Apple this week unveiled the latest version of its Mac operating system, macOS 10.15 Catalina. In addition to many functionality improvements, the latest macOS introduces several significant security-related changes.
According to Apple, macOS Catalina, which is expected to become generally available this fall, will run in a dedicated read-only system volume, completely separated from other data. This should prevent potentially malicious applications from overwriting critical OS files.
In addition, hardware peripherals and other complex features that until now needed to run their code directly in the operating system via a kernel extension (kext) will run separately from the OS just like any other app.
The latest macOS also brings an enhanced version of Gatekeeper, which now checks all the apps a user wants to install for known security issues before they are first executed and regularly thereafter.
“This extends the protection from the app’s source to include automated checks for what’s in the app,” Apple said.
macOS Catalina will also prompt users when an application attempts to access data stored in the Documents, Downloads and Desktop folders, iCloud Drive, removable media, external volumes, and third-party cloud storage services. Apps will also not be able to log keys or capture the user’s screen without their approval.
Apple announced that the Activation Lock feature, which has been available for iPhones and iPads, will now be supported on all Mac models that have a T2 Security Chip. The Activation Lock feature prevents unauthorized users from erasing or reactivating a device without the appropriate credentials.
Apple has also provided developers a new framework, Endpoint Security, for creating security-related software.
“Endpoint Security clients monitor system events for potentially malicious activity. Your client registers with Endpoint Security to authorize pending events, or receive notifications of events that have already occurred. These events include process executions, mounting file systems, forking processes, and raising signals,” Apple described the new framework.