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Apple gives Macs security update automatically to combat hackers

By Andrew Ellis     Dec 23, 2014 in Technology
Apple updated users' Macs on Monday, December 22, automatically to combat a security issue that would have allowed hackers to take control of any of their computers from a remote location.
The security vulnerability, according to CNET, was revealed last Friday by the Department of Homeland Security and the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute.
The vulnerability itself affects a computer's network time protocol -- or NPT -- which syncs computer's clocks. The issue itself could allow hackers to access any given computer remotely and take control.
The bug endangered Apple's OS X, Linux, and Unix distributors, but the researchers at Carnegie revealed more than dozen other companies that were in danger as well, according the Huffington Post.
The update itself protects all Mac laptops and desktops. It's the first time an update hasn't required user permission to get installed, and Apple spokesman Bill Evans told Reuters it was so seamless that it didn't "even require restart."
Apple has actually had the technology required to send automatic update to its computers for two year, but this is the first time they've actually used it. The reason? The vulnerability was so severe that they wanted to protect users as quickly as possible.
When asked about Apple's move, security analyst Ken Westin of Tripwire told CNET that the company's decision to update their users' computers without their permission is a clue as to just how serious the issue was. But he does warn of some risks involved when using their automatic update technology.
"However, the use of Apple's automatic deployment tool is not without risks, as even the simplest update can cause problems for some systems," Westin explained to CNET. "In this case the update may have been so minor the risk of affecting other applications and processes was minimal."
There are those, however, who still don't want automatic updates because it may cause problems with their system, or they may be a little worried about Apple having that kind of access to their computer. And for them, Westin says there is a way.
"If you have a Mac system where an automatic update might introduce a problem -- or you are the paranoid type -- it can be disabled by going to the Apple Menu > System Preferences > App Store and unchecking Install system data files and security updates," Westin explained.
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