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System integrity protection

System integrity protection definition

System integrity protection refers to a macOS security feature, designed to protect critical system files and directories from modification, even by processes running with administrative privileges (root user). Also known as “rootless mode”, this feature provides an additional layer of security by preventing unauthorized modifications to critical system components.

See also: root access, rooting, unauthorized access

System integrity protection benefits

  • Protection against malware and unauthorized modifications. It prevents users without access from modifying system files and directories such as system binaries. This helps protect the device from malware attempting to modify essential system components.
  • Boost to system stability. It prevents users from changing the system files that could result in crashes, software conflicts, or otherwise destabilize the OS.
  • Kernel extension security. As an additional security layer, it ensures that only kernel extensions signed by developers with a valid Apple-issued Developer ID can be loaded into the kernel.
  • Prevention of system intrusions. It adds an additional barrier against potential system intrusions and privilege escalation attacks. Even if an attacker gains root-level access to a macOS system, it restricts their ability to modify critical system files, reducing the impact and limiting the attacker's ability to compromise the system.
  • System integrity verification. It performs regular integrity checks on protected system files and directories to help detect and prevent the execution of tampered or malicious system components.