Hackers Spot Permanent Vulnerability in Apple's Secure Enclave

Secure Enclave is a hardware featured in most Apple products that secures the devices, and now, it may be vulnerable.
Loukia Papadopoulos

You may not have heard of it but the Secure Enclave is the padlock protecting almost all your Apple products. As described by the firm, the feature "is a secure coprocessor that includes a hardware-based key manager, which is isolated from the main processor to provide an extra layer of security."


It can be found on certain versions of iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, Apple Watch, and HomePod. All data on these devices is encrypted with random private keys, which are only accessible by the Secure Enclave. The coprocessor then stores the keys that manage sensitive data such as your passwords.

"The Secure Enclave also maintains the integrity of its cryptographic operations even if the device kernel has been compromised. Communication between the Secure Enclave and the application processor is tightly controlled by isolating it to an interrupt-driven mailbox and shared memory data buffers, "writes Apple.

If you are still confused, you should know that Secure Enclave basically functions like this: when you store a private key in the hardware, you never actually deal with the key directly. Instead, you assign the Secure Enclave the task of generating the key, securely storing it, and performing operations with it. In the end, you receive only the output of these operations, making it nearly impossible for the key to become compromised. 

Hackers have been trying to mess with the Security Enclave for a while. In 2017, a group succeeded in decrypting the Secure Enclave firmware but failed to gain access to the private keys, leaving users safe and sound.

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However, Chinese hackers from the Pangu Team have now found a weakness on the hardware that could result in breaking the encryption of private security keys, reported 9to5 Mac. The unpatchable exploit could give you a reason to worry.

As the exploit is not in the system software, but rather in the hardware, Apple can not remotely fix the devices that carry it. No details have yet been provided as to what hackers may do with this latest exploit but it is reassuring to note that an exploit such as this would require a hacker to have physical access to the device.

As such, Apple users can at least rest easy knowing their phones and other devices can not be remotely hacked. It should also be noted that Apple has a history of rewarding hackers for spotting vulnerabilities which means the firm is likely already looking for a solution to the issue. Good luck Apple!