3

On this site and throughout other Apple enthusiast communities, I often see people strongly advise against disabling System Integrity Protection. This has always struck me as somewhat odd, as SIP did not even exist until recently, and it prevents a lot of tweaks that used to be relatively commonplace, such as SIMBL and OSXFuse.

If I am an enthusiast user following basic security practices such as:

  1. Using a strong, unique administrative password.
  2. Only granting administrator permissions to applications I trust.
  3. Only using sudo when necessary, and only for commands I understand.

What types of attacks am I opening myself up to by leaving SIP disabled?

Put another way, is a Mac computer without SIP more vulnerable than a comparable machine running a default configuration of Windows or a common flavor of Linux?

4

From Apple's page About System Integrity Protection on your Mac

Before System Integrity Protection, the root user had no permission restrictions, so it could access any system folder or app on your Mac. Software obtained root-level access when you entered your administrator name and password to install the software. That allowed the software to modify or overwrite any system file or app.

So, based on the premise of your question, a good sys admin would have used strong passwords, admin permissions to only users/apps that you trust and only using sudo when necessary.

Ok...let's look at a hypothetical, but entirely plausible scenario: Installing VirtualBox.

Assume for a moment, that the VirtalBox site got hacked and a malicious version of VB was uploaded and made available as genuine. Since to install VB it requires root privileges, you would invariably use sudo to install it (this is why it asks you for your password).

Without SIP, it could write to any of the protected areas as root installing itself with full admin privileges to do whatever nefarious things it wanted to do. It's important to note that the security practices you enumerated in your question never came into play.

It's just another layer of protection.

A Mac with SIP is no more or less safe than a Windows 10 machine with System Protection enabled. "Linux" is too broad a topic to make a statement. However, there is Oracle "Hardened" Linux (version of RedHat Enterprise) that has these features.

  • Thanks, although it does seem to me like at this point, I would be fairly screwed with or without SIP. Malicious Virtualbox could encrypt most of my files, log my keystrokes, mine for bitcoins, and aid DDOS attacks. – Wowfunhappy Aug 25 '17 at 15:19
  • 3
    SIP protects the system, not the user. You can still install malicious software, but it will be limited to your profile. Many times on this site, people with suspected viruses are told to "use another account" and the problem goes away. – Allan Aug 25 '17 at 15:30
  • If a program has admin privileges, can't it modify other accounts on the machine even with SIP? – Wowfunhappy Aug 27 '17 at 0:02
  • Is it possibe? Sure. Not likely. In order for it to have admin privileges, you have to give it admin privileges. This is where Apple's Gatekeeper technology comes into play. – Allan Aug 27 '17 at 0:06
  • Sure, I'm just not seeing how enabling or disabling SIP is making a difference in this scenario. A malicious Virtualbox will have admin privileges, and is capable of making life hell for all users of a system. Thus, at the moment I remain unconvinced as to the real-world utility of SIP for experienced users. Which is fine—but I'm unclear as to why the popular opinion disagrees. – Wowfunhappy Aug 27 '17 at 0:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .