How iPadOS’s New Feature Could Help Protect Your Privacy

Apple hardware is hard to hack

Key Takeaways

  • iPads now shut off their microphones when you close your Smart Folio case.
  • MacBooks already disconnect their mics when you close the lid.
  • Apple’s hardware security has changed what we expect of computers.
An iPad with a Smart Folio case.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

In iPadOS 14.5, closing the "lid" on your Smart Folio case will cut off the microphone. This excellent privacy/security feature has been available on MacBooks for a while. 

The release notes for the latest iOS 14.5 beta tell us that the iPad‌ (8th generation), ‌iPad Air‌ (4th generation), ‌iPad Pro‌ 11-inch (2nd generation), and ‌iPad Pro‌ 12.9-inch (4th generation) all mute the mic whenever the folio case is closed.

This is Apple’s iPad keyboard case, and this new addition makes the iPad not only look like a MacBook, but behave like one too. This is just the latest in a long line of excellent hardware security features from Apple.

"Despite some scandals and breaches in the past, I trust Apple to protect my privacy way better than the rest of the big tech," Ali Qamar, founder of PrivacySavvy, told Lifewire via email.

Closed Means Closed

When you close the lid on an Apple Silicon MacBook or a Mac notebook with Apple’s T2 security chip, the microphone is disconnected.

"The disconnect prevents any software—even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip or other firmware—from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed," reads Apple’s tech note on the subject

This security feature is now available in iPad models from 2020. Even if you have initiated a recording and then close the lid, the mic will be cut, and it seems, from reading the iOS 14.5 beta 2 release notes, that app developers can do nothing to reverse this behavior. 

A closed iPad with a Smart Folio case.
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Developers can, however, choose to override the audio output cutoff. If you close the case, and music or other audio is playing, it too will be cut off by default.

Developers can choose to keep it playing instead. That makes sense for music apps, for instance, but maybe not for movie apps. 

Apple Hardware Has Your Back

Before the iPhone, we just assumed that once a bad actor had physical access to your computer, it was game over. Now, even our Macs are hardened against physical attack.

Over the years, Apple has added more and more security features, making Apple gear the go-to for people who care about their privacy.

"Personally, I trust Apple’s security the most of all tech companies out there," Andreas Grant, network security engineer and founder of Networks Hardware, told Lifewire via email.

"This is because they have chosen a route that limits freedom on their devices, but therefore increases security."

Apple has implemented several neat hardware features over the years. For instance, the AES hardware engine. This is used to encrypt and decrypt data on the fly, without slowing down the computer.

"...I trust Apple to protect my privacy way better than the rest of the big tech."

On the Mac, this is used to power FileVault full-disk encryption, which keeps your data safe even if your device falls into the wrong hands. 

Another great addition is the Secure Enclave, This "is an SoC (system on chip) and included on all recent Apple devices," says Qamar.

"It handles many security tasks in an Apple machine, including evaluating and protecting the Face ID and Touch ID biometric data." The Secure Enclave is what makes Touch ID and Face ID so safe, and impossible (so far) to hack. 

Add to this Apple’s recent focus on software that prevents advertisers from tracking you, and it really looks like Apple is going all-in on the privacy angle. This is good for business, of course, but it’s also good for you, the user.

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