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Apple's Lightning Cable Contains TI Chip 'Likely' to Have Security Features

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
50,474
11,862



Apple's new Lightning connector introduced on the iPhone 5 has generated a significant amount of interest, both from a usage standpoint as the company abandons its nearly decade-old 30-pin dock connector and from a technical perspective. On the technical side, the new Lightning connector uses adaptive technology to enable it to perform a variety of functions with just eight contact pins, dynamically assigning pin functions to suit a given situation.

One other aspect of the Lightning connector that has generated interest is whether Apple has also incorporated some sort of authentication functionality into the handful of chips found inside the Lightning connector assembly in order to inhibit third parties from manufacturing unlicensed cables. Scattered reports have indeed indicated that Apple has included authentication features in its cables, but companies have reportedly already cracked the security feature.

Chips inside Lightning connector assembly
Chipworks has now taken a closer look at the chips found inside the Lightning to USB cable, highlighting a Texas Instruments (TI) chip that seems "likely" to include a security feature. While the exact "BQ2025" chip used in the cable is not documented in TI datasheets, four other chips with very similar part numbers are documented.
These four chips are cataloged on TI's website as battery fuel gauges, but they are not identical, with three of them being serial EPROMs and one of them being a battery monitor IC.

However, all four do have some common characteristics. All use a single wire SDQ interface (TI's proprietary serial communications protocol), and all have some basic security features such as CRC [cyclic redundancy check] generation. So, it is certainly likely that the BQ2025 does have some security implemented on it. It would also seem likely that it includes an SDQ interface.
Die photo of TI's BQ2025 chip
Further investigation of the layout of the chip is consistent with a communication chip employing some "simple security features", and Chipworks notes that this seems to be the first time the firm has found such security features in a cable. CRC does not, however, serve to authenticate connections and is instead primarily used to check for errors in data transmission.
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. This is likely a calculated decision by Apple to keep costs to a minimum knowing that their core customer base prefers to shop in Apple stores or for brand name peripherals. In these places, piracy is not a concern. In other words, at this time the security is "just enough."
Many users have been frustrated by Apple's tight control over the Lightning standard, a grip that has slowed accessory companies as they are still waiting to receive instructions from Apple and to have their facilities certified by Apple under the Made For iPad/iPhone/iPod (MFi) program. In the meantime, unauthorized third-party manufacturers are likely to begin filling the void.

Article Link: Apple's Lightning Cable Contains TI Chip 'Likely' to Have Security Features
 

mshahnoora

macrumors newbie
Sep 28, 2010
18
0
A little too overdone on cables, no? Come on Apple, focus on newer iMacs and other upcoming, game-changing products.

So what if some company makes their own cables?
 

AFDoc

macrumors 68030
Jun 29, 2012
2,785
522
Colorado Springs USA for now
Apple is all about the $ huh. Of course it wont be long before the market is flooded with 3rd party cables but for now they sure are making it tough on some.
 
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Rychiar

macrumors 6502a
May 16, 2006
767
1,444
Waterbury, CT
I just want a damn adapter so i can use my phone in my car. couldn't apple at least not make us wait a month for their own if no one else can make one? grrr:mad:
 

lostngone

macrumors 65816
Aug 11, 2003
1,399
3,298
Anchorage
Great now I get to update the firmware on the Lighting and Thunderbolt cables.

Sometimes a cable just needs to be a cable and not a small freak'in computer!!!
 

Michael Scrip

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2011
5,931
6,676
NC
All I want is someone to crack it and sell me $3 cables!

The biggest complaint I'm hearing is paying $19 just for a second cable to keep in the office or car to charge your phone.

I could see someone making a cheap "charging only" cable. That would solve a lot of problems.
 

AppleScruff1

macrumors G4
Feb 10, 2011
10,026
2,948
Good move by Apple. Hopefully they can prevent others from making knock off cables and selling them for a lower price. They should sue anyone who does this.
 

hifromtomorrow

macrumors member
Jul 11, 2012
50
0
Brisbane, Australia
and...

i have this new cable, new phone, and a new car (hyundai ix35)

somewhere there is a "lack of compatibility"...

it just keeps making the charge noise every five seconds and nothing else happens...

tried two cables, same issue...

annoying...
 

m0dest

macrumors newbie
Apr 16, 2010
19
26
CRC is not "authentication" or "DRM." CRC is a simple checksum. It makes sure that data doesn't get corrupted during transfer.

A chip is simply necessary to make a reversible cable with adaptive pins. Please stop perpetuating this "authentication chip" ********. Apple is clever enough to know that a hypothetical "secret chip" would never prevent third party manufacturers from producing copies.
 

TDarby719

macrumors newbie
Oct 15, 2012
2
0

ultravioletfly

macrumors regular
Oct 18, 2007
112
0
The Apple Store here is limiting purchases of the Lightning to USB cable to 1 per person, as they had trouble keeping them in stock otherwise. Seems like the price is not a concern.
 

iLoveiTunes

macrumors 6502
Feb 26, 2011
268
511
Amazin

It's amazing to see how such a small tip of a cable can carry such a complex structure inside.... and I thought that my job was difficult :)

Not lauding Apple but, the modern engineering here
 

danielwsmithee

macrumors 65816
Mar 12, 2005
1,121
402
CRC is not "authentication" or "DRM." CRC is a simple checksum. It makes sure that data doesn't get corrupted during transfer.

A chip is simply necessary to make a reversible cable with adaptive pins. Please stop perpetuating this "authentication chip" ********. Apple is clever enough to know that a hypothetical "secret chip" would never prevent third party manufacturers from producing copies.
Finally some intelligence around here.
 

rdlink

macrumors 68040
Nov 10, 2007
3,226
2,434
Out of the Reach of the FBI
Apple has an adapter for the 30 pin to lightning connection for $29 with a 2-3 week shipping projection. If you have a case on you phone, it may require a little adjustment to get the adapter to completely seat.

http://store.apple.com/us/product/MD823ZM/A/lightning-to-30-pin-adapter


But his point is that nobody can get one. The damn phone has been out for a month, and I still can't walk into the store and buy the adapter. Should have had these ready to go when the phone was released.
 

skellener

macrumors 68000
Jun 23, 2003
1,768
507
So. Cal.
Even if we can get cheap third party adapters for charging purposes, that will go a long way. I can't imagine those will need the chips. Apple does get a big fat FAIL for not stocking the adapters in quantity before the launch of the new connector though.
 

tech4all

macrumors 68040
Jun 13, 2004
3,399
489
NorCal
Good move by Apple. Hopefully they can prevent others from making knock off cables and selling them for a lower price. They should sue anyone who does this.

Really hoping that's sarcasm...

Price is never a concern to an Apple customer.

Yes it is. At least to those who buy Apple products, but aren't "Apple zombies" who buy a product just because Apple released a new product and think its the coolest thing ever.
 

debacled

macrumors newbie
Oct 12, 2012
6
0
If Apple keeps up with this nonsense, pretty soon the Lightning cables will have more processing power than the Mac Mini.

Apple...you know you are welcome to contribute(or create) an open standard...

Not everyone has forgotten Microsoft's $150 million "investment" to you some years back. Don't forget who helped keep you around.
 
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artpease

macrumors member
Oct 25, 2004
68
0
Seattle
CRC is not "authentication" or "DRM." CRC is a simple checksum. It makes sure that data doesn't get corrupted during transfer.

A chip is simply necessary to make a reversible cable with adaptive pins. Please stop perpetuating this "authentication chip" ********. Apple is clever enough to know that a hypothetical "secret chip" would never prevent third party manufacturers from producing copies.

Don't kill the messenger here. This is just a copy and paste from the Chipworks blog obviously written by someone with little technical knowledge.

I can't image the Chipworks technicians don't know what CRC is.
 
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