New USB Type-C Authentication spec can stop faulty cables before they do damage

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.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • I'm completely in fear of having to buy a new Type-C cable, I wouldn't know which one to buy, of the few chinese crappy brands I might get in my country...So this is a good move. But the problem persists, the thing is that these cables are not so widespread yet.
  • There's an engineer at Google named Benson Leung that reviews Type-C cables on Amazon. Check him out.
  • I know, I just hope he got to try whatever cable I might be able to get...
  • The first thing from Google that was ever good.
  • :Rolls Eyes #TeamLumia 950 XL
  • This is good but I'm still worried about how the pins are stored in the phone not the cable
  • Now request this feature on the feedback hub
  • Or step up the game by telling the consumer what type of cable (including mini USB) is it eg: Manufacturer, ampere, etc2.
  • So would this be something similar to how Apple insists that any lightning connector must have an apple chip inside of it, and the iPhone won't recognize it either? There will be a certified chip in certified USB C cables going forward? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • A little bit like what you described. However, this is done by the USB standards body and not any single company.
  • Wonder if this will affect the "openness" of USB. Although, again, I'm not sure how open USB really is. Since it's everywhere, figure that it isn't super expensive or locked down or bogged down with lots of royalties and stuff. Although HDMI has royalties and DisplayPort doesn't, and DisplayPort still hasn't caught on everywhere. So maybe this won't really affect that much. Just food for thought though.
  • I'm pissed abot the fact the Microsoft USA or Canada don't yet sell the original charger that came with the Lumia 950XL. But Microsoft Europe dose.
  • Yeah that's an odd one...
  • I'm still waiting on the removable battery.
  • Isn't this faulty design of Usb C standard itself? Why can they allow a faulty cable to damage the entire device?
  • Believe that it can happen with any faulty charging cable. Heard from some IT guys that crappy iPhone chargers can cause issues.
    It's just much more of an issue in this case, because of the much higher amounts of power that the USB 3.1 standard uses for charging. If it's faulty, there's a lot more potential for something to go wrong.
    However, I guess this is also on them sort of, since they didn't really have a failsafe before this, as far as I know (besides the certification that no one looks for). However, part of the issue is also that anyone can implement the USB specification, just a side affect of how open and accessible it is. Can make it hard to control in some aspects. However, this is just my very basic understanding of things, haven't really researched that much about USB in general on a very technical level.
  • Any cable can do this to any device. Electricity needs to be just right when it comes to a lot of different pieces of equipment, and there are a lot of different factors that can throw off the different pieces that need to be right. Long of the short, don't cheap out on any of the things you buy to connect anything electrical.
  • Usb C cable at Amazon with Benson Leung 5star review as most helpful:
    Use promotion code "45lbdevm" to get $2 off for a total of $6.99
  • These Orzly cables are working fine for me:
  • I see where that leads. When you spend the allowed data, the cable stops working and you have to buy a new one.
  • If you wear a tinfoil hat, it will keep working, though.
  • Pretty sure this would also need firmware/BIOS updates to allow devices to check the cables.
  • I melted my USB port on my 920 using an Ikea charger and an off-brand cable.
  • Yet amazons still selling faulty c flash drives