New USB-C authentication spec protects against malware and shoddy chargers

Soon your device will be able to tell you whether you should avoid using a USB-C cable or charger.

The battle against “bad” USB Type-C cables has a new ally: The USB 3.0 Promoters Group. The coalition—made up of tech company heavyweights including HP, Intel, and Microsoft—announced the USB Type-C Authentication specification on Tuesday. The new spec will allow devices to confirm the integrity of a USB-C charger, cable, or device before allowing data or significant power to run through it.

The new capability lets a device check a variety of items about a charger or cable’s credentials, including its descriptor, capabilities, and certification status. The process will use 128-bit cryptographic signatures for authentication.

Protecting against inappropriately designed USB chargers is only one focus of the new specification. It’s also meant to protect against malicious hardware or software attempting to deliver an exploit via USB.

It’s not clear when we can expect device and peripheral makers to start building the authentication into their products. Once it is running, the USB 3.0 Promoters Group imagines a number of scenarios where the new specification will come in handy.

If you’re concerned about charging your phone at a public terminal, for example, your handset can be set to only allow power from certified chargers. Or, an IT department could use the technology to allow only verified USB storage devices to interface with company PCs.

The story behind the story: The new authentication specification comes several months after Google engineer Benson Leung began fighting against shoddy USB-C cables. Since November, Leung has been reviewing Type-C USB cables—including Type-A to Type-C—and calling out those that aren’t up to “code” and have the potential to harm your device. In late March, Amazon also joined the fight by blacklisting non-compliant USB-C cables. Now with the new authentication specification, it should become even easier to avoid poorly developed cables that have the potential to harm your gear.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags USB-CMicrosoftintel

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?