The new Apple T2 chip makes it difficult to eavesdrop through the laptop's built-in microphone
Apple has published documentation on the T2 security chip, which is embedded in the latest branded notebooks, including the MacBook Pro introduced at the beginning of the year and the recently announced MacBook Air.
Until today, little was known about the chip. But now it turns out that this is a very interesting chip. It has a number of security functions, including the storage and protection of device encryption keys, fingerprint data and secure boot functions. In addition, the chip hardware disables the microphone of the built-in camera when closing the lid of the laptop.
“This shutdown is implemented at the hardware level and therefore does not allow any software, even with the privileges of root or kernel in macOS, and even software on the T2 chip, to turn on the microphone when the lid is closed,” the published guide says The microphone is given one paragraph.
It also adds that the video camera itself is not turned off by the hardware, because “its field of view is completely blocked by the closed lid”.
Apple said the new feature adds an “unprecedented” level of security for the Mac. We are talking about protection against malicious programs, trojans and RAT, which recently became widespread for the operating system macOS (under Windows, such programs in large numbers exist a long time ago).
The threat of hackers connecting to webcams on laptops became a reality a few years ago, with the proliferation of remote administration tools (RAT). At the same time, the habit has spread among users to stick a laptop webcam with tape or an opaque sticker.
Until a certain moment, some users believed that the webcams on Apple laptops were almost impossible to activate without the knowledge of the user, But last year the malware Fruitfly was discovered , which dispelled this myth.
At first glance, the malware is quite simple and consists of only two files:
The .plist file itself simply keeps the .client running all the time. But the latter is much more interesting: it is a minified and obfuscated Perl script that, among other things, establishes a connection with one of the management servers.
But the most interesting part of the script is at the end of the __DATA__ section. There a Mach-O binary file was found, a second Perl script and a Java class, which is extracted by the script, written to the / tmp / folder and executed. In the case of a Java class, it starts with pple.awt.UIElement set to true, that is, it does not appear in the Dock.
It is this binary that takes screenshots (from the display) and accesses the webcam. The researchers point out that for this, the malware uses truly “ancient” system calls that were used before OS X appeared.
From this, they conclude that the authors do not have the experience of modern development for Mac, but use the old documentation, which hints at their foreign origin from a region where Apple technology is not installed everywhere. In addition, the binary includes the source code of the open library libjpeg in the 1998 version. One way or another, the malware successfully performs its functions and spies on Mac users through the laptop’s built-in webcam.
It is known that espionage through laptop webcams is used not only by curious hackers for entertainment, but also by special services. In the British intelligence service GCHQ for many years operated a department for developing such trojans in the framework of the Optic Nerve program . Even some well-known techies like Mark Zuckerberg are tapered with a webcam on a laptop.