USB-C has been one of the best inventions of recent times. Finally, we have a single cable that can handle lots of data and power but it does come with some risks. Once a device is connected, that power and data can potentially flow into your device unfettered. And that can lead to security risks with your data and hardware. But the USB Type-C Authentication Program, which just launched, aims to mitigate those risks.
The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has created a protocol that can be used to validate the authenticity of a USB-C cable, charger or hardware at the moment of connection. The USB-IF is using DigiCert to register and certify the new specification. They say the “USB Type-C Authentication empowers host systems to protect against non-compliant USB chargers and to mitigate risks from malicious firmware/hardware in USB devices attempting to exploit a USB connection”.
DigiCert says “USB Type-C Authentication gives OEMs the opportunity to use certificates that enable host systems to confirm the authenticity of a USB device or USB charger”.
When USB-C was first introduced, it was a mess with some cables being good for data only, others being limited in what device they could charge and confusion around data rates they could handle. And while some of those hassles are improving, we are still left with the old problem of actually trusting what comes in and out of that handy connector.
There’s no compulsion on cable and accessory makers to use the new USB-IF standard. However, it does provide a point of difference when looking at different cables. And, if you’re planning to use a shared charger such as those set up at airports, shopping centres and other public spaces, you can look for the certification either on the charger or your device to ensure you’re using a safe connection.