There are a lot of advantages to the USB Type-C protocol. Cables are reversible, so there’s no way to insert one upside down. The protocol allows for speedy data transfers, video output to high-resolution screens, and enough power to let you use a USB charger with some laptops.

But not all USB Type-C cables are created equal, and some that don’t fully comply with the USB specification can even damage a phone, tablet, or laptop.

The good news is that USB Implementers Form has a solution. The less good news is that it may be too late for folks that have already purchased bad equipment.

usb c authentication

The USB-IF has unveiled a new authentication specification for USB Type-C that allows devices and accessories to communicate with one another before transferring power or data. If you try to plug your laptop into a non-compliant USB Type-C charger, the laptop won’t fry. Nothing at all will happen.

At least, that’s the idea. A few things need to happen first.

While devices like phones, tablets, and laptops can be updated to support the new cryptographic-based authentication mechanism, you’ll need to have the update in place before it works. As for power adapters, cables, and other accessories that don’t have any firmware to update? Yeah, if they don’t already support the authentication technology, then they never will. So a whole lot of USB Type-C accessories that are already on the market aren’t covered by this new feature. You’ll need to wait for new models to come out before you can take full advantage.

In addition to checking for compliance with the USB Type-C specification, authentication can also combat malware, by giving users (or at least IT professionals) some control over the way their devices communicate with USB accessories.

For example, a business could configure computers so that they will only be able to read verified USB flash drives with that company’s certificate. Or if you want to charge your phone using a public charging station at an airport or coffee shop, you can configure it to only accept a charge from certified chargers.

via Ars Technica

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