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Apple’s New T2 Security Chip Prevents MacBook Microphone Misuse

By Nitish Singh / October 31, 2018

Apple has been taking security very seriously in the recent past in the wake up a number of data breaches affecting various organizations all over the world. The company patched iOS to prevent popular tool GrayKey earlier this month and announced new security-enhanced MacBook laptops yesterday.

The new MacBook lineup comes with a proprietary T2 security chip which prevents any application from getting a kernel or root access to snoop in on background sound. As soon as a user closes the lid on the newly announced MacBooks, the built-in microphone gets disabled at a hardware level.

Apple revealed details about the chip stating "All Mac portables with the Apple T2 Security Chip feature a hardware disconnect that ensures that the microphone is disabled whenever the lid is closed. This disconnect is implemented in hardware alone, and therefore prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed."

The processor is embedded in modern Apple devices and is not part of the main CPU. They are used to handle encryption related operations only in a hard-to-tamper chipset. Some of the security features on the chipset include an APFS encrypted storage system, secure booting, and TouchID which was introduced older iPhones.

T2-capable Macbook Pro devices will require a software update to take advantage of the feature. Apple has not revealed many details about the chipset outside of its functionality and technology behind it in the latest whitepaper. The tech giant didn’t implement a similar feature for the built-in cameras as well because closing the lid causes the camera’s field of view to be obstructed anyway, making the feature redundant.

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