During Apple’s event on Tuesday mentioned the company’s new MacBook Air and Mac mini computers include the company’s latest T2 security chip. The Cupertino firm has released a new security guide (PDF) that details what the chip does to enhance user security. (Via TechCrunch)
The T2 chip includes a hardware microphone disconnect feature that physically cuts the device’s microphone off from the rest of the computer’s hardware 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,” says the support guide.
Apple says the camera stays connected, as its field of view is already completely obstructed when the MacBook lid is closed.
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 camera is not disconnected in hardware because its field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.)
Hackers have long been able to tap into webcams and microphones on Macs. While it was originally though that since Apple’s built-in webcams have a hardware-connected indicator light, that it was impossible to activate the webcam without a user’s knowledge. However, last year, security researcher Patrick Wardle uncovered the Fruitfly malware, which could pull it off.
Apple says the T2 chip provides a solid foundation for security via its encrypted storage, Touch ID, and Secure Boot features, all based on the security hardware and Secure Enclave found on the T2 processor.