Chipworks Teardown of the Lightning Cable Reveals Security Features

Chipworks has performed a teardown of Apple’s Lighting cable and it has revealed there are four chips embedded within that in some part provide security to prevent it from being copied by third parties:

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. 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.

One particular chip that was of interest to Chipworks was an unlisted Texas Instruments chip (BQ2025) that cannot be found in published data sheets. After some further analysis of this particular chip, it is revealed it may be the source of security for the Lightning cable:

There is a digital logic block occupying the top left portion of the chip. This block includes about 5K gates of logic. Also on the chip is the EPROM, with likely 64 or 128 bits of storage (visual inspection only, full RE not completed). There are also some large driver transistors, quite a bit of analog circuitry, and a fair amount of capacitance. This is certainly all consistent with a serial communication chip including some simple security features.

Third party manufacturers have already claimed they have cracked the security features of the Lighting cable, which appear to hit the market fairly soon.

Apple claimed the Lighting cable is 80% smaller than the former 30-pin connector and the change was necessary to create smaller and thinner products such as the iPhone 5. The individual pins on the new cable are able to be dynamically controlled for any given situation.

What do you think about Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable?