Security experts level criticism at Apple after Big Sur launch issues

Users took to social media to complain about slow systems with one report pointing to an OCSP responder as the culprit.


Apple announced at its November 2020 event that macOS 11 Big Sur would arrive Nov. 12. 

Image: Apple

Apple was forced to issue a statement Monday on its data collection policies after the release last week of Big Sur led to complaints of slow systems, which morphed into a larger debate about privacy on Macs and iPhones. The release stated the process is part of its efforts to protect users from malware.

Apple released macOS Big Sur on Nov. 12 and hours later, hundreds of people took to social media to complain about problems they were having with certain applications on their Macs. Security expert Phil Vachon explained what happened on his blog Security Embedded, writing that an Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) responder checking certificates of each and every application was to blame after an Apple server went down. 

Vachon said that in an effort to protect users and customers from malware, Apple uses an OCSP responder so that “at every launch of an app, macOS would dutifully check if the certificate used by the signer is still valid, per the OCSP responder. Of course, if macOS couldn’t reach the OCSP responder, it would go about its merry way launching an app. After all, a computer needs to work offline, too.”

“If Apple finds that an app they issued a certificate to is actually malware, they can rapidly revoke this certificate and prevent the malware from running, even on machines it has already installed itself on. This does put a lot of policy control in Apple’s hands. This is where you have to make a business decision as to whether or not you trust Apple to be benevolent or not,” Vachon wrote. 

“In the aftermath of the OCSP responder outage, and the dust settling on the macOS Big Sur release, there are a lot of folks reasonably asking if they can trust Apple to be in the loop of deciding what apps should or should not…