Apple’s MacOS is known to be one of the more secure operating systems out there. However, due to its increasing popularity and expanding user base, hackers and cybercriminals are starting to victimize iMacs and MacBooks more and more.
By accessing a computer’s microphones and cameras, hackers are awarded an open window into your life. They can spy on you at any time, without warning, recording your personal and professional footage.
This information can be used in a variety of ways, but commonly, images and conversations from an individual’s private life are held ransom, and subsequently released online to the world if the ransom demand is not met.
Thankfully, with the just-announced new MacBook Air, Apple made it much tougher to hijack its microphone.
New T2 security chip
A recently published Apple security document that details the new MacBook Air’s T2 chip has revealed a brilliant new feature that protects its microphone from hijacking and spying.
With this feature, any T2-equipped laptop will disconnect the microphone whenever the lid is closed.
The idea is that since this disconnection is physically executed via hardware, malware and other software hacks can’t bypass it.
“This disconnect is implemented in hardware alone, and therefore prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed,” Apple wrote in the overview.
The MacBook Air’s camera, on the other hand, doesn’t get the same hardware disconnect feature since its view is already obstructed anyway when the lid is closed. Makes sense to me.
Other T2 security features:
Other security features detailed in the paper include the following:
Security Enclave – a coprocessor on the T2 that is dedicated to security functions. This protects the keys needed for FireVault and secure booting and it also processes Touch ID fingerprint data.
Encryption – The T2 chip has a built-in dedicated engine used solely for AES encryption. Not only does this make it more efficient, it also prevents software and firmware from reading the keys directly.
Secure Boot – The booting process of a T2-equipped MacBook is also secured by the chip by verifying each stage of the startup process.
Touch ID – Like the MacBook Pro, the new MacBook Air is now secured with Touch ID. Touch ID can be used for logins and to authorize purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store and Apple Books, as well as with Apple Pay.
How about when you’re using your MacBook Air?
Although the T2 chip can prevent hackers from hijacking your MacBook Air’s microphone while the lid is closed, it’s still vulnerable to software hacks while you’re still actively using it.
To stop software hijacking, you can try a program like Oversight.
Oversight is a free monitoring program for the Mac that will protect your webcam or microphone against intrusions. With this tool, you can constantly monitor which applications can activate your microphones and cameras, and prevent malicious actors from eavesdropping on your conversations or spying on your life.
When an application attempts to access your microphones or camera, this tool will prompt you with a message like this:
Bonus: Don’t let laptop spyware listen in to your conversations
Kim talked about laptop spying and a simple way to protect yourself in an episode of the Consumer Tech Update podcast. Tap or click below to listen.