What is Apple Rapid Security Response and how does it work?

Apple's new system for security updates might seem confusing, but it should be simpler.

Apple Rapid Security Response

Back in 2022 one of Apple's less focussed-on announcements at WWDC was that it had a new system ready for deploying important security updates to its devices.

Rather than requiring full software updates, Rapid Security Responses (as they're called) will let Apple push small updates that can be applied in a matter of seconds on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. They've now started rolling out, so here's how the system works.

What is a Rapid Security Response?

While we're all used to annual software updates that add significant new features to our Apple devices as part of its development cycle, there are a whole heap of other updates that come throughout each year that do much smaller things.

Some of the most crucial but least flashy updates add new security protocols or tweak how existing ones work to fix loopholes and stop exploits that could leave your hardware vulnerable to hacking or attacks.

These security updates are vital, but it's not always easy to remember to check for them and with slow installations they could be hassles to convince users to get downloaded.

Apple's new system allows it to push out these security updates as Rapid Security Responses, giving its users a notification prompting them to allow the patch to be downloaded and installed in a matter of seconds, not minutes.

How does a Rapid Security Response work?

When Apple has a vital update to roll out, users will see a notification in the Software Update section of their phone's Settings app that one is available to download. They'll be able to accept it then and there, or wait and apply it later.

The patches should be pretty small - the first one issued for iPhone was just 86MB in total, for example.

After accepting the download and inputting your passcode, the whole process should take around 30 seconds, after which a quick reboot will finish the job.

What devices do Rapid Security Responses work on?

Apple's system works on most of its main device pillars, so updates can be rolled out to iPhones, iPads or Macs.

There so far doesn't seem to be an option for it to give small updates to Apple Watches using this methodology, so its wearables are a potential exception to the rule.