Apple pulls spyware patch, security analysts baffled

Apple has silently dropped its recent emergency spyware patch, putting cybersecurity analysts who jumped to endorse it in an awkward position and leaving the community scratching its head as to what the tech giant is up to.

“Do not delay, simply do it today,” was the Sophos take from yesterday on Apple’s hurriedly released patches for macOS Ventura 13.4.1, iOS 16.5.1, iPadOS 16.5.1, and macOS Big Sur and Monterey.

But now Sophos reports that the previously recommended Settings-General-Software Update pathway leads to a dead end, after it found “commenters … started reporting that the update was no longer showing up.”

Why Apple has removed the patch is anybody’s guess, according to Sophos.

“Strictly speaking, only Apple knows what’s going on here, and it’s not saying,” it said in a bashful follow-up to its original bulletin. “At least, not officially via its security portal or its About Rapid Security Responses page.”

It added: “We suggest, if you already have the update, that you don’t remove it unless it genuinely interferes with your ability to use your phone with the websites or apps you need for work, or unless your own IT department explicitly tells you to.”

Sophos adds that those insistent on getting rid of an update that Apple itself apparently no longer endorses should go to Settings, General, About, iOS/iPadOS Version, and choose “Remove Security Response” if they are using an iPhone or an iPad.

Those using Macs should go to System Settings, General, About and click the (i) icon at the end of the item entitled “macOS Ventura,” it added.

Finally, Sophos advises those who didn’t heed the original advice from Apple to sit tight and await further developments.

It added: “We’ll patch our usual advice from yesterday by saying: ‘Do not delay; do it as soon as Apple and your device will let you.’”

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