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USB-C Just Got a Huge Upgrade – What You Need to Know

A new authentication system will shield USB-C devices from power surges and malware.

The manufacturer association in charge of managing USB standards has announced plans for a new authentication standard to make USB Type-C ports safer for the devices that use them.

The USB Implementers Forum, which includes representatives from Apple, HP, Intel, and Microsoft, has developed an authentication system to make the increasingly popular cables and ports more secure and safer for users.

The USB-C standard has advantages over previous USB standards, such as faster charging and the ability to display video (in the case of Thunderbolt 3). However, when users plug in a non-compliant charger, USB-C causes power surge damage to devices and has been used to infect devices with malware hidden within the cables themselves.

The USB-C Authentication Program is the newly proposed solution. As a connection is made, USB-C devices will be able to recognize if a given power or data cable is compatible with the components within using 128-bit encryption. Depending on whether the cable passes the authentication process, the system will either block or allow data or power transfer.

For the time being, this authentication will not be required for USB-C devices, but this could change in the future, according to the Forum. Given that overloading your phone’s battery or infecting your laptop with viruses are not things users typically want to happen to their devices, it’s difficult to imagine that these safeguards will not be added to an increasing number of electronic products in the future.

The Authentication Program was launched on January 2, 2019, but it was not immediately available for use by manufacturers because the standard had not yet been completed. The Forum has partnered with Digicert, a digital device security company, to manage the standard, which will then be shared with companies that wish to use it.

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