GCHQ destroys interesting Apple laptop components

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by 556fmjoe, May 23, 2014.

  1. 556fmjoe macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2014
    Privacy International has a pretty interesting article on The Guardian's Apple laptops. The Guardian was told by the British gov to destroy the Snowden documents or turn them over. They decided to destroy the Snowden documents rather than hand them over, since this would allow journalists to work overseas with them.

    However, GCHQ did not just destroy the hard drives, as you would expect. They also destroyed the keyboard controller chip, trackpad controller chip, and the inverter converter chip.

    I wonder what kind of surveillance implants those were. I'm guessing the keyboard controller was a keylogger the trackpad controller was something similar that captured mouse movements. The last one is strange though. Could be a screen capture device IMO.

    Full article: https://www.privacyinternational.org/blog/what-does-gchq-know-about-our-devices-that-we-dont
  2. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    For intercepted devices, those controllers would be ideal places to hide key loggers. That should NOT be taken as "well these devices are manufactured with tracking imbedded".
  3. 556fmjoe thread starter macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2014
    Maybe, maybe not. I'd be curious as to what kind of physical security those reporters had over their laptops. If they left them around with no one watching them, they could have been intercepted and modified. If they were cautious and always had them with them, then I'd say it's probably something built in from the factory, whether it's deliberate or not.
  4. LionessLover macrumors newbie

    May 24, 2014

    Not really.

    We are talking about *chips* here. Even with physical access and plenty of time and equipment you can't "bug" a chip. Even replacing it requires a MAJOR effort and lots of equipment. We are talking about many soldering point per square mm (not inch) for todays chips on such tightly integrated boards as that of an "Air". You need micro-meter precision to exchange chips, not to mention extremely precise heat control in a tiny space.

    And those chips are not supposed to have memory or anything where they could have stored software to intercept what goes through.

    Remember, the article pretty much says that it still looks like any normal Macbook Air, it's not like they found hardware that hadn't been there before. They destroyed chips that any such notebook has, and it is next to impossible that those are not the original chips.
  5. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    Agreed with LionessLover: it is inconceivable that the chips were not the originals. There is a reason the slightest component going off-song triggers an entire mobo replacement for any laptop.

    The only practical possibility is a logger with substantial flash storage in-chip, which is readily assessed by studying the chips' specs.

    Bottom line: not bloody likely. But useful theatrical agitprop.
  6. LionessLover macrumors newbie

    May 24, 2014
    You assume they tell you the truth in those specs. That is an assumption that these days you will have to prove and not just make.

    So you are making a very bold statement based on nothing more than your assumption that they tell you everything. Sure, additional hardware options added for the NSA/GCHQ will appear in the published specs - hahaha.

    A few years ago anyone who would have said what I just said would have been placed solidly in the alumin(i)um hat faction - but as I said, these days the burden of proof has somewhat reversed. So don't make such ridiculous statements as if nothing had been revealed about the state of global surveillance.

    And don't you point out "it's not in the company's interest". Even without the wight of an aggressive government behind it top management at large corporations has a great track record in doing what's right and convenient for THEM, not what's right for the long-term prospects of the business. Just thing mergers/acquisitions, CEO income of banks (just proven by a - was it Harvard? - study to rely on the size of bank and not on their commercial success), etc.
  7. vpndev macrumors 6502

    May 11, 2009
    chips and drivers

    Almost certainly they were the original chips. But I would strongly suspect that they might have had different firmware implanted on them. That would be why GCHQ was so intent on their destruction - no disclosure of "sources and methods".

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