Apple's T2 Security Chip Vulnerable to Attack Via USB-C

After it was reported last week that Apple's T2 Security Chip could be vulnerable to jailbreaking, the team behind the exploit have released an extensive report and demonstration.

t2checkm8 1

Apple's custom-silicon T2 co-processor is present in newer Macs and handles encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities, as well as several other controller features. It appears that since the chip is based on an Apple A10 processor, it is vulnerable to the same "checkm8" exploit that has been used to jailbreak iOS devices.

The vulnerability allows for the hijacking of the T2's boot process to gain access to the hardware. Normally the T2 chip exits with a fatal error if it is in Device Firmware Update (DFU) mode and it detects a decryption call, but by using another vulnerability developed by team Pangu, it is possible for a hacker to circumvent this check and gain access to the T2 chip.

Once access is gained, the hacker has full root access and kernel execution privileges, although they cannot directly decrypt files stored using FileVault 2 encryption. However, because the T2 chip manages keyboard access, the hacker could inject a keylogger and steal the password used for decryption. It can also bypass the remote Activation Lock used by services such as MDM and Find My. A firmware password does not prevent this since it too requires keyboard access, which requires the T2 chip to run first.

The exploit can be achieved without user interaction and simply requires a modified USB-C cable to be inserted. By creating a specialized device "about the size of a power charger," an attacker can place a T2 chip into DFU mode, run the "checkra1n" exploit, upload a key logger, and capture all keys. macOS can be left unaltered by the jailbreak, but all keys can still be logged on Mac laptops. This is because MacBook keyboards are directly connected to the T2 and passed through to macOS.

A practical demonstration shows checkra1n being run over USB-C from a host device. The targeted Mac simply displays a black screen while the connected computer confirms that the exploit was successful.

These cables function by allowing access to special debug pins within a USB-C port for the CPU and other chips that are usually only used by Apple.

Apple has not fixed the security flaw and it appears to be unpatchable. For security purposes, the T2's SepOS custom operating system is stored directly in the chip's SEPROM, but this also prevents the exploit from being patched by Apple via a software update.

In the meantime, users can protect themselves from the exploit by keeping their Macs physically secure and avoiding the insertion of untrusted USB-C cables and devices.

Top Rated Comments

ElRojito Avatar
26 months ago

So much for a chip that's supposed to be all about security.
We all know the first priority was thwarting third party repair attempts. Working at the Genius Bar, the T2 chip was the biggest pain in my ass.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
otternonsense Avatar
26 months ago
So much for a chip that's supposed to be all about security.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ruka.snow Avatar
26 months ago

And what are we gonna do until then? If this is an unfixable, unpatchable possible exploit, isn't it grounds for a mass product recall?
How do you pull mass product recall out of an exploit that needs direct access to the hardware? There will always be exploits in hardware and software. Next up you'll be calling for a class action nonsense.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
djcerla Avatar
26 months ago
There’s no such thing as a “secure” chip.

With enough time and effort, everything is hackable.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Elijen Avatar
26 months ago

There’s no such thing as a “secure” chip.

With enough time and effort, everything is hackable.
In cryptography secure system does not mean unhackable. It means the time needed to hack it is reasonably high (e.g. millions of years).
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
otternonsense Avatar
26 months ago

Apple Silicon Macs will not need T2 (or T3) chips because it will be presumably built in to the apple chips.
And what are we gonna do until then? If this is an unfixable, unpatchable possible exploit, isn't it grounds for a mass product recall?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

hyper 7 in 2 hub macbook pro

HYPER's 'DUO PRO' 7-in-2 USB-C Hub Debuts for New MacBook Pro Models

Monday December 6, 2021 8:00 am PST by
HYPER today announced the HyperDrive "DUO PRO," a 7-in-2 USB-C hub designed specifically for Apple's latest high-end MacBook Pro models, launching on Indiegogo with the first shipments set to go out in January. The HyperDrive DUO PRO features a Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 port capable of data transfer at 40Gbps, 100W PD, and 6K 60Hz video, an HDMI port with support for 4K 60Hz displays, a 5Gbps...
powerdir exploit microsoft

Microsoft Discovered New 'Powerdir' macOS Vulnerability, Fixed in 12.1 Update

Monday January 10, 2022 9:17 am PST by
Microsoft's 365 Defender Research Team this morning published details on a new "Powerdir" macOS vulnerability that let an attacker bypass the Transparency, Consent, and Control technology to gain unauthorized access to protected data. Apple already addressed the CVE-2021-30970 vulnerability in the macOS Monterey 12.1 update that was released in December, so users who have updated to the...
download 5

Nomad Launches 30W USB-C Charger and Sport Cables With iPhone Fast Charging Support

Wednesday December 1, 2021 8:26 am PST by
Nomad today announced a pair of new products, including a new USB-C PD wall charger and new Sport Cables. These accessories are both available to order and ship out today on Nomad's website. The 30W USB-C GaN AC Adapter is a small, minimalist wall charger with a 30W power output that supports iPhone fast charging. This accessory costs $29.95 and does not come with a USB-C cable. In terms of...
satechi pro hub max

Deals: Satechi Offering 25% Off Sitewide for Pi Day

Monday March 14, 2022 9:12 am PDT by
Satechi is celebrating Pi Day with a new coupon code that takes 25 percent off sitewide for today only. In order to get the discount, you can shop for accessories on Satechi's website and then enter the code PiDAY at checkout. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the...
maxresdefault

iPhone X Modded With USB-C Port Listed on eBay With Bids Topping $99,000

Thursday November 4, 2021 6:21 am PDT by
Earlier this week, robotics student Ken Pillonel shared a video explaining how he modded an iPhone X with a functional USB-C port in place of the usual Lightning connector. The USB-C port works for both charging the iPhone and data transfer. Pillonel also put the device up for auction on eBay, and bids are already topping a whopping $99,000. The listing describes the device as "the world's...
mac studio and studio display

Apple Announces Powerful 'Mac Studio' With M1 Ultra Chip and Companion 'Studio Display'

Tuesday March 8, 2022 10:41 am PST by
Apple today at its "Peek Performance" event announced a new Mac Studio desktop computer with a companion Studio Display monitor. With a 3.7-inch tall enclosure, the Mac Studio looks like a larger Mac mini, but it is far more powerful. The computer can be configured with the same M1 Max chip as found in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro or the just-announced M1 Ultra chip, which features a...
anker quickie

Deals: Get Up to 40% Off Anker's USB-C Cables, MagSafe-Compatible Chargers, and More

Thursday January 20, 2022 7:41 am PST by
Amazon's Gold Box deal of the day today is focusing on a collection of Anker chargers and cables, with prices starting at $16.99 for a 2-pack of Anker Powerline USB-C to USB-C cables. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. There are eight total...
iphone with usb c port

iPhone X With USB-C Port Sells For $86,001 on eBay

Friday November 12, 2021 3:13 am PST by
Last week, an iPhone X modified with a USB-C port was listed on eBay as "the world's first USB-C iPhone," and now, a few days after intense bidding, the USB-C iPhone has been sold for $86,001. The iPhone was modified by Ken Pillonel, a robotics student who shared a video explaining how he did it. Since the video was posted on November 1, it's garnered over 600,000 views and has been widely...

Popular Stories

iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
adaptive transparency airpods pro

iOS 16.1 Beta Brings Adaptive Transparency to Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 29, 2022 1:08 pm PDT by
The third beta of iOS 16.1 that was released earlier this week expands the Adaptive Transparency feature introduced with the second-generation AirPods Pro to the original AirPods Pro. As noted on Reddit, first-generation AirPods Pro owners who also have the AirPods beta software will now see an "Adaptive Transparency" toggle in the AirPods section of the Settings app. The 5A304A beta...
tim cook malala

Tim Cook: Not Too Long From Now, You'll Wonder How You Led Your Life Without AR

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:26 am PDT by
Speaking at Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that not too long from today, people will wonder how they led a life without augmented reality, stressing the "profound" impact it will have on the not so distant future. At the university, Cook was awarded an Honorary Degree in Innovation and International Management and also sat down for a...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iOS 16 Wallpaper Spectrum Feature

Five Wallpaper Apps to Check Out for iOS 16's New Lock Screen Depth Effect

Thursday September 29, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
One of the biggest new features in iOS 16 is a completely redesigned iPhone Lock Screen. The new Lock Screen is entirely customizable, letting you change the colors and fonts, add widgets and new wallpapers, and more to make your iPhone uniquely yours. Of course, even before iOS 16, you could customize your Lock Screen with a wallpaper of your choice. iOS 16 takes the Lock Screen wallpaper...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
mx mechanical keyboard logitech

Logitech Launches New 'Designed for Mac' Mice and Keyboards

Wednesday September 28, 2022 12:01 am PDT by
Logitech today announced the launch of several new mice and keyboards that have been developed for use with Apple's Macs, including Logitech's first mechanical keyboard that has been optimized for the Mac. The MX Mechanical Mini for Mac Keyboard has a keyboard layout designed for Macs, with tools to customize shortcuts with Logi Options+. The keyboard uses Tactile Quiet low-profile switches...
iphone 14 iphone 14 plus in hand feature

iPhone 14 Is Secretly Hiding a Beloved Mac Feature

Friday September 30, 2022 3:24 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models bring over a longstanding Mac feature, but the setting to enable it is off by default. The feature, which is actually a new accessibility option, allows the iPhone to play a startup chime like the Mac. When enabled, the sound comes alongside a new shutdown chime. The Mac has featured a startup chime since 1987's Macintosh II, and the iconic "bong"...