Apple Updates Platform Security Guide, Says Kernel Extensions Won't Be Supported on Future Apple Silicon Macs

Apple today shared an updated version of its Platform Security Guide [PDF], providing a comprehensive overview of the latest security advancements across iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS Big Sur, tvOS 14, watchOS 7, and more.

apple devices mac iphone ipad watch collage
For example, the guide provides security details about Safari's optional Password Monitoring feature on iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, which automatically keeps an eye out for any saved passwords that may have been involved in a data breach. Apple also outlines the security of its new digital car keys feature on the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Apple updated its "commitment to security" preamble, touting the security advantages of Apple-designed chips across the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac:

Apple continues to push the boundaries of what's possible in security and privacy. This year Apple devices with Apple SoC's across the product lineup from Apple Watch to iPhone and iPad, and now Mac, utilize custom silicon to power not only efficient computation, but also security. Apple silicon forms the foundation for secure boot, Touch ID and Face ID, and Data Protection, as well as system integrity features never before featured on the Mac including Kernel Integrity Protection, Pointer Authentication Codes, and Fast Permission Restrictions. These integrity features help prevent common attack techniques that target memory, manipulate instructions, and use javascript on the web. They combine to help make sure that even if attacker code somehow executes, the damage it can do is dramatically reduced.

New sections have been added for Macs with Apple silicon, outlining the security of the boot process, boot modes, startup disk, Rosetta 2 translation process for running Intel-based Mac apps, FileVault, Activation Lock, and more.

As expected, the guide confirms that kernel extensions will not be supported on future Macs with Apple silicon (emphasis ours):

In addition to enabling users to run older versions of macOS, Reduced Security is required for other actions that can put a user's system security at risk, such as introducing third-party kernel extensions (kexts). Kexts have the same privileges as the kernel, and thus any vulnerabilities in third-party kexts can lead to full operating system compromise. This is why developers are being strongly encouraged to adopt system extensions before kext support is removed from macOS for future Mac computers with Apple silicon.

macOS Catalina was the last version of macOS to fully support kernel extensions. Apple says kernel extensions are no longer recommended for macOS, noting that they pose a risk to the integrity and reliability of the operating system.

Starting with macOS Catalina, developers have been able to use system extensions that run in user space rather than at the kernel level. System extensions running in user space are granted only the privileges necessary to perform their specified function, which increases the stability and security of macOS, according to Apple.

Apple includes a document revision history section in the Platform Security Guide with a list of all new and updated information.

Apple also has a new Security Certifications and Compliance Center.

Top Rated Comments

chucker23n1 Avatar
1 week ago
"Apple continues to push the boundaries of what's possible in security and privacy."

I mean, sure, yes. But also: "Apple continues to reduce the ceiling of what's possible in macOS."
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
asiga Avatar
1 week ago
At the end, their goal is that MacOS is just iPadOS with Terminal and Xcode.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aednichols Avatar
1 week ago
Herding developers to run app code in userspace instead of the kernel is just a good idea in general.

I've already been avoiding kext-based apps where possible for years.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jameslmoser Avatar
1 week ago
Anyone surprised by this hasn't been paying attention. Apple is transforming Macs into Apple Service Appliances, and allowing you to customize your OS and install stuff from other places than the App store or developer signed Apps doesn't make them any money.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leman Avatar
1 week ago
Anyone surprised by this has not been following macOS development for the last couple of years. Kernel extensions are out, userland drivers are in.


I mean, sure, yes. But also: "Apple continues to reduce the ceiling of what's possible in macOS."
If DriverKit supports enough relevant use cases, I don't see a problem.


Apple is inching MacOS to full Mach, which would be awesome... killing kernel extensions before having third-party GPU support will be interesting. What is old is new again https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MkLinux
There won't be any third party GPU support on Apple Silicon. Why would Apple sabotage the developer and user experience ecosystem they have been painstakingly bulding?


VirtualBox
Made irrelevant by the new virtualization framework. Parallels Preview runs on M1 without any kernel extensions.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jrlcopy Avatar
1 week ago
Umm.... that's like a decent amount of professional apps.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
iphone 12 pro display video

BOE Rumored to Supply iPhone 13 Display Panels After iPhone 12 Failures

Monday February 22, 2021 9:54 am PST by
Display manufacturer BOE will be one of the main suppliers of OLED panels for iPhone 13 models, according to a new report today from Taiwan's Economic Daily News. BOE is said to be working with touch panel manufacturer General Interface Solution (GIS), part of the Hon Hai Group to develop OLED panels. Multiple iPhone 12 rumors suggested that BOE would supply some panels for the devices,...
mac security privacy

Apple Takes Step to Prevent Further Spread of 'Silver Sparrow' Malware on Macs

Monday February 22, 2021 6:13 am PST by
Over the weekend, we reported on the second known piece of malware compiled to run natively on M1 Macs. Given the name "Silver Sparrow," the malicious package is said to leverage the macOS Installer JavaScript API to execute suspicious commands. After observing the malware for over a week, however, security firm Red Canary did not observe any final payload, so the exact threat to users remains a...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
whatsapp privacy banner

WhatsApp Reveals What Happens to Users Who Don't Agree to Upcoming Privacy Policy Changes

Sunday February 21, 2021 1:11 am PST by
WhatsApp has revealed how it will gradually limit the features available to accounts held by users who do not accept the platform's impending privacy policy changes, due to come into effect on May 15. WhatsApp's new banner explaining the privacy policy changes According to an email seen by TechCrunch to one of its merchant partners, WhatsApp said it will "slowly ask" users who have not yet...
new airpods leaked image 52audios

Alleged Leaked Image Claims to Show Third-Generation AirPods and Case

Sunday February 21, 2021 2:49 am PST by
A new image claims to offer our first real world look at Apple's next-generation AirPods. The image, shared by 52audio, showcases both AirPods and the charging case for what the site claims to be the third iteration of the wireless earbuds. 52audio has in the past shared images claiming to showcase different parts of the third-generation AirPods. Most notably, the site in November shared...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...
iPad Pro Mini LED

New iPad Pro and MacBook Models With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Taiwanese company Ennostar will begin production of Mini-LED backlight units for an upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the late first quarter or second quarter of this year, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. Ennostar is a holding company that was jointly established in January 2021 by LED-related manufacturers Epistar and Lextar Electronics. Apple is expected to unveil the new ...
14

iOS 14.5 to Make Zero-Click Attacks 'Significantly Harder'

Monday February 22, 2021 9:05 am PST by
Apple's impending iOS and iPadOS 14.5 update will make zero-click attacks considerably more difficult by extending PAC security provisions, according to Motherboard. Apple has made a change to the way in which it secures its code in the latest betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to make zero-click attacks much harder. The change, spotted by security researchers, has now been confirmed by...