Apple today began the rollout of its new Rapid Security Responses feature to iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 beta testers. The mechanism, which is designed to speed up the delivery of security fixes on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, was announced at WWDC and began testing back in October and appears to be ready to go–although we don’t yet know when it will first be made available to macOS testers.
As the Twitter account Appleosophy reports, this initial Rapid Security Response does not contain any actual security content. In Apple’s words, it is “for testing purposes only.”
But future updates of this sort could be highly significant. At present, Apple’s only way of seeding patches for security vulnerabilities is through updates to iOS, iPadOS, or macOS, such as iOS 16.1 or macoS 13.0.1. The new mechanism allows the company to separate the patches out and distribute them in a faster and more agile manner without needing to update the entire OS. If a Rapid Security Response is available for the version of iOS your device is already running, it will grab it (assuming you have Rapid Security Responses enabled). You only need to quickly install and restart your device (or quit Safari if the fix is related to the browser) to get the security fixes.
Apple already has an advantage over Google’s Android platform when it comes to distributing security patches because its users are more diligent about installing updates. (They are also nagged about updating more frequently.) However, Google has delivered monthly security updates since 2015, while Apple’s arrive far less frequently. This new feature speeds up the company’s response to flaws and vulnerabilities still further, and will hopefully enable bugs to be stopped before they can cause any harm.