Apple has informed Mac developers that the deadline for sandboxing apps has been extended to June 1st. The date was postponed last November and set to take place on March 1st. Apple has been working on technical specifications for third-party developers since.
For those that are unfamiliar, “sandboxing” is essentially confining an app’s system access to its specific functions or entitlements, thereby hindering the possibility of an app behaving maliciously on a system level. Developers now have more time to appropriately implement sandboxing into their apps for the Mac App Store.
Mountain Lion’s GateKeeper feature is designed to improve Mac security by harnessing the power of the Mac App Store and through a new developer program in which Apple will offer Developer IDs to members of its Mac Developer Program. Those IDs will let developers digitally sign their applications so that Mountain Lion Macs can verify an app’s authenticity and security before running it.
While this may seem like a new approach and an extension of the Mac App Store model, it’s actually based on technology that has been part of OS X since the release of Leopard.
GateKeeper is one of the big new features in Mountain Lion. It’s designed to protect against malware by limiting what kinds of software gets installed on your Mac. GateKeeper offers Mac users three levels of security: Mac App Store purchases (which have been fully vetted by Apple), Developer ID apps purchased outside the Mac App Store that are digitally signed so your Mac can verify their authenticity via Apple, and apps from all other sources.
The GateKeeper model looks great from the perspective of an individual user or family – easy to understand and use while being fairly effective at leveraging Apple’s developer program as a security solution. How it will stack up in business and enterprise environments, where mass deployment are commonplace, may be a different story.
One of the big headline features in Apple’s new Mountain Lion OS is Gatekeeper, designed to keep malware and other nasties away from your computer. So is this another step towards App Store-only software on Macs?
The short answer is yes, it is. But it doesn’t have to be. Gatekeeper gives you the choice: do you want to stick to App Store-only apps, or be able to install anything from anywhere?