Apple’s app-security tech Gatekeeper caused all kinds of problems last week, but here’s why your Mac would be in far worse shape without it


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a screenshot of a computer: macOS Big Sur. Apple

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macOS Big Sur. Apple

  • The surge of downloads for Apple’s latest version of macOS Big Sur caused an issue with Apple’s servers that triggered a bug in the company’s Gatekeeper.
  • Gatekeeper is the service that confirms that a piece of software is legitimate before it’s downloaded — when it stopped working, apps didn’t open.
  • Gatekeeper, and its failure, can be an annoyance for those who don’t want Apple regulating what they download, but most people would argue it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • “Security always includes a tradeoff between convenience and protecting a user, sometimes from themselves,” says columnist Jason Aten.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last week, as Apple users upgraded to the latest version of macOS Big Sur, the surge of downloads caused an issue with Apple’s servers that triggered a bug in the company’s Gatekeeper. That may not sound like a big deal, except that Gatekeeper is the service that confirms that the software on your Mac has a valid developer certificate. When it couldn’t be reached, apps simply didn’t open


Load Error

To make things worse, most people had no idea what was happening. They just knew they couldn’t use the apps on their Mac. The icons would simply bounce in the dock, but there was no error message or other indication of what was happening. 

I think we can all agree that’s a problem. That much isn’t really that complicated at all. 

Where it starts to get complicated is what security researchers found when they started figuring out what was happening. They determined that the information Apple was sending was, at a minimum, unencrypted. At least one suggested that Apple was spying on users by collecting information such as their location, their device, and the apps they were running. 

Apple made it pretty clear that it isn’t spying on users to see which apps they’re running or what they’ve installed on their devices. 

“We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices,” the company says in a support document. “We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their…