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.
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.
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.