Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

Summary: Apple is proposing to store password recovery secrets into peripherals and build a system where peripherals like power cords communicate directly with the computing device.

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Apple has designed a way to store password recovery details in memory modules that will ship with peripherals, including power cords.

According to a patent application, Apple is proposing to store password recovery secrets into peripherals and build a system where peripherals like power cords communicate directly with the computing device.

The patent filing was first reported by NewScientist:follow Ryan Naraine on twitter

The technology is predicated on the fact that when you lose a laptop, or have it stolen, you don't tend to lose the power adapter as well. So it makes the power adapter a critical part of the recovery routine for forgotten passwords.

In US patent filing 2012/0005747 Apple proposes a power adapter whose transformer unit has a small memory module built into it. This stores either an encrypted password (or recovery question) whose key is stored on the laptop or smartphone. This way only the correct computer or phone can access the recovery data. For added security, part of the encrypted password could reside on a network server, too.

There's a clear need for this, says Apple: "If the password is not easily and conveniently recoverable, the consumer is likely to choose either not to use a password at all or to use a trivial password. Both choices increase the threat of data loss," it says in the patent.

The full patent application can be found here: Patent # US 2012/0005747.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Legal, Mobility, Networking, Telcos

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23 comments
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  • Lame at best

    The peripherals we get with iOS devices, especially power and connections cables are of minimal quality. I do not have a single iDevice with an original power cord/transformer.
    rhonin
    • I hear people say that

      @rhonin
      But I have only ever had one (out of a few dozen including spares) go bad and that was for a 2001 'toilet seat' iBook.

      My other concern is this: As someone who does have multiple adapters per device, if I go on a business trip hundreds of miles away with my 'travel brick', and I forget my password, will it have the information I need, or is that at home on my original adapter? If you use a Mac, then you have all the encrypted password storage you need in the OS' 'Keychain' application on every Mac since OS 9(?) or so. Open 'Keychain Access' and create a secure note. Then all you have to remember is your login password. When the keychain is locked everything in it is 256 bit encrypted. Open it when you need to and you can have all your passwords stored in a text file.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • But that's the problem Apple is trying to solve

        @macadam
        "Then all you have to remember is your login password."

        Every OS offers encrypted password storage so that clearly isn't the problem that Apple is trying to solve. The password recovery they are talking about IS your login password, at least if I understand the patent correctly.

        My problem with this is that if you make password recovery too easy with the right power adapter, you've drastically lowered your security in the cases where your power adapter is stolen along with your laptop, something that would happen relatively frequently. However, if password recovery even with the right power adapter isn't easy, then Apple hasn't solved the problem.

        Then again, I'm very much against those recovery password questions they use on web sites. I usually give fake answers if I'm forced to choose a recovery password question and answer.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

        @toddybottom
        Yes, we actually agree 100%. I do understand that Apple is trying to make it easier to recover your login password, and I think that is a bad idea. My point is that this technology shouldn't be necessary at all if all you have to remember is one password.

        Also, I am aware that you can keep encrypted lists on any OS (I have encrypted notes on my Windows PC and my Linux box), I gave the Keychain example because the article was specifically about Apple. Good point though.

        Your point about the adapter being stolen with the laptop is also well taken. If I travel with both of them, they are usually in the same bag and I suspect that's common behavior.

        "Secret answers" on the web? I have a list of gibberish answers that I use and can reference if I should ever *have* to, but again it's not a good method of recovery to begin with.

        All in all this is a very creative idea on Apple's part but not one of their best (it seems) when put into the cold light of reality.
        use_what_works_4_U
    • Considering this is more geared toward laptops...

      @rhonin... not iOS devices. With an iOS device you are either going to log onto iCloud and use the find my iPhone, where you can set a new password or lock code, or remote wipe the device from there or from within Exchange.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    Novel and intriguing. Don't know about the 1st poster. I seem to have all the original equipment for each and every Apple device I have purchased. Including the Firewire cable that came with my 1st gen iPod. Sounds like the first poster needs a brain recovery module. ;)
    The Danger is Microsoft
    • Chuckle

      @The Danger is Microsoft <br>The cables and chargers that come with iOS devices are of very poor quality these days. Have yet to have an original cable without a split end (cable into connector) and over half the adapters have cracked or failed.<br><br>XtremeMac makes some really good heavy duty replacements - cheaper than the originals at the Apple stores.
      rhonin
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    <I>There???s a clear need for this, says Apple: ???If the password is not easily and conveniently recoverable, the consumer is likely to choose either not to use a password at all or to use a trivial password. Both choices increase the threat of data loss,???</I>

    Password recovery ISN'T supposed to be "convenient"! If your machine is stolen, you don't want the thief to "conveniently" recover your password and get into your machine!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Exactly

      @Cylon Centurion
      I'm sure that the Apple fanbois will declare that Apple has implemented the "perfect" mix of security and convenience though. If you are going to use hardware to make password recovery easy, it should be hardware that you don't normally carry around with your laptop. This is simply a more expensive version of "write your password down on a post it note and stick it on your monitor".
      toddybottom
      • Agreed

        @toddybottom
        Although even your suggestion of hardware you wouldn't normally carry around won't protect you all that well. From my decades of IT service work (Apple and others) I've learned that if you give the 'average' user a crutch, the first thing they will do is put that crutch into their laptop bag. I had one customer at the Apple Store who always carried his *docking station* around with him so that the Mac would always be at the same angle when he used it. So every time he goes home he has to reconnect all the desktop hardware to his docking station! Why did he buy a dock? I have no idea!
        use_what_works_4_U
      • I'm already on my way to the USPTO

        "So every time he goes home he has to reconnect all the desktop hardware to his docking station! Why did he buy a dock? I have no idea!"

        I'm filing my patent on the docking station for your docking station. I'll call it the Docking Station^2.
        toddybottom
      • <Grin>

        @toddybottom
        Better yet - 'The Marina' then your slogan can be "Always have a place for your dock at The Marina!" Get that patent fast so you can retire on the licensing and/or infringement proceeds!
        use_what_works_4_U
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    So when the thief grabs your laptop bag with the laptop and power adapter inside he can easily recover your password. Very convenient.
    Ididar
  • What happened to "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"

    Apple seem to have a solution to a non-existent problem. Even if there was a problem, this wouldn't be the best way to solve it.
    peter_erskine@...
    • Engineers happened to K.I.S.S.

      @peter_erskine@...
      If there is one thing engineers love to do it is create "elegant" solutions to every conceivable problem. Unfortunately you are right, in this case they are seeing a problem where one does not exist.

      "If you only have a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail."
      >Abraham Maslow
      use_what_works_4_U
    • FFS hide a little piece of paper in a speaker or something

      @peter_erskine@... i agree there are far cheaper easier solutions that no one will know about . Making a method of password recovery so public and marketed will only make the hackers find of ways to hack it, its like marketing you have the spare key under the carpet... Sorry apple this is just a gimmick to increase prices of peripherals.
      SonicLogic
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    I think it is pretty slick. It appears to be a 2 part system where you need to be you and the machine needs to be its self. So someone trying to get your password needs to have physical possession of the hardware and some kind of cloud authorization...iCloud perhaps.
    CowLauncher
    • Close

      @CowLauncher
      It's a 2 part system, but none of the parts is you. If you have to authenticate to anything, then you need to know at least one password. The 2 parts are your device and that devices' specific power supply. Anyone stealing my laptop bag would get those things together. I don't like it.
      use_what_works_4_U
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    Great! Once approved, Apple can sue any company that supplies 3 prong power cords with their devices, since they will look like Apple's patented power cord.<br>Moreover, Apple users will only be able to buy replacement power cords from Apple, at 4x the price.
    anothercanuck
  • RE: Apple patent filing: Password recovery via power cables

    really, you can use a power cable as a network transport. Wow Apple has come up with something yet so new, no one ever thought of it.

    So I am now going to patent streaming video over the power line, or and music, or and any RPC traffic. Wow I will have such the patent portfolio.
    TGGR