MacBook Pro repair experts benefit from stolen Quanta documents

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 10
Hacking group REvil's stolen MacBook Pro schematics are now being circulated among repair professionals, who say the information is helping them recover lost data.

Leaked Apple schematics and extortion threats have since been removed from the dark web
Leaked Apple schematics and extortion threats have since been removed from the dark web


When ransomware group REvil tried to extort Apple, it released schematics for a future MacBook Pro, and now those plans are in the wild. Reportedly, they are being circulated by repair professionals who are using them not to make their own MacBook Pro equivalents, but to better understand how the machines are put together.

According to Vice, the schematics are helping repairers attempting to recover lost data for customers.

Louis Rossman is currently crowdfunding to bring a Right to Repair initiative directly to voters in Massachussettes. His hope is to get that state, and then others, to be forced to make companies like Apple more open to authorized independent repair businesses like his own Rossmann Repair Group.

"Our business relies on stuff like this leaking," Rossmann told Vice. "This is going to help me recover someone's data. Someone is going to get their data back today because of this."

Apple-authorized repair venues perform board swaps to fix devices, or in the case of the iPhone, hand the owner a replacement device. The company will then repair the damaged component at one of several central depots, and generally return a component like a motherboard to service stock.

Rossmann will, when able, source an individual circuit on a board and replace that for the consumer directly. This can be cheaper for the owner, and if the storage isn't impacted by the failure, return the user's original device to a user intact with all that was contained in the soldered-in storage.

"I'm not saying I'm in favor of people hacking into computers to get this information," he continued. "I would prefer to get this by going to Apple and giving them $1,000 every year to get this information."

The stolen documents are PDFs that include wiring diagrams, and show layouts of a MacBook Pro's logic board. The designs are copyright Apple, and the company does not release them -- but repairers say they should.

"Armed with a schematic, you cannot build a phone or a MacBook," said Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association. "The diagram is basically, this part connects to this part. You don't know what the parts are or what they do. You just know that there's a connection."

"The idea that there's some creativity in the way the lines are drawn is kind of ridiculous, but that's the rule," she continued.

An iPhone being repaired
An iPhone being repaired


While these particular schematics refer to an as-yet-unreleased product, repairers say that they are useful because much of the technology used to does not change radically.

"Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years," Justin Ashford of YouTube channel, Art of Repair, told Vice. "There are so many things that are identical from phone to phone that are just kind of moved around. This whole thing about arguing about trade secrets is horse shit."

"I'm still waiting for someone to tell me legitimately what having a wiring diagram ahead of time does to hurt them, especially since they used to give it away," he continued. "I'm going to use it and I'm going to help people with it."

The documents that hacking group REvil posted online have since been removed.

This leak of documents has seemingly been an unexpected help to authorized repair firms, who have long been in dispute with Apple over just how much work they are able to do on devices.

Independent firms continue to champion the Right to Repair -- across all technology, from farm equipment to iPhones -- and Apple has typically resisted. Internal Apple documents have shown that the company is worried that poor repair work would reflect badly on its products.

Colorado's Right to Repair bill recently failed to become law. However, the European Union is continuing to press ahead with aims to require more rights for consumers to repair their devices.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,206member
    There's so many curiosities in those repairer's quotes, and they don't do themselves any favours.

    For example: 
    "Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years" -  so the repairer states that the circuit diagrams haven't meaningfully changed (meaning they're familiar with the layouts), so why are the diagrams helpful if they already know them? It can't be for small incremental changes because those changes don't apply to an available product.

    "I'm going to use it and I'm going to help people with it." - If a repairer knows so little about the device that a schematic for a device that isn't even available is going to make a meaningful change in their product knowledge... Then probably go somewhere else for the repair.

    "
    This whole thing about arguing about trade secrets is horse shit." Which is equivalent to saying, "If I can't do anything with it, then no one else in the world could possibly learn from having the schematics." There is quite a bit that can be gleaned from a schematic and the reality of course is that Apple's designs are copied inside and out. Handing out detailed schematics makes duplicating a product significantly easier, especially with tightly packed devices like phones and laptops. Apple is known for design, these are the designs, this shouldn't be a difficult point to understand by anyone.

    "
    I'm still waiting for someone to tell me legitimately what having a wiring diagram ahead of time does to hurt them." - This comment is especially curious, prior to launch the repairer can do little with such a schematic and revealing Apple's product before launch, is this person naive? Perhaps a better question is asking "for someone to tell me legitimately what having a wiring diagram for an unavailable product is needed for"
    mike1JWSCFileMakerFellerbestkeptsecretMacProargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,690member
    Ummm,   interesting.

    Seems that it would be simpler, quicker & easier to recover that data if the SSD was socketed instead of soldered in.
    elijahgdysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 11
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    There's so many curiosities in those repairer's quotes, and they don't do themselves any favours.

    For example: 
    "Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years" -  so the repairer states that the circuit diagrams haven't meaningfully changed (meaning they're familiar with the layouts), so why are the diagrams helpful if they already know them? It can't be for small incremental changes because those changes don't apply to an available product.

    "I'm going to use it and I'm going to help people with it." - If a repairer knows so little about the device that a schematic for a device that isn't even available is going to make a meaningful change in their product knowledge... Then probably go somewhere else for the repair.

    "This whole thing about arguing about trade secrets is horse shit." Which is equivalent to saying, "If I can't do anything with it, then no one else in the world could possibly learn from having the schematics." There is quite a bit that can be gleaned from a schematic and the reality of course is that Apple's designs are copied inside and out. Handing out detailed schematics makes duplicating a product significantly easier, especially with tightly packed devices like phones and laptops. Apple is known for design, these are the designs, this shouldn't be a difficult point to understand by anyone.

    "I'm still waiting for someone to tell me legitimately what having a wiring diagram ahead of time does to hurt them." - This comment is especially curious, prior to launch the repairer can do little with such a schematic and revealing Apple's product before launch, is this person naive? Perhaps a better question is asking "for someone to tell me legitimately what having a wiring diagram for an unavailable product is needed for"
    None of this means they haven’t been able to do certain types of repairs already (repairs that you’ll never get done from Apple directly). What it means is that now they have more info than before and can do more types of things than they could before.

    The only reason you couldn’t work that out for yourself is that you, and many people here, default to hostility toward these repair people for no reason other than they criticize the policies of a company about which you have an unnecessarily defensive posture.

    With all the libertarian pro-independent/small business & pro-entrepreneurial rhetoric that usually gets thrown around here, it’s weird how very pro-corporate, pro-authoritarianism Apple fanatics can be when a small, independent repair business dares to criticize Apple.

    That said, I’m surprised there aren’t already 30 more comments in here bashing Rossman. I must’ve gotten here before the deluge.
    GeorgeBMacmuthuk_vanalingamargonaut
  • Reply 4 of 11
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,397member
    dysamoria said:

    The only reason you couldn’t work that out for yourself is that you, and many people here, default to hostility toward these repair people for no reason other than they criticize the policies of a company about which you have an unnecessarily defensive posture.

    With all the libertarian pro-independent/small business & pro-entrepreneurial rhetoric that usually gets thrown around here, it’s weird how very pro-corporate, pro-authoritarianism Apple fanatics can be when a small, independent repair business dares to criticize Apple.
    Try thinking about it from the other side, and not as a big company, but simply a product creator.

    You spend all your time and resources creating a great new product, and even put in place a good support program for it.  Your product is successful enough that some random person decides to create a business providing cheaper, 3rd party support for it.  ok, it's a free country, no problem.  You make your money off the product itself not the repairs anyway.

    Then that random person starts to demand you provide detailed technical design documentation for your product, even though you never asked them to provide support for it in the first place.  In the meantime, a dozen competitors have popped up with nearly identical products to yours, but cheaper.  Your time and resources are stretched thin keeping your product competitive in the market.  Do you think you're going to be enthusiastic about taking extra time to provide detailed documentation to this person (who could potentially sell it to your competitors)?  Especially when it could make you liable if you provided the wrong information to them and they botched a repair?  Why take the risk?

    I get that Apple is a big company and so they have a lot of resources.  But the reasoning is the same: why do they owe anything to these unofficial, 3rd party repair shops?  I'm not hostile to them, I just don't understand why they feel entitled to this information.

    FileMakerFellerMacProcitylightsapplewatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 886member
    For consideration from Forbes: Right To Repair: The Last Stand In Checking Big Tech’s Power Grab

    Additionally I have found the flexibility and speed of independent (if authorized) repair shops to be most helpful, as well as the ability to adjust in house the storage or memory for need rather than being locked in. Usually this involves upgrades and then perhaps repurposing side, swap or downgrades later in a machine's useful life.
    edited May 10
  • Reply 6 of 11
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,269member
    "Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years,"

    The text of the article above seems to continue to buy into the narrative that these are drawings of some future MBP model, despite the fact that they seem to show nothing that's actually new. The remark I've singled out here tends to instead support my hypothesis that these are decoy drawings Apple intentionally circulated in order to smoke out leakers in their company or supply chain. The drawings made news initially because they purport to show a future MBP model, but with legacy ports restored. Then they mysteriously disappeared from the "dark web" without a trace. Now we're hearing that others are using the drawings to repair existing devices. 

    If Apple wanted to leave something laying around that would get attention, but that wouldn't actually risk future proprietary information, why not throw together some drawings with nothing actually new in them, but that include the un-Apple-like move of reversing a controversial decision like the one where they dropped various ports in favor of exclusively using USB-C/Thunderbolt ports? Leakers certainly took the bait, and there still isn't any news from these drawings about new technology being revealed. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 11
    There's so many curiosities in those repairer's quotes, and they don't do themselves any favours.

    For example: 
    "Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years" -  so the repairer states that the circuit diagrams haven't meaningfully changed 
    The repairer states that Apple has been using the same circuits for years, but the layout has changed. The circuit diagrams are the layout.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,827member
    Apple should move to custom integrated modules ASAP. Even Gruber’s starting to mention it.
    User-swapable cards/sticks meaning devices can be upgraded & ‘repaired’ by the user without the integrity compromised. Now that would be innovative.
  • Reply 9 of 11
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,048member
    Ummm,   interesting.

    Seems that it would be simpler, quicker & easier to recover that data if the SSD was socketed instead of soldered in.
    From a QA standpoint socketed SSDs run the risk of intermittent open pins as the laptop is moved about.  Hard soldered connections would be preferred on a mobile device.  This would not be a concern for desktop machines.
    edited May 10 AppleZuluauxioargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 11
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,048member
    martinxyz said:
    There's so many curiosities in those repairer's quotes, and they don't do themselves any favours.

    For example: 
    "Apple is acting like they haven't been using the same circuits for years" -  so the repairer states that the circuit diagrams haven't meaningfully changed 
    The repairer states that Apple has been using the same circuits for years, but the layout has changed. The circuit diagrams are the layout.
    Schematic circuit diagrams are NOT the layout.  You can take the same schematic and l apply the layout very differently with components placed at different location on a circuit board.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,690member
    JWSC said:
    Ummm,   interesting.

    Seems that it would be simpler, quicker & easier to recover that data if the SSD was socketed instead of soldered in.
    From a QA standpoint socketed SSDs run the risk of intermittent open pins as the laptop is moved about.  Hard soldered connections would be preferred on a mobile device.  This would not be a concern for desktop machines.

    Nice theory.   But in reality, no.
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