being given out too easily - including to Apple.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Trik Avatar
144 months ago
I wonder if this was a bluff on Apple's part to get them to drop the licensing fees. As in,
:apple: "Fine we'll take it off entirely, and you won't get a dime from now on"
VirnetX: "No way you'll do that"
:apple:**insert 6.1 release notes**
VirnetX: "Ok ok, we'll drop the price."

**Tim Cook sips his Mai Tai**
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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