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Crime Patents Security Apple

Apple Patents Power Adapter That Recovers Lost Passwords 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the charging-for-security dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Apple has patented a power charger that also serves as a password recovery backup. If a user forgets his Macbook's password, for instance, he simply plugs in the cord, and it would provide a unique ID number stored in a memory chip in the adapter that acts as a decryption key, unscrambling an encrypted copy of the password stored on the machine. The technique, according to the patent, incentivizes better password use by avoiding traditional password recovery techniques that annoy users and lead to disabled or easily-guessed passwords. The new technique is only secure, the patent admits, in cases where the user leaves a mobile device's charger at home. So the idea may make the most sense for long-battery-life devices like iPods, iPads and iPhones rather than laptops, at least until laptop batteries last long enough that users don't take their power adapters with them and expose them to theft."
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Apple Patents Power Adapter That Recovers Lost Passwords

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  • Reasonably stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:45AM (#38610814)

    Well that's a reasonably stupid idea. Store the password with something many users are going to carry around with their laptop...

    And even if you didn't.. you forget your password on the road, then what? And this is less annoying than having to answer a previously entered question?

  • And in one move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kazymyr (190114) on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:45AM (#38610816) Journal

    Kills the 3rd party accessory market. Because you won't be able to get "crypto" power blocks from anyone else. Wanna bet?

  • by chispito (1870390) on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:48AM (#38610842)
    Than a normal USB security token? It seems like a power adapter is likely to be taken with the user. A smaller token could be carried on the person of the user. Or you can just write your password on a post-it in your wallet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:49AM (#38610870)

    Password use *one way* hashing systems for a reason.

    Thank you Apple, for once again eliminating desktop security.

  • Re:And in one move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGatesofBill (637809) <sunookitsune@kitsunet.org> on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:50AM (#38610878) Homepage
    Can you get Magsafe power adapters from anyone else anyways? I've never seen any, and a quick Googling says no.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:51AM (#38610892)

    So the idea may make the most sense for long-battery-life devices like iPods, iPads and iPhones

    Given the number of people I see charging up their smartphones in the office, I'd say the Apple patent people haven't quite grasped that smartphone battery life is a long way from what many people would like.

    (Also, given that most non-computer devices like iPhones charge over USB, this seems distinctly less impressive. 'Put some data on some flash memory inside the battery charger' and transmit it over the USB connection hardly requires the kind of ingenuity that sending passwords up a DC power cable to a laptop does.)

  • by PSVMOrnot (885854) on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:53AM (#38610930)

    Security is only as strong as it's weakest password recovery method.

    This whole idea completely forgets that the whole purpose of your password might be to stop you little-brother/offspring/tech-illiterate-housemate (ie: anyone who lives with you) from screwing up your device.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @11:57AM (#38610984)

    This isn't two factor. This new adapter requires you to have either the password OR the power adapter. Since this is sort of the inverse of two factor, can we call this 1/2 factor?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:00PM (#38611028) Homepage

    "And even if you didn't.. you forget your password on the road, then what? "

    you suffer the consequences. You know life has those.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:01PM (#38611044)

    OR, provide two power adapters... one that has your master PW and other that is a sort of "valet key" equivalent of power adapters that you take with you.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brooklynoid (656617) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:01PM (#38611046)
    From TFA: "So the idea may make the most sense for long-battery-life devices like...iPhones"

    In what universe is an iPhone a "long-battery-life" device?
  • by Jazari (2006634) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:05PM (#38611096)
    As the summary says, this is not for laptops. But I find it a very good idea for all kinds of other devices, and well deserving of a patent.
  • Re:And in one move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:07PM (#38611116) Homepage Journal

    I'll repeat a post I wrote on this previously.

    I really liked the MagSafe(tm) concept when Apple first came out with it, but Apple has been such a fucking prick about the damned things. They don't offer any significant range of options to use the plug, and they actively stymie all attempts of the marketplace to fill that void. Want a piggy-back battery to supply power to the laptop? Apple doesn't make one. Want to tie in with a docking station? Apple doesn't make one. At first, when asked about third party adoption of the plugs, they were "oh, well, I guess they'll start coming out any time now." Then it was "oh, well, guess nobody's trying to license them." Then when manufacturers tried to license them, they were refused. So one manufacturer decided to eat the waste and rely on the doctrine of First Sale. They BOUGHT Apple(tm) adapters, chopped off the white wallwart transformer, and soldered the MagSafe(tm) pigtail to their own battery packs, and they were still attacked by Apple's lawyers. WTF, Apple. People have varying needs to make use of your products. Step up to offer the solution, or get out of the way.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:09PM (#38611130)

    you suffer the consequences. You know life has those.

    Consequences? In a world where it is McDonald's fault people are fat, tobacco's fault people can't breath, the insurance industry's fault that medical care for their fat tar-filled bodies is expensive, and people are up in arms in the UK because the NHS won't stump up for free reversal surgery because their elective operation done on the cheap turns out to have been a bad idea? There are too many people out there who fail to acknowledge they are responsible for any consequences.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:13PM (#38611180) Homepage Journal

    I would admit that there are too many people who fail to acknowledge their responsibilities, but I would venture that there are even more people who make a living by convincing/tricking people into failing to acknowledge their responsibility.

    -Rick

  • by Sez Zero (586611) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:25PM (#38611342) Journal

    Seriously?

    Boot while holding down Apple-S

    I tried this, but it is asking for my FileVault password. Now what?

  • Not so stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mschaffer (97223) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:25PM (#38611344)

    The more junk they cram in the power adapters, the harder it is for 3-rd party companies to make copies without Apple's consent.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:30PM (#38611404) Journal
    It's different in one very important way: you are much less likely to lose the power adaptor than the security token. You'll use the power adaptor every day or two, while you'll only use the security token when you get locked out of your device. It's like the original iPod dock: my iPod was the only mobile device I owned that never had the battery go flat. The dock plugged into my HiFi so I could listen to music at home and so I had a reason for always dropping it in the charger. Every other mobile device got plugged in when I noticed it needed charging (Apple, cleverly, no longer includes the dock, so loses this advantage).
  • Re:good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:46PM (#38611654) Journal

    If it's trivial and non novel then why is no one doing it or previously put a patent on it?

    Well apart from the fact that this particular idea is stupid (thus, nobody doing it), sometimes things just luckily don't get patented, like "fuel cells on a computer" and "fuel cells on a cell phone" which were both shockingly not patented up until this year. Somehow even among swarms of lawyers, a few conceivable ideas go unpatented sometimes. Shocking, I know.

    This idea is both trivial (passing data to a power adapter which attaches to a port that can also pass data? Wow not like half the USB-charged devices on the planet do that!) and non-novel (acts as a security key like the metric shit-tons of USB fobs that have been on the market over the last decade).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:56PM (#38611790)

    You mean like someone convincing people it's a good idea to use your power adapter as an encryption key?

  • Re:good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:20PM (#38612100)

    Right, so again - why has no one done it before?

    It's actually quite a good idea. If you forget your password you're not screwed, since you can unlock your device when you get home.

    You'll notice they didn't patent the "metric shit-tons of USB fobs", but a different way to authenticate a device.

    Whether it's different enough from a separate USB dongle that can unlock the computer is something the patent office should deal with.

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