The authentication chip built in to Apple’s Lightning cable has been the topic of much discussion. We’ve peered inside it, looked at adapters, and are crossing our fingers for third party knockoffs. But now the folks at Chipworks have applied their expertise to the tiny authentication chip hidden inside the cable.
They’ve identified one of the chips on the connector as the Texas Instruments “BQ2025” — a part number not published by TI. However, based on similar chips that TI does publish information on, it probably does have some basic security information.
It is actually very interesting that we may have found a security device in this cable. Previously, we have analyzed security devices regarding medical printer media (armbands), printer cartridges, flash drive memory, batteries, and smart cards, but this is the first secure cable we have seen. 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.” With future generations of Apple and non-Apple products, we may begin to see even stronger security and control if the market forces merit it.
Overall, they describe the components of the chips as “consistent with a serial communication chip including some simple security features.”