USB-C to become more secure, fight malicious devices with authentication system

moto z3 play usb c port
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The introduction of USB-C to devices has brought both benefits and hardships. The new USB standard has allowed makers and devices to standardized connections, provide lightning-fast power delivery, and rapid data transmissions between devices. Unfortunately, the advent has also brought with it USB-C devices that can damage other devices via a power surge or quickly sideload malicious software able to cripple your smartphone or computer. Now, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has an idea and it believes it might be the key to a more secure future with USB-C.

USB-IF introduced new plans for securing your favorite devices with USB-C ports, a cryptographic-based standard that attempts to keep unauthorized devices from establishing a connection. Thanks to a 128-bit authentification system, the new measure would help manufacturers identify certified devices before a full link is created. If the machine is unable to authenticate the device, it can then deny data access, power transmission, or both, from occurring.

The authentification system can be run via the computer’s USB data bus or power delivery channels to prevent any unfortunate incidents. The USB-IF has noted that the security standard will be an optional addition to the USB industry standard for the time being. Additionally, any devices that choose to use the authentification system can control how it restricts usage on the system.

The authentification system for the program is not yet available for manufacturers but is expected to aid creation once the security protocol is established. The privately held, certificate authority DigiCert was chosen as the company to oversee the certification for such devices with the President and chief operating officer of the USB-IF noting that the organization is “eager to work with DigiCert to manage our certificate authority for USB Type-C Authentication, which will further support the USB ecosystem.”

One concern for USB-C device manufacturers may be the costs of having their device certified and authenticated for the standard. Additionally, it is unknown how manufacturers of computers, tablets, and smartphone might be able to abuse the standard to restrict devices from data access or power delivery. As USB-C continues to develop and grow, we will have to wait to see what the new standard has in store for our favorite devices.

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