Apple explains why iOS 10 kernel is unencrypted

Following the discovery by MIT Technology Review that the kernel in iOS 10 beta is unencrypted, Apple has gone on the record to explain why that’s the case. Speaking with Dave Mark of The Loop, an Apple spokesperson has officially confirmed that the decision was intentional.

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“The kernel cache doesn’t contain any user info, and by unencrypting it we’re able to optimize the operating system’s performance without compromising security,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The kernel, which dictates how software can use hardware and keeps the device secure, is unencrypted so that developers and researchers can “poke around” and find potential security flaws. Because the kernel is easier to access and flaws may be easier to find, Apple can more easily and more quickly patch potential issues.

The move is a shift for Apple, who had encrypted the kernel in past versions of iOS, leaving developers and researchers out of the loop on the inner workings of the operating system. As noted by security expert Jonathan Zdziarski, it’s likely that Apple has made this shift to prevent groups from “hoarding” vulnerabilities in Apple’s software, like the vulnerability used by the FBI to break into the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino shooter.

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