Will The USB Type-C Update Protect Your Devices From Malware And Power Failure? Consortium Suggests Dual-Side Authentication For USB Cables

The consortium behind USB Type-C has suggested an update that will proactively prevent your expensive devices from getting fried. As an added security measure, a dual-side authentication technique could help prevent your smart devices from being crippled by viruses and malware.

The USB Type-C standard has offered numerous benefits including higher speeds and better power delivery, alongside the biggest convenience: never having to correctly guess the orientation. However, the new technology has met a few roadblocks in its otherwise smooth path to mass-adoption. Now the consortium behind the USB Type-C standard has suggested an update that will make the cables that sport a USB Type-C port very reliable.

The new update that has yet to be universally approved will allow devices to confirm the authenticity of a cable. Essentially, this update clubs multiple checkpoints and embeds them into the device as well as the cable, so that the two can securely talk to each other, even before power or data starts flowing through the latter. Features like hardware descriptors, certifications, and developer specifications could be cumulatively and synergistically used to protect devices from spurious USB Type-C cables and devices of dubious quality.

The consortium hopes the deployment of the update will not only protect OEMs and consumers against improper power deliver, but also unauthorized data transmission, reports Legit Reviews. In other words, the dual-sided authentication techniques will protect the devices that need power delivery and also shield them against USB Type-C cables and devices that have been embedded with malware or viruses.

An update that will hopefully be adopted and deployed, won’t be visible to the end user, but will safeguard the devices from many uncertified chargers or cables that are shipped along with devices for free.

What is the USB Type-C update? The update is essentially to the internal embedded system of the chip within the cable, as well as to the device that accepts it. Officially referred to as the “USB Type-C Authentication,” the protocols will help devices recognize good quality cables and prevent the dubious one from passing either power or data to and fro.

Essentially, when you connect a power adapter, cable, or accessory that supports the specification into a host device (like a phone or laptop) that supports the specification, the host device can verify the accessory’s capabilities and whether the accessory has been fully certified by the USB-IF, reports Ars Technica. In other words, the host device will be able to decipher, on its own, if the cable that’s been connected, is OK or not. If it’s not OK, the device won’t allow any transmission to take place, thereby safeguarding itself.

The USB Type-C update should include transmission of information between the host and the cable using 128-bit encryption before an actual data or power connection is established. The group has designed the update to work on the cables that merely supply power and aren’t designed to transmit data.

How will the USB Type-C update be implemented? Interestingly, the device or host will only need an updated firmware and software, which can be implemented through Over The Air (OTA) updates that the OEMs can issue. However, while these devices can receive the update through the internet, USB Type-C cables can’t and will have to be discarded and new ones, which have the updated standard built into them, procured.

While the adoption of USB Type-C standard is still in its infancy, it is expected to grow in the near future. The update suggested the same, but will hopefully weed out the problems before they become chronic. With a USB 3.1 update supporting data speeds of about 10 Gbps and much higher power throughput, securing the standard with dual side authentication is one of the best ways, as the group has reasoned.

[Photo by Richard Unten/Getty Images]

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