Apple made chips even more secure, but kept it quiet

Apple improved certain chips last fall, without publicizing this: these chips are now more secure. This is evident from support documents on Apple’s website.

Secure Enclave chip security improved

It rarely happens that Apple makes adjustments to an existing chip. But now a specific part of the A12, A13 and S5 chips has been improved: it is the Secure Enclave chip. This co-processor provides an extra layer of security on all your Apple products.

The component plays an important role in the storage of sensitive data. Think of biometric data such as your face for Face ID and your fingerprint for Touch ID. But Apple Pay is also largely done in this way. The name ‘Secure Enclave’ already gives it away a bit: this part is separate from the rest of the chip and the system and is therefore extra secure – and now even more secure.

Which products?

Apple’s documentation now suddenly shows that the A12, A13, and S5 chips of products released in the fall of 2020 contain a second generation of the Secure Enclave chip. The data on the support page is not entirely consistent, but it would mean that at least the Apple Watch SE, the HomePod mini and an eighth-generation iPad are equipped with it. These are all new devices in which a somewhat older chip has been reused, but with this adjustment.

The iPhone 12, iPad Air 2020, and Apple Watch Series also have the second generation Secure Enclave chip.

What has improved?

It is not entirely clear what exactly has changed. But apparently, Apple thought it was important enough to adapt not only the latest chips but also the somewhat older chips in new devices. It appears to be a safeguard against GrayKey – a small box with which passwords can be cracked. Last summer it was also in the news that a group of Chinese hackers would have hacked the Secure Enclave chip – this may also have something to do with it.

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