AnyConnect Changes Related to macOS 11 (And Later)
———— MDM profile here
———— MDM profile here
Table of Contents
About the AnyConnect System Extension 2
Approving the AnyConnect System Extension 4
Extension Approval by End User 4
Extension Approval using MDM 8
Confirming AnyConnect Extension Approval 8
AnyConnect Extension Deactivation 9
Last-resort Workaround: Failover to Kernel Extension 9
Kernel Extension Approval using MDM 9
Failover to Kernel Extension 10
Sample MDM Configuration Profile for AnyConnect System and Kernel Extension Approval 10
Table of Figures
Figure 1 – DNS proxy component 3
Figure 2 – App/Transparent proxy component 3
Figure 3 – Content filter component 4
Figure 4 – Extension blocked – OS prompt 5
Figure 5 – Extension blocked – AnyConnect prompt 5
Figure 6 – AnyConnect extension approval 6
Figure 7 – AnyConnect extension approval (multiple unapproved extensions) 7
Figure 8 – AnyConnect extension’s content filter approval 7
Figure 9 – AnyConnect extension approval confirmation 8
Figure 10 – Extension deactivation prompt 9
AnyConnect 4.9.03xxx leverages the System Extension framework available in macOS 11 (and later). This differs from past AnyConnect versions, which rely on the now-deprecated Kernel Extension framework. This is the minimum version required to run AnyConnect on macOS 11 (and later).
This advisory describes changes introduced in the new AnyConnect version and the steps administrators can take to confirm AnyConnect is operating correctly on macOS 11 (and later). There are important changes in approving the AnyConnect system extension, as detailed in the next section.
The advisory also details the steps for failing over to the AnyConnect kernel extension, as last-resort workaround in case a critical system extension (or related OS framework) issue is encountered. The AnyConnect kernel extension is installed on macOS 11 (and later) solely for this purpose, it is no longer used by default.
About the AnyConnect System Extension
AnyConnect uses a network system extension on macOS 11 (and later), bundled into an application named Cisco AnyConnect Socket Filter. (This app controls the extension activation and deactivation and is installed under /Applications/Cisco .)
The AnyConnect extension has the following three components:
These components are visible in the macOS System Preferences – Network UI window:
Figure 1 – DNS proxy component
Figure 2 – App/Transparent proxy component
Figure 3 – Content filter component
AnyConnect requires its system extension and all its components to be active in order to operate properly, which implies that the mentioned components are all present and show up as green/running in the left pane of the macOS Network UI, as per above screenshots.
Approving the AnyConnect System Extension
macOS 11 (and later) requires end user or MDM approval before system extensions are allowed to run. Two approvals are required for the AnyConnect system extension:
Approve the system extension loading/activation.
Approve the extension’s content filter component activation.
Extension Approval by End User
The AnyConnect system extension and its content filter component can be approved by end user, by following either the OS prompting, or the more explicit AnyConnect Notification app’s instructions.
Figure 4 – Extension blocked – OS prompt
Figure 5 – Extension blocked – AnyConnect prompt
After opening the Security & Privacy Preferences window, click the bottom-left lock and provide the requested credentials, as prompted, to unlock it and allow changes.
The window’s appearance depends on whether the AnyConnect extension is the only one requiring approval. If that’s the case, simply click the Allow button.
Figure 6 – AnyConnect extension approval
Otherwise click the Details… button, then select the ”Cisco AnyConnect Socket Filter” check box and click OK.
Figure 7 – AnyConnect extension approval (multiple unapproved extensions)
Shortly after approving the AnyConnect extension, the user is shown another popup, this time for approving the extension’s content filter component.
Figure 8 – AnyConnect extension’s content filter approval
After the extension’s content filter approval is complete, the extension and its components should be active, as confirmed by the AnyConnect Notification app:
Figure 9 – AnyConnect extension approval confirmation
Extension Approval using MDM
The AnyConnect system extension can also be approved without end user interaction, using a management profile with the RemovableSystemExtensions property added to the SystemExtensions payload with the following settings:
System Extension Type
A WebContentFilter payload with the following settings can be used to approve the extension’s content filter component:
anchor apple generic and identifier “com.cisco.anyconnect.macos.acsockext” and (certificate leaf[field.1.2.840.113622.214.171.124.9]
/* exists */ or certificate 1[field.1.2.840.1136126.96.36.199.6] /*
exists */ and certificate leaf[field.1.2.840.1136188.8.131.52.13]
/* exists */ and certificate
leaf[subject.OU] = DE8Y96K9QP)
Cisco AnyConnect Content Filter
Confirming AnyConnect System Extension Approval
Run the command systemextensionsctl list to confirm that the AnyConnect system extension has been approved and activated.
% systemextensionsctl list
enabled active teamID bundleID (version) name [state]
* * DE8Y96K9QP com.cisco.anyconnect.macos.acsockext (4.9.03038/4.9.03038) Cisco AnyConnect Socket Filter Extension [activated enabled]
Also inspect the System Preferences – Network UI to confirm that all three AnyConnect extension components are active, as per section About the AnyConnect System Extension.
AnyConnect Extension Deactivation
During AnyConnect uninstallation, the user is prompted for admin credentials to approve the system extension deactivation. On macOS 12 (and later), the AnyConnect system extension can be silently removed after deploying a management profile with the RemovableSystemExtensions property added to the SystemExtensions payload. This property must contain the bundle identifier of the AnyConnect system extension (com.cisco.anyconnect.macos.acsockext).
Note: This management profile configuration should only be used when the administrator wants to automate the AnyConnect uninstallation, as it grants any user or process with root privileges the ability to remove the AnyConnect system extension without prompting the user for a password.
Figure 10 – Extension deactivation prompt
Last-resort Workaround: Failover to Kernel Extension
AnyConnect installs its kernel extension on macOS 11 (and later), too, as on previous OS versions. However, it is only installed as fallback in case of a critical system extension (or related OS framework) issue.
As a last-resort temporary workaround, Cisco TAC may recommend switching from the system extension to the legacy kernel extension, which offers equivalent functionality.
Kernel Extension Approval using MDM
Kernel extensions require approval via MDM in order to load on macOS 11 (and later), end user approval is no longer an option.
The AnyConnect kernel extension can be approved using a management profile’s SystemPolicyKernelExtensions payload with the following settings:
Failover to Kernel Extension
Once the MDM configuration profile detailed in the previous section is installed, run the following command to instruct AnyConnect to deactivate the system extension and start using the kernel extension instead:
(The user should handle the system extension deactivation prompt as per section AnyConnect Extension Deactivation.)
% sudo launchctl unload
/Applications/Cisco/Cisco\ AnyConnect\ Socket\ Filter.app/Contents/MacOS/Cisco\ AnyConnect\ Socket\ Filter -deactivateExt && echo kext=1 | sudo tee /opt/cisco/anyconnect/acsock.cfg && sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.cisco.anyconnect.vpnagentd.plist
A reboot should be performed if AnyConnect fails to load its kernel extension upon executing the above command, which can be verified by running the following command (should return one entry after successful kernel extension load):
% kextstat | grep com.cisco.kext.acsock
Once the system extension issue causing the failover to the kernel extension is confirmed resolved by Cisco TAC, run the following command to instruct AnyConnect to switch back to the system extension:
% sudo launchctl unload
/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.cisco.anyconnect.vpnagentd.plist && sudo kextunload -b com.cisco.kext.acsock && sudo rm
/opt/cisco/anyconnect/acsock.cfg && sudo launchctl load
Then install the AnyConnect or macOS version with the fix.
Sample MDM Configuration Profile for AnyConnect System and Kernel Extension Approval
The following MDM configuration profile can be used to allow loading of both AnyConnect system and kernel extensions, including the system extension’s content filter component.