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Mysterious Mac Pro Shutdowns Likely Caused by Chrome Update

A serious data corruption issue that resulted in Mac Pro workstations being rendered unusable at a number of Hollywood studios Monday was likely caused by a browser update gone haywire: Google told Mac Pro users Tuesday evening that an update to its Chrome browser is likely to fault for the issue, which particularly impacted video editors across Hollywood and beyond.

“We recently discovered that a Chrome update may have shipped with a bug that damages the file system on MacOS machines,” the company wrote in a forum post. “We’ve paused the release while we finalize a new update that addresses the problem.”

Reports of Mac Pro workstations refusing to reboot started to circulate among video editors late Monday. At the time, the common denominator among impacted machines seemed to be the presence of Avid’s Media Composer software.

The issue apparently knocked out dozens of machines at multiple studios, with one “Modern Family” reporting that the show’s entire editing team was affected. Avid’s leadership updated users of its software throughout the day, advising them to back up their work and not to reboot their machines.

Wednesday morning, Avid confirmed that it had not been at fault for the incident. “Today, Avid is confirming that the root cause for a reboot issue encountered by some of our customers has been identified and is unrelated to Avid and its creative tools,” the company said in a statement, adding that it hadn’t received any reports of data loss from its customers.

“Avid is pleased that the reboot issue facing some customers is solved and while Avid products are not the root cause, we’re keeping an intense focus on bringing all of our customers back online and back to work,” said Avid CEO Jeff Rosica. “We owe our special thanks to Avid’s customer and user community for their typically strong show of support at this time, especially to those who welcomed our engineers into their studios to troubleshoot.”

The real culprit was apparently a recent release of Google’s Keystone software, which is included in its Chrome browser to automatically download updates of the browser. On computers that had Apple’s System Integrity Protection disabled, the update corrupted the computer’s file system, making it impossible to reboot. System Integrity Protection is an Apple technology that is meant to ensure that malicious software doesn’t corrupt core system files.

Google advised affected users on how to uninstall the Chrome update, and also suggested that most users may not be at risk at all. “If you have not taken steps to disable System Integrity Protection and your computer is on OS X 10.9 or later, this issue cannot affect you,” the forum post reads. A possible connection to Chrome was first detailed on the Mr. Macintosh blog Tuesday afternoon.

It’s still unclear how exactly Avid is connected to the outages. One working theory is that the bug hit video editors the hardest because many of them had to disable System Integrity Protection in order to work with external audio and video devices that are common in professional editing setups. On Monday, there had also been some suggestions that the hardware dongles used for licensing Avid may have played some role in the shut-downs.

In the end, the issue may be another wakeup call for Hollywood to step up IT security among its workforce. The reason that so many machines were affected by a corrupted Chrome update can likely be attributed to those machines being connected to the internet — something Hollywood security experts have long advised against.

Update: 9/25: This post was updated with a statement from Avid.

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