Apple introduced the new M1 chip this week and the company presented a brief description of its security features.
The technology giant told SecurityWeek that in the coming weeks he would talk in detail about the security features of M1. So far it has provided only limited information, but this has been sufficient for the experts to exchange views.
According to Apple, the M1 is the first System-on-Chip (SoC) designed specifically for the Mac. The chip uses 5nm technology, has 16 billion transistors and contains a processor and an 8-core GPU, which the company says offers high performance without high power consumption.
Regarding security features, Apple said the M1 chip includes the latest generation Secure Enclave, a powerful memory controller with hardware-based AES encryption and hardware-based secure boot authentication. The company claims to have integrated new security features into the M1 code implementation architecture.
Security researcher Daniel Gruss told SecurityWeek that the M1 chip doesn’t seem to have any security holes.
However, according to Mr Gruss, the M1 is a very interesting and modern device with modern security technology based on previous public information.
Gruss is a researcher at the Technical University of Graz in Graz, Austria. He is one of the researchers involved in the discovery of the Meltdown, Specter, and several other significant vulnerabilities, including a recently discovered PLATYPUS attack that allows for the acquisition of sensitive data by monitoring the power consumption of the processor.
Jesse Michael, senior security researcher at Eclypsium, explained that by adding its own AES encryption hardware to the storage controller, Apple would not be dependent on a possible encryption error on the SSD itself, and that it would prevent the main processor from being blocked due to encryption tasks.
Intel a few years ago added AES-NI instructions to speed up encryption because the special hardware to perform AES operations is faster than the general instructions only, said Michael SecurityWeek.
As for the hardware-tested secure launch, which is designed to allow the only code signed by Apple to work on the device (even if the attacker has physical access to it), the expert noted that similar features have long been available on Apple phones and that it makes sense for them to add them to their laptops and other devices.
Many other vendors have worked to add a hardware confidence root for secure boot, Michael said. Intel has the BootGuard feature to check even the first few pieces of code read from the SPI flash memory and to close one of the secure boot holes on Intel platforms, but it is not yet widely used. BootGuard will probably appear in company laptops, I think.
As for the Secure Enclave, which is designed to protect highly sensitive information even if the operating system has been compromised, the researcher found that it is similar to Intel’s SGX technology, but the Intel version is slightly more versatile than the Apple Secure Enclave.
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@EduardKovacs – Publisher of the Safety Week. He worked for two years as a high school computer science teacher before starting a career in journalism as a security reporter for Softpedia. Edouard has a bachelor’s degree in industrial computer sciences and a master’s degree in computer engineering for electrical engineering.
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