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Security & privacy

Have an older iPhone or Mac? Don’t miss this security warning

Most Apple products are known for having tight security measures in place. It’s part of why people love Apple devices — the system security and safeguarding makes them hard to compromise.

That doesn’t mean Apple products are impenetrable, though. While we hear more about security problems with PCs and Androids, there are issues that pop up with Apple products, too. They don’t occur as often but they still happen. These 11 Apple security updates you should install right now are proof.

Now, a vulnerability found in common Apple hardware is putting users at risk. The issue is caused by a vulnerability in a security chip and could give hackers an easy way to access your system.

How hackers are taking advantage of Mac devices

Remember that T2 chip that Apple started adding to its products a couple of years ago? It was supposed to help secure your device and data by encrypting your data storage, Touch ID and Activation Lock. Tap or click here for details on the T2 chip.

Well, it turns out the T2 chip wasn’t as infallible as developers thought. A recently released tool dubbed Checkra1n 0.11.0 allows people to exploit a vulnerability in the T2 security chip and gain access to your computer’s systems.

Checkra1n 0.11.0 works by essentially jailbreaking your Mac or MacBook. This, in turn, opens your device up to a host of new threats. The tool could be used to install malware, disable security features, obtain FileVault encryption keys or even decrypt your data.

The issue isn’t limited to certain Macs or MacBooks, either. This tool can be used to exploit any Mac device that contains a T2 chip — including Macs built with the latest version of T2 chip. All it takes is a copy of Checkra1n 0.11.0, a USB-C cable and an unattended MacBook or Mac with a T2 chip inside to do it.

How to protect you Apple devices

This is a hardware-related issue, which means the vulnerability is unpatchable for now. Any device with a T2 chip inside it is at risk of being compromised and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

If your Mac is tampered with, the only way to resolve the issue is to reinstall BridgeOS — the operating system that runs on T2 chips.

Related: iPhone apps not opening? Here’s how to fix them

This isn’t the first time a T2 vulnerability has been exploited, either. A similar tool was already developed to let users jailbreak iPhones containing Apple’s A5 through A11 mobile chipsets. This new tool confirms there are major security issues with T2 chips, though — and puts even more Mac users at risk.

The upside to all of this is it would be nearly impossible to launch a widespread, remote attack on Macs and MacBooks with this tool. Mac users are still at risk, of course, but a hacker would have to have access to the device if they wanted to load and launch Checkra1n 0.11.0 on someone else’s computer.

And even if someone did access your device with this tool, the threat wouldn’t be ongoing. Reinstalling BridgeOS would take care of the problem, as would limiting who has access to your Mac.

It would also take a lot more than just this tool to compromise encrypted data. Any hacker who gained access to your Mac or MacBook would need to use a keylogger or other malware to steal decryption keys. So while the threat is there, it’s probably not going to lead to widespread issues.

You should still take steps to prevent someone from accessing your Mac, though. The threat from Checkra1n isn’t massive, but it’s still there. Start by limiting who has access to your device. The only way to compromise your Mac with Checkra1n is to get physical access to your computer, so don’t leave your Mac unattended.

It’s also important to take steps to encrypt sensitive information on your computer. This will limit what someone else can access from your device and make it much harder for a hacker to quickly steal files or folders.

You may also want to invest in some good antivirus or anti-malware software, too. That should be something you do anyway, but it’s especially important if you’re worried about vulnerabilities with T2 chips. Installing a reputable program will keep tons of issues — this and others — at bay. Tap or click for top antivirus options for both PC and Mac.

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