Apple has always been a promoter of privacy. The Cupertino-based tech giant introduced a T2 security chip on its 2018 MacBooks. It is now present in all the Apple MacBook and Macs released since those models. This proprietary security chip helps in disconnecting the microphone when the lid of the notebook is shut. Now, according to the Apple Security Platform document, the company has included a similar feature in the newly-launched iPad Pro 2020 models.
The new iPad Pro 2020 is the 2018 iPad Pro with a more modern A12Z Bionic processor and a third LIDAR camera for AR applications. But it is the first of its kind to feature hardware-level microphone disconnect functionality as a privacy measure. Apple confirms that going forward, all the new iPads will come with this feature.
The automatic microphone disconnect feature on iPad Pro 2020 and the forthcoming models require the users to shut their Apple tablets with an MFI (Made for iPad) compliant case. By doing so, the microphone on the iPad will be disconnected in hardware, and thus, microphone audio data cannot be used by software, even with root or kernel privileges.
However, it is worth having in mind that Apple says the cameras on MacBooks don’t disconnect as their field of view is obstructed by the lid. As for iPads, it does not mention anything about the camera disconnection since there’s no need for it anyway as the case covers the whole front and the rear cameras are faced down.
According to Apple’s security document, which and as first spotted by 9to5Mac, the ‘hardware microphone disconnect’ feature works when an iPad-compatible case attached to the device is physically closed. This security feature will necessarily make it difficult for malware to tap into the iPad’s microphone. The new iPad Pro models are the first to receive the functionality, though the security document indicates it will become standard in future models.
The microphone is disconnected in the hardware, preventing microphone audio data from being made available to any software even with root or the kernel privileges in iPadOS or case the firmware is compromised,” the company in the security document noted. Apple is in the security note also added that the camera hardware is not disconnected when the case is physically closed, “because its field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.”
Apple first introduced the security measure in 2018 with the T2 security chip that was included in MacBook Air and Mac mini. The T2 Security Chip was also present in the 2017 version of iMac Pro that primarily protected the device’s storage, fingerprint data, secure booth features, and encryption keys.
At the moment, Apple is yet to announce the launch of the latest iPad units in India. The tech giant was also rumoured to launch the new iPad between March and April, which may have been pushed further as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The prices for the new iPad Pro units start at Rs. 71,900 for the iPad Pro 11-inch Wi-Fi variant and Rs. 89,900 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi.