Apple Releases Rapid Security Responses for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

In May 2023, Apple released the first instance of a new form of update for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, called a Rapid Security Response.

Users often delay the installation of standard operating system updates because they are huge downloads; they interrupt work for a long time while installing; and they occasionally cause new problems. Apple wants to distribute its new security updates as quickly and broadly as possible, so Rapid Security Responses are smaller and quicker to install, plus easy to remove if issues arise.

The aim of a Rapid Security Response is to block a serious vulnerability. Apple does not offer descriptions of such fixes until it has patched at-risk operating systems, including older versions, tvOS, and watchOS, none of which can take advantage of Rapid Security Responses. Apple will likely identify the Rapid Security Response fixes in the security notes for the next full operating system update (which will then include the same repairs).

Rapid Security Reponses use the same software update mechanism as Apple’s other operating system updates. On recent iPhones and Macs, installation time was quick: the device was ready to use again within 2-4 minutes, including a restart. Your device’s default setting is to let Rapid Security Responses install automatically, but we recommend checking to be sure.

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates, and look at “Security Responses & System Files”
  • macOS: Go to System Settings > General > Software Update, click the ⓘ next to Automatic Updates, and look at “Install Security Reponses and system files”

If a Rapid Security Response causes a problem, Apple makes it easy to remove the update, with a time commitment similar to its installation.

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > About > iOS/iPadOS Version, tap “Remove Security Response,” and confirm the action

  • macOS: Go to System Settings > General > About, click the ⓘ next to the macOS version, click “Remove & Restart,” and confirm the action

With this first Rapid Security Response, iOS and iPadOS both posted a notification informing the user of the successful update, but macOS did not.

Generally, devices updated with a Rapid Security Response will have a letter after their version number, such as 16.4.1.(a). The letter will disappear with the next full update. To determine which version your devices are running:

  • iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > General > About, and look at the iOS/iPadOS Version line
  • macOS: Choose “About This Mac” from the Apple menu, and look at the macOS line

We recommend everyone install Rapid Security Responses as soon as they are available, with the comfort of knowing that you can remove the update if you notice any problems after installation. Contact us with any questions regarding these security updates, or with any other security concerns for your personal or business devices.