What Ap­ple has fixed

High Sierra got off to a shaky start with some se­ri­ous bugs, but the good news is that Ap­ple has been on the case…

Mac|Life - - FEATURE -

You’ve prob­a­bly read all about the flaws in the ear­li­est ver­sions of High Sierra. Some were a good deal more se­ri­ous than the usual mi­nor bugs that crop up in any op­er­at­ing sys­tem re­lease, but Ap­ple has worked to ad­dress them in suc­ces­sive up­dates. This ap­plies even to is­sues that weren’t its fault, such as the so-called Spec­tre and Melt­down chip vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties — fun­da­men­tal de­sign flaws in pro­ces­sors, in­clud­ing (but not lim­ited to) the In­tel pro­ces­sors used in Macs. Ap­ple in­cluded “mit­i­ga­tions” for these in 10.13.2 and newer.

The ear­li­est re­ported prob­lem was a flaw in key­chain ser­vices, which meant that ma­li­cious code could steal the con­tents of your key­chain, in­clud­ing crit­i­cal pass­words. The sec­ond was a bug that af­fected en­crypted APFS vol­umes, APFS be­ing the Ap­ple File Sys­tem, in­tro­duced in High Sierra and ap­plied au­to­mat­i­cally to your startup disk if it’s an SSD (though that spe­cific vol­ume is only op­tion­ally en­crypted). When such a vol­ume was mounted and you were prompted for its pass­word, the pass­word it­self was dis­played, in plain text, in­stead of your pass­word hint. Both of these (and other bugs) were fixed in up­dates — see bit.ly/hssupp-up­date and bit.ly/hspass­word-fix for more in­for­ma­tion.

A grass -roots iss ue

The “root user” vul­ner­a­bil­ity en­abled any­one to gain ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­cess to your Mac sim­ply by log­ging in with the user­name “root” and leav­ing the pass­word blank. Ap­ple fixed this in Se­cu­rity Up­date 2017-001. Iron­i­cally, in­stalling the first re­lease of this up­date could it­self dis­able macOS’ File Shar­ing fea­ture. Ap­ple is­sued a sep­a­rate sup­port note with in­struc­tions on how to get it work­ing again: bit.ly/re­pair-file­share. A re­vised up­date is now avail­able, but the good news is you won’t need it if you’ve up­dated to 10.13.3 (or later), as this ver­sion in­cludes both fixes.

Our best ad­vice is to keep up with the lat­est macOS up­dates and in­stall them at once. It’s true that up­dates of­ten break some­thing else, and we’d nor­mally sug­gest hold­ing back a week or so, and check­ing on­line fo­rums to find out what is­sues — and what fixes — early adopters have found. It’s your choice, but with such se­ri­ous vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties hav­ing been dis­cov­ered in High Sierra al­ready, we rec­om­mend keep­ing it up to date. Make fre­quent back­ups and you’ll have the op­tion of step­ping back if an up­date causes you prob­lems — re­mem­ber that Time Ma­chine paired with macOS Re­cov­ery pro­vides the op­tion of rolling back your sys­tem to an ear­lier ver­sion.

To check for up­dates, Go to the Mac App Store’s Up­dates tab. Note, how­ever, that some crit­i­cal se­cu­rity fixes are re­leased as au­to­matic up­dates. By de­fault, your Mac checks for these fixes daily, and when an au­to­matic se­cu­rity up­date is avail­able, it in­stalls au­to­mat­i­cally and dis­plays a no­ti­fi­ca­tion to tell you so. You there­fore won’t see those au­to­matic up­dates in this tab.

To en­sure you get them, open Sys­tem Pref­er­ences’ App Store pane and en­able the fol­low­ing op­tions: “Au­to­mat­i­cally check for up­dates,” “Down­load newly avail­able up­dates in the back­ground,” and “In­stall sys­tem data files and se­cu­rity up­dates.”

Even some of our writ­ers held off in­stalling High Sierra on their main com­puter, some­times due to soft­ware compatibility is­sues, but also be­cause of the dis­clo­sure of se­ri­ous mis­takes on Ap­ple’s part.

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