The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), which is in charge of certifying standards-compliant USB devices, has announced a new protocol that seeks to prevent non-compliant USB Type-C cables from doing damage to a connected device.
Through what has been dubbed the USB Type-C Authentication specification, devices like phones and tablets will be able to confirm the authenticity of a connected USB-C device or charger. Through the authentication protocol, devices can then set rules that could, for example, keep data safe by only allowing connected cables to charge. As a second method of protection, devices could also be set to disallow charging through non-compliant cables.
USB Type-C Authentication empowers host systems to protect against non-compliant USB Chargers and to mitigate risks from maliciously embedded hardware or software in USB devices attempting to exploit a USB connection. For a traveler concerned about charging their phone at a public terminal, their phone can implement a policy only allowing charge from certified USB chargers. A company, tasked with protecting corporate assets, can set a policy in its PCs granting access only to verified USB storage devices.
The authentication process occurs the "moment a wired connection is made," says the USB-IF. So, in other words, no data or power will be exchanged until the connected device is authenticated.
The new specification is welcome news in light of recent problems surrounding faulty USB-C cables on the market. For its part, Amazon recently cracked down by banning the sale of bad USB-C cables. Google engineer Benson Leung has also led the charge in testing hundreds of cables after a non-compliant one ruined his Chromebook Pixel tablet. While the new protocol won't impact cables already on the market, we'll hopefully begin to see cable makers adopt the specification going forward.