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Laptops

MacBook Air 2018 adds Touch ID and gets a new security chip

The security chip also now disables your MacBook's microphone when the lid is closed.

macbook-air-t2-chip

The new Touch ID sensor is on the keyboard on the MacBook Air.

Apple

Editors' note, Nov. 1: We've added hands-on impressions of the new version of the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,199 and features a Retina display, Touch ID and USB-C ports.

Apple introduced its biometric Touch ID feature for the new MacBook Air on Tuesday. 

The tech giant unveiled the latest version of the MacBook Air at its event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. The compact laptop catches up with the MacBook Pro, which got the feature in 2016.

Unlike the MacBook Pro's Touch ID, this sensor is on the keyboard rather than on an OLED touch bar across the top row. Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint sensor used to unlock devices, was introduced on the iPhone 5S in September 2013. The biometric security feature is a faster, more convenient alternative to passwords. Though if you're concerned about law enforcement and court orders compelling you to unlock your devices, Touch ID might not be for you

The Touch ID on the the new MacBook Air doesn't just unlock your laptop though. Like Touch ID for your iPhone and the MacBook Pro, you can also use the biometric feature to shop using Apple Pay as well as to authenticate third-party apps. 

Your fingerprint data is encrypted and secured on Apple's T2 security chip, which uses Secure Enclave. That means all that data, including your passwords and your fingerprint, is stored only on that device and doesn't leave the MacBook Air. Even Apple wouldn't receive that data. 

Apple said there's a 1 in 50,000 chance of a false positive with fingerprints on Touch ID for the MacBook. You'll still need your password if your device is just turning on, or if it hasn't been unlocked for more than 48 hours. 

Now playing: Watch this: Apple introduces MacBook Air with Retina display
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The T2 chip was first introduced in the iMac Pro this summer, and adds an extra layer of security for Apple's devices. Though security features are often embedded within the processors -- as companies like Qualcomm and Intel provide in their chips -- more tech giants have been relying on standalone security chips. When Google announced its Pixel 3, it noted the phone has a custom version of the Titan chip, which the company previously used only in its data centers. 

The T2 chip will also be in the Mac Mini, which Apple unveiled Tuesday too. Along with providing encryption for Touch ID, the chip provides Secure Boot, which makes sure your device isn't tampered with when it starts up. 

Apple's T2 chip now also disables your MacBook's microphone when the lid is closed, according to its latest security overview (PDF). This change is hardware-based, which means no software -- including malware from potential attackers -- can turn on your microphone when the lid is shut.

First published Oct. 30, 7:40 a.m. PT
Update, 9:44 a.m.:
Includes details about the security chip and disabling the MacBook's microphone.

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