Apple drops revolutionary new security feature

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The new iPad Pro is a subtle upgrade from the previous model. You can read my review here. The main innovations are the introduction of several rear cameras which, with the LiDAR scanner next to it, could be transformative for augmented reality (AR) applications.

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Beyond that, the only hardware differences are a new processor, the A12Z Bionic, which for some is too closely related to the old A12X Bionic for their taste.

And then there was the controversy over whether the new iPad included the U1 Ultra Wideband chip found on the latest iPhones. Was it on board or not? The final answer is here.

Now it has emerged that there is a security feature in the new iPad Pro which is brand new for Apple tablets.

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As revealed in a document on the security of the Apple platform and spotted by Zac Hall at 9to5Mac, the new model is the first tablet to include a functionality introduced on recent Mac laptops.

This is a powerful security feature that physically disconnects microphones from the computer when the cover is closed. So even if a hacker managed to get into your laptop and listen to you, closing the lid would end their little game.

Brilliant, but how can you mimic such a mechanism on something like a tablet that obviously doesn’t have a lockable lid?

It turns out that you can do this when you have a compatible case attached. The document explains

All Mac notebooks with the Apple T2 security chip have a hardware disconnect that ensures the microphone is muted when the cover is closed. On 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Aircomputers with the T2 chip, and on 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops from 2019 or later, this disconnection is implemented only in hardware. Logging out prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the cover is closed. (The camera is not disconnected from the equipment because its field of vision is completely obstructed with the cover closed.)

IPad models from 2020 onwards also include disconnection of the hardware microphone. When an MFI-compatible case (including those sold by Apple) is connected to the iPad and closed, the microphone is disconnected from the hardware, preventing audio data from the microphone from being made available to any software, even with root or kernel privileges in iPadOS or in case the firmware is compromised.

Well, so far there is only one iPad 2020 and this is the new iPad Pro. MFI, by the way, stands for Made For iPhone / iPad / iPod and indicates Apple licensed products.

This is an important characteristic that adds great peace of mind. Not only against hackers, but it means that if you thought you had hung up your FaceTime Audio call, but didn’t, closing the case on the iPad will fix the problem.

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