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Apple’s Lightning cable and its little chip in the plug perhaps not so secure

Posted: , by Maxwell R.

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Apple’s Lightning cable and its little chip in the plug perhaps not so secure
A little reverse engineering can answer a lot of questions. Shortly after the announcement of the new iPhone 5 and its new Lightning cable, we learned that the cable had an authentication chip inside. The presence of the chip means that manufacturers of cheap knock-off products would not be able to make a working components for the iPhone 5.

Like we mentioned before, this circumstance would not likely cause a problem for some 30-pin to 8-pin adapters, but for accessories that would want to include their own cables or docking accessories, it may pose a problem. Even with the adapters, it means you have to tote your Apple Lightning cable with you everywhere (until you buy spares at $19 each, official adapters cost $30).

The guys at Chipworks decided a little dissection was in order. Inside the little 8-pin plug, they found not just one, or two, but four chips. Three of the four did not raise an eyebrow, but the fourth, the mysterious authentication chip, did spark a great deal of interest. It is a Texas Instruments component bearing part number BQ2025.

That part number is not published by TI, but they do have part numbers BQ2022, BQ2023, BQ2024 and BQ2026, all of which which are basically battery fuel gauges with basic security protocols and use a single-wire SDQ (Store Data Queue) interface. Based on that, Chipworks surmises that this little gem in the Lightning cable does the same thing and contains some rudimentary security protocol as well (like the others).

This is the first secure cable they have seen. However, for the enterprising outfit out there, the security is not Fort Knox.

"The security does not come close to the herculean approaches that are used in (for example) today’s printer cartridges, but resembles the level of effort that cartridge manufacturers used to implement in the olden days."

Chipworks also cites the onerous possibility that this could be the beginning of security for certain common accessories across different platforms and that this first batch from Apple is probably not the last we will see from the company. As to the three remaining chips in the plug, they are power transistors. We included the images for posterity.

sources: Chipworks via BGR

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posted on 17 Oct 2012, 02:12 9

1. sheik (Posts: 249; Member since: 12 Sep 2012)


posted on 17 Oct 2012, 11:26 1

9. loli5 (Posts: 76; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

iphonearena.com plus there isn't much to talk about on the iphail5.

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 02:21 1

2. BattleBrat (Posts: 1476; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)

images for prosperity (?)

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 02:27 3

3. Mohtastic (Posts: 19; Member since: 24 May 2011)

If its made by apple, they'll report it. "applearena"

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 02:42 1

4. Gawain (Posts: 423; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)

I like the comparison of security to that of a printer cartrige. hahaha

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 03:16

5. dreeemer (Posts: 28; Member since: 04 Sep 2012)

Images for "prosperity"; or POSTERITY?
Ur OBVIOUSLY an Apple user...lmao

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 03:20

6. dreeemer (Posts: 28; Member since: 04 Sep 2012)

Since the obviously made the cable as a money grab; maybe it IS for "prosperity"...lol

posted on 17 Oct 2012, 07:33

7. dirtydirty00 (Posts: 425; Member since: 21 Jan 2011)


posted on 17 Oct 2012, 09:55

8. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

One additional item related to 'security' - the cable's mystery chip is not performing an encryption function. Other articles have mentioned a CRC function of the chip. CRC is used in serial data transfer as a means of ensuring no dropped/corrupted data packets.

posted on 18 Oct 2012, 22:15

10. ChiX017 (Posts: 308; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)

Give them a break, it's still Phone news..

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