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Everything you need to know about the Apple T2 chip

Personal data protection and cybersecurity have always gone hand in hand with Apple’s product philosophy. If you have a Mac computer released in 2018 or later, chances are it has Apple’s T2 chip inside. The T2 chip is a second-generation security chip developed by Apple. Like its predecessor, the T1 chip, the Apple T2 security chip has advanced features for its new Mac models, such as encrypted storage, secure boot capabilities, and other perks like security for Touch ID data.

Everything you need to know about the Apple T2 chip

What is a T2 chip?

Think of the T2 chip as a computer inside your Mac computer. In other words, Apple has reinvented the wheel by making their T2 series chips as hardware instead of software-based security measures that lacked security while handling some operations. As a custom security silicon, Apple’s T2 security chip is used only for Mac devices and does what it promises. It keeps your data more secure. Moreover, it takes some of the load off the CPU’s shoulders by enhancing Mac’s overall performance, including the SSD controller, audio controller, and image signal processor. Yes, that makes your Mac much faster.

How does the T2 chip work?

The Apple T2 security chip operates independently because it is equipped with a Secure Enclave Coprocessor. The hardware is isolated from the Intel processor and operating system. That way, the chip handles various operations separately. Being responsible for managing the boot processes on Mac machines, T2 ensures that only trusted software can run. If it detects any software signed with an untrusted certificate, the boot process is stopped to prevent it from running.

Besides hardware-level encryption capabilities, T2 has a hardware-accelerated AES engine responsible for data encryption and decryption on the device’s internal storage. In human language, this engine provides additional protection for sensitive data and prevents unauthorized access to the data. In conjunction with the Secure Enclave coprocessor, the T2 chip handles Touch ID sensor operations, storing and protecting the user’s fingerprint data.

When did Apple launch the T2 security chip?

Apple fixed its predecessor’s T1 chip security vulnerabilities and in 2017, introduced its T2 security chip with the iMac Pro models. Soon the Mac Mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air models followed. The new T2 chip provides additional security for new and upcoming Mac models because better encryption protects its users from cybersecurity threats like malware.

How does a T2 chip increase your security?

Apple used multiple hardware controllers to assemble the T2 chip into one silicon piece. This not only enhances security, but makes your Mac perform better. The T2 security chip can increase your computer security and overall performance in several ways.

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    Secure boot process: The watchful eye of the T2 security chip ensures that everything happening in your computer’s boot process is Apple verified, including firmware and macOS kernel extensions. That means secure boot only works with Apple-verified codes, leaving no space for hackers to squeeze in malicious code. Only one exception applies to the bootloader, allowing it to run Windows 10 and 11 on your Mac device. Still, unfortunately, you can’t boot from Linux in Boot Camp or any other external drive.
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    Hardware-level encryption: The T2 chip has a crypto engine and an SSD controller. That combination allows instant data encryption and decryption on the SSD. The same technology and process apply to File Vault, but you must enter a password when starting it. It’s impossible to decrypt data without the correct password. That way, sensitive data is always protected from unauthorized access. On the flip side, the T2 chip has a limit for wrong password attempts. The first 14 attempts have no limits, but later, time limits are implied. Unfortunately, when you hit the 220 mark, you cannot make any more attempts. As a result, you can lose all your data, so it’s advisable to have a valid data backup.
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    Touch ID: The main perk of Touch ID is that your Mac’s Touch Bar or startup button has a fingerprint sensor. So you don’t need to enter a password. The T2 security chip will identify your fingerprint. When you restart your device or haven’t unlocked it for more than 48 hours, the T2 chip will ask for a password. The Touch ID sensor is handy for online purchases with Apple Pay.
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    Mic Drop: The T2 chip doesn’t exactly perform this feature, but all MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers with T2 chips have this attribute. Mic Drop disables the microphone whenever the computer’s lid is closed. This feature contributes to cybersecurity by ensuring no software turns on the microphone and listens to or stores your voice data.

What are the concerns around the T2 security chip?

Despite all the T2 security chip features for Mac computers, some issues might concern its users.

  • Security vulnerabilities: In 2020, some security researchers discovered Secure Enclave coprocessor vulnerabilities that could allow hackers and attackers to access the coprocessor and potentially steal sensitive information stored on the Mac. After these findings, Apple released a patch to fix the bug.
  • Repairability: Since the T2 chip ensures many security-related functions on Mac computers, replacing or repairing it can be difficult because it might require specialized equipment. Getting that equipment might take a lot of work for individual users or third-party repair mechanics. Finally, this specialized equipment might raise the repair prices significantly.
  • User privacy: The T2 chip can record audio during sleep mode. This feature enables Siri to respond to voice commands, but users were concerned about the potential privacy violations.

How to identify Mac models with Apple T2 chips

  1. Go to the Apple menu and press the “Option” key. “System Information” will appear – click on it.
  2. Choose “iBridge” or “Controller” in the “Hardware” section.
  3. If you see “Apple T2 security chip” written on the right side of the screen, that means your Mac has the security chip.
how to identify Mac models with Apple T2 chips

How to disable the Apple T2 chip

Disabling the Apple T2 security chip takes some practice, but the process is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Restart your Mac.
  2. During the beginning of the reboot, press and hold the Command (⌘) + R keys.
  3. Select the administrator account and type in your password.
  4. Select “Boot security tool.”
  5. Select “No security” and permit booting from external media on the new window.
  6. Reboot.
  7. At the beginning of the reboot, press down the Option (⌥) key, and from the given drives, select “EFI boot.”