In a recently published blog post, hacker and security researcher Jeffrey Paul casts doubt over the sanctity and security of Apple’s Macs, stating that they can no longer be used safely and with confidence in completely offline environments.
Paul takes particular issue with Apple’s T2 chip — a security chip made by TSMC for Apple that comes pre-installed on all Intel-based Macs, and is part of the CPU on the latest generation of MacBooks powered by the Apple M1.
The T2 chip is primarily designed to enhance security on Macs, cross-checking a Mac’s signature with encrypted signatures for its hardware stored on Apple’s servers upon initial setup and disabling a MacBook’s mic when its lid is closed to prevent exploitation.
However, it is exactly the fact that basically every MacBook, be it Intel-powered or run on Apple’s own Silicon, needs to connect to the internet for setup following a complete wipe and OS restore that has the security researcher worried.
These practices endanger the privacy and personal freedoms of the private citizen — if you cannot even set your Mac up without letting it talk to Apple’s servers, is the Mac really yours? It’s not like infiltration or server outages are unheard of, and privacy concerns against Apple are certainly mounting.
Furthermore, this all but disqualifies Apple’s Macs, including the M1 models, from having any practical applications in systems that need to be air-gapped (such as those that handle cryptocurrencies or are involved in sensitive data processing) or networks that cannot rely on an internet connection and need to be made up of computers that can be repaired, wiped, and restored offline (such as those aboard ships, submarines, or spacecraft, or in remote locations).
So remember, if and when you decide to reinstall macOS on a newer M1 or Mac with T2, make sure you have internet connectivity nearby or your computer won’t activate.