Apple MacOS Updates – Why They Are Important
Posted by Timothy Platt on Nov 2, 2017
Update: November 2017 – Apple has just released security updates for the Krack Wi-Fi exploits. These updates are available for High Sierra (10.13.x), Sierra (10.12.x), and El Capitan (10.11.x) versions of macOS, but notably, is not available for Yosemite (10.10.x). We recommend anyone still running Yosemite 10.10.x version upgrade to a newer version as soon as feasible. You can view information about the latest security update via this link: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208221.
Just like Microsoft does for Windows, Apple publishes updates for MacOS (the Apple Mac Operating System). What’s contained in these updates? Why are they important? An update was recently released (10.12.4) – should you upgrade? We’ll discuss all those questions today.
The Components of a MacOS Update – Features and Fixes
MacOS updates can contain two main things – new features and security fixes and patches. The new features part is simple. This is new functionality that helps you do more with your computer or something that makes your day easier. As an example, for MacOS 10.12.4, the main feature was “Night Shift”. As described in Apple’s own words: “…automatically shifts the colors of your display to the warmer end of the color spectrum after dark. This may help you get a better night’s sleep.” Ok, so that sounds helpful, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like a business-critical feature either. There are also a few other very minor features and a few bug fixes for the Preview application. But that’s not all that’s in the update…
It also contains dozens of fixes for recently discovered vulnerabilities. What’s a vulnerability? It’s a bug or defect in the underlying code that allows unintended usage or attacks. Here’s a full list of the fixes for the 10.12.4 release. As you can see from that list, there’s a lot of them. You can also tell by their “CVE” identifier, most of them have been found recently.
As we’ve discussed in our security defense in depth article – keeping your devices patched for the latest discovered security issues is a major mode of defense. And it’s an endless battle – because researchers and attackers find new (and utilize) new vulnerabilities all the time. Not fixing these issues leaves your machine open to exploitation and malware.
Should I Upgrade my Mac?
A few quick points. This update is for the MacOS Sierra 10.12 version, so if you are on 10.12.1, 10.12.2, or 10.12.3 – you certainly should upgrade as soon as reasonable. This is a minor “dot” revision to an OS version that has been available for a few months – it is not expected that there will be a lot of problems or incompatibilities. If the machine is business-critical – we recommend you have Time Machine backups, or at the very least desktop backups of your documents and other data in case the machine is rendered unusable by the upgrade. But that’s a general precaution we give for any upgrade. We rarely see issues with Mac updates. It’s more likely there will be an issue or incompatibility with one of your applications. Having that Time Machine backup will let you downgrade back to the previous version, if you find a show-stopping issue.
Secondly, for MacOS 10.10 Yosemite and 10.11 El Capitan users there is a separate, but similar, update that includes only the relevant security fixes. If you are still on 10.10 and 10.11, we highly recommend you apply that update. The details of those fixes can be found in the link provided previously. Lastly, if you are using 10.10 and 10.11, those certainly will go “end of life” at some point – and they will no longer receive security updates. You should plan to upgrade to 10.12, after you understand the impacts and potential issues for your business-critical applications.
NOTE: Your iPhone and iPad also needs updates regularly, for all the same reasons as listed above. iOS 10.3 released this week fixes a “ransomware” bug in the Safari browser on Apple devices.
Get Help from the Computer Support Experts
We hope this information has been helpful. Your situation and unique requirements will need specific assessment. And remember, we’re here to help. If you’ve got a Apple related challenge, whether onsite or in the cloud, give us a call at (407) 268-6626. We’d love to help.
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