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

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.

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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