Ribbon Cable Repair Saves Touch ID

Some might consider a broken ribbon cable to be unsalvagable. They’re delicate and fragile as can be, and sometimes just fussing with them further is enough to cause additional damage. However, with the right set of skills, it’s sometimes possible to achieve the unthinkable. As [Master Liu] demonstrates, you can indeed repair a broken ribbon cable, even a tiny one.

The video concerns a ribbon cable linked to a Touch ID fingerprint sensor from an Apple device. It’s common to break these ribbon cables when repairing a phone, and doing so causes major problems. The Touch ID device is paired with the host phone, and cannot easily be replaced. Thus, repair is justified if at all possible.

The repair involves scraping back the outer coating on the two sections of ribbon cable to reveal the copper pads underneath. The copper is then coated with flux and solder to prepare them to be rejoined. Ultra-fine strands of wire are used to join the individual traces. Then, the repaired section is coated in some kind of sealant or epoxy to hold the joint together and protect it from failing again. The theory is easy, it’s just the execution that’s hard.

Ribbon cable repair is becoming one of our favorite topics of late. Sometimes you just need a steady hand and the guts to have a go. Video after the break.

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A beige keyboard with blue and grey keys sits on a colorful deskmat atop a wooden desk. A small box with a round Touch ID button sits next to the keyboard.

Standalone Touch ID For Your Desktop Mac

With the proliferation of biometric access to mobile devices, entering a password on your desktop can feel so passé. [Snazzy Labs] decided to fix this problem for his Mac by liberating the Touch ID from a new Apple keyboard.

When Apple introduced its own silicon for its desktops, it also revealed desktop keyboards that included their Touch ID fingerprint reader system. Fingerprint access to your computer is handy, but not everyone is a fan of the typing experience on Apple keyboards. Wanting to avoid taping a keyboard under his desk, [Snazzy Labs] pulled the logic board from the keyboard and designed a new 3D printed enclosure for the Touch ID button and logic board so that the fingerprint reader could reside close to where the users hands actually are.

One interesting detail discovered was the significantly different logic boards between the standard and numpad-containing variants. The final enclosure designs feature both wireless and wired versions for both the standard and numpad logic boards if you should choose to build one of your own. We’re interested to see if someone can take this the next step and use the logic board to wire up a custom mechanical keyboard with Touch ID.

If [Snazzy Labs] seems familiar, you may recognize him from their Mac Mini Mini. If you’re more in the mood to take your security to the extreme, check out this Four Factor Biometric Lockbox that includes its own fingerprint reader.

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Apple’s Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) Firmware Decrypted

The decryption key for Apple’s Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware Posted Online by self-described “ARM64 pornstar” [xerub]. SEP is the security co-processor introduced with the iPhone 5s which is when touch ID was introduced. It’s a black box that we’re not supposed to know anything about but [xerub] has now pulled back the curtain on that.

The secure enclave handles the processing of fingerprint data from the touch ID sensor and determines if it is a match or not while it also enables access for purchases for the user. The SEP is a gatekeeper which prevents the main processor from accessing sensitive data. The processor sends data which can only be read by the SEP which is authenticated by a session key generated from the devices shared key. It also runs on its own OS [SEPOS] which has a kernel, services drivers and apps. The SEP performs secure services for the rest of the SOC and much more which you can learn about from the Demystifying the Secure Enclave Processor talk at Blackhat

[xerub] published the decryption keys here. To decrypt the firmware you can use img4lib and xerub’s SEP firmware split tool to process. These tools make it a piece of cake for security researchers to comb through the firmware looking for vulnerabilities.