• Developed by Intel with collaboration of Apple

Why ThunderBolt?

  • Large data loads on set and in post production
    • ​4K Display
  • Massive data movement requirements 
    • Data transfers for backup, sharing, and editing

How fast is ThunderBolt?


one simple port and a cable that carries        
PCI Express data


Protocol Architecture

Protocol Architecture

  • Based on switched fabric architecture with full duplex link

Protocol Architecture

  • Full bandwidth of the link in both direction
  • Cables
    • Uses an active cable
      • boost the power of the signal
      • error checking of the incoming transmissions
    • Electrical
      • Connections upto 3 meters
      • Up to 10W of power deliverable to a bus-powered device
    • ​Optical
      • ​Longer Range

Electrical/ Optical Layer

Controller Architecture

Frame Format

Works in Daisy Chain

  • Supports up to seven chained devices
  • Five devices and two Thunderbolt-based displays
  • Six devices and one Thunderbolt-based display
  • Six devices and one display via mini-DisplayPort adapter
  • Five devices, one Thunderbolt-based display, and one display via mini-DisplayPort adapter 

Features Summary

  • 10Gbps bi-directional, dual channel data transfer
  • Data & Video on single cable with Dual-protocol (PCI Express and DisplayPort)
  • Daisy chain up to six devices
  • Compatible with existing DisplayPort devices
  • Low latency with highly accurate time synchronization
  • Uses native PCIe and DisplayPort protocol software drivers
  • Power over cable for bus-powered devices (electrical cables only)

What Next?

ThunderBolt 2


DMA attacks

  • If users extend the PCI Express bus
    • Allows very low-level access to a computer system
  • System-bus devices usually have unlimited access to memory
  • Could be used to compromise security by performing DMA attacks

Option ROM attacks

  • When a system with Thunderbolt boots,
    • It loads and executes Option ROMs from attached devices.
    • Malware can begin execution before OS.
  • Unless 
    The BIOS or UEFI firmware has some sort of Trusted Boot protection.
  • Such as
    • Enforcing signatures on Option ROMs
    • Whitelisted hashes for known good ROMs

What is ThunderBolt

By Bhushan Sonawane

What is ThunderBolt

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