New MacBook Security Feature Helps Prevent Microphone From Being Hacked

Apple has introduced a new MacBook security feature called the T2 security chip that is meant to help stop hostile takeovers of the computer’s camera and microphone that would allow hackers to eavesdrop on users. The company explained in the chip’s guide that the feature has been implemented in the computer’s hardware and that it physically disconnects the microphone when the lid of the computer is shut, thus prohibiting any software from using the microphone regardless of the level of its privileges. (Apple argued that since the camera’s field of view is totally blocked anyway when the lid is closed, there was no need to do anything more about that.)

You Have to Shut Your Lid

Although the new T2 chip security feature is effective in principle, it does not do anything about the camera and microphone being commandeered when the lid is open and the computer is in use, which is what the FruitFly malware attacks did to biomedical research center computers in 2017. While the addition of the feature is a positive development, a better idea might have been had Apple also installed a manual switch that would have allowed users to manually toggle their computer’s camera and microphone on and off.

What Else Does the T2 Chip Offer?

The T2 chip also enables better security through a secure enclave coprocessor that provides the foundation for new encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities. The chip also works with the MacBook’s FaceTime HD camera to allow for enhanced tone mapping, improved exposure control, and auto-exposure and auto-white balance based on face detection.

Mac computers that contain the T2 security chip include the iMac Pro as well as Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models from 2018.