Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is no longer a computer company, but selling computers is still one of its biggest lines of business. One of the key ways the company markets its premium Mac PCs is by touting the security advantages of macOS over Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows. Yesterday’s macOS critical security issue was an embarrassment to Apple that resulted in a rapid, forced fix for High Sierra users, and a rare public apology from the company.
The day after, the aftermath of the macOS critical security issue includes a support document walking users through a manual fix (after the patch introduced another macOS bug) and a tarnished reputation. AAPL stock was down 2% on the news.
Apple released High Sierra, the latest version of its macOS PC operating system back in September. Prior to the release date, it had gone through months of beta testing. And somehow, it was only yesterday that a serious vulnerability was discovered and then shared on social media.
Someone entering the user name “root” with no password would gain complete access to any Mac running High Sierra. This would give the intruder access to everything on that Mac, including all data stored on it, as well as the ability to modify legitimate accounts and other super-user privileges. When it comes to a security flaw, this was about as bad as it gets. And it was a major black eye for Apple, which heavily promotes the security advantages of macOS and its Mac computers.
After news of the macOS critical security issue went public, AAPL stock slid 2%. It was likely part of a broader tech sell-off that took place on Tuesday, but the publicity over the high profile macOS bug definitely didn’t help.
To the company’s credit, it immediately pushed out a security update to Macs running High Sierra. Apple also released a rare statement, telling MacRumors:
“Security is a top priority for every Apple product, and regrettably we stumbled with this release of macOS.
When our security engineers became aware of the issue Tuesday afternoon, we immediately began working on an update that closes the security hole. This morning, as of 8 a.m., the update is available for download, and starting later today it will be automatically installed on all systems running the latest version (10.13.1) of macOS High Sierra.
We greatly regret this error and we apologize to all Mac users, both for releasing with this vulnerability and for the concern it has caused. Our customers deserve better. We are auditing our development processes to help prevent this from happening again.”
In the rush to address the macOS critical security issue, Apple inadvertently introduced a new macOS bug that disabled Mac file sharing for many users. This morning the company published a support document walking users through the process to fix the fix. Again, not great PR when it comes to selling Macs.
While iPhone sales are the primary driver of AAPL stock, the company’s third-largest divisional source of revenue is Mac sales. Last quarter, they accounted for $7.2 billion in revenue. One key selling point of Apple’s computers compared to Windows has always been security. However, that advantage has been under fire in recent years as Macs were increasingly targeted.
Knowing that Apple would release such a critical vulnerability is going to hit the Mac’s reputation even further. What other serious weaknesses are out there? And while the immediate security patch release put a positive spin on things, some of the shine wore off by introducing a significant macOS bug that requires manual user intervention to fix.
The fallout from this incident is not going to help Mac sales, which sometimes struggled in the past year.
While the drop in AAPL stock yesterday was likely attributable to a tech sell-off that hit Apple’s rivals just as hard — Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) was down 2.4%, for example — the negative publicity over the high profile macOS bug added fuel to the fire.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.