Apple T2 chip confirmed to have kill switch for DIY repairs

JC Torres - Nov 12, 2018, 11:03pm CST
Apple T2 chip confirmed to have kill switch for DIY repairs

The folks over at iFixit recently celebrated a small victory for third-party repair industry when exceptions to the DMCA allowed self-repairs for certain classes of devices. That victory, however, might have been short-lived at least as far as Apple’s latest Mac products are concerned. Because while some part of the new Macs and MacBooks can be replaced with no problem or issue, some parts, like the logic board and Touch ID fingerprint sensor, would now require official re-authentication using a diagnostic tool that only Apple provides to its authorized service providers.

The change came up early lost month when iFixit told Motherboard that the latest generation of MacBook Pros was being rendered unusable after having certain parts replaced. It turns out that repairing and replacing those parts would require the technician to run a proprietary diagnostic software called the AST 2 System Configuration suite to mark the repair as authorized. Naturally, this tool isn’t widely available to third-party repair services.

At the heart of the contention is Apple’s new second hear, the security-oriented T2 co-processor. This piece of silicon is responsible for quite a number of things, like storing cryptographic keys, processing Touch ID data, protecting mics from being remotely hacked and control, and even responding to Siri prompts without pressing a button. In other words, the T2 has its hands in a lot of components.

To some extent, it’s understandable that Apple would want to ensure that anything related to the T2 chip would require validation. For something integral to security, it would definitely be in users’ best interests to be confident that their device hasn’t been tampered with. However, it is also being seen as a “guillotine” that Apple brandishes to kill off the third-party repair industry.

Apple isn’t being consistent either nor is it clear on what requires the diagnostic tool and what doesn’t. Replacing the screen, for example, won’t trigger the need for authentication. iFixit also reports inconsistencies with the MacBook Pros it worked on a few months back. And while only the MacBook Pro and iMac are specifically named in Apple’s internal documents, it’s likely that the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini will soon be included in that list.

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