While having one cable for everything is incredibly convenient, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) - the big kahuna of USB technology - is anxious about the future security of USB Type-C.
In addition to providing an added layer of security, the authentication program can also be useful in protecting against non-compliant USB chargers that might attempt to draw more voltage than is necessary, or safe. The protocol can help the host device (like your phone or laptop) authenticate and certify a USB device, USB cable, or USB charger, at the moment the connection is made. Once a device is connected, that power and data can potentially flow into your device unfettered. DigiCert is managing the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and certificate authority services for the program, a fact the group touted in its own press release.
The USB-IF originally announced the authentication program in 2016, but it's taken all this time to get ready for launch.
There are obvious practical applications for this technology.
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'USB-IF is excited to launch the USB Type-C Authentication Program, providing OEMs with the flexibility to implement a security framework that best fits their specific product requirements, ' claims USB-IF president and chief operating officer Jeff Ravencraft.
This means that users can charge a device at a terminal, knowing that it is a certified charger.
Another scenario that the USB-IF noted is when an organization needs to secure its IP (or state secrets, or whatever) on laptops that travel with their personnel. Additionally, a company would be able to set a policy for its PCs that only allows them to read verified USB devices.
That is all marvelous, but because every tool can be a weapon when used improperly and we can't have anything nice, there are fears that this program is essentially a DRM mechanism. It will also include support for USB power delivery communication channels with 128-bit encryption for all authentication methods.
When USB Type-C (aka USB-C) arrived a few years ago, it looked promising. Thunderbolt 3? And so on. More security is always a good thing, right?