Friday, 22 March, 2019

USB Type-C is getting safer with cryptographic authentication

New USB-C protocol paves way for more secure connections with USB-C to get security programme
Emmett Howard | 04 January, 2019, 02:52

"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", said USB-IF President and COO Jeff Ravencraft in a recent statement.

USB-C cables could soon come with built-in security thanks to a new authentication protocol. And if you could still say that too many devices in 2018 still used the old microUSB port, chances are that in 2019, USB-C will truly be everywhere.

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. It'll make use of 128-bit cryptographic-based authentication.

The USB-C standard has advantages over the normal USB connections that you find, such as higher data transfer speeds, faster charging and the ability to display video (in the case of Thunderbolt 3).

Furthermore, DigiCert has been named as the chosen company to oversee and manage the registration and certification side of the equation for the standard.

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It is optional for OEMs to participate in the Authentication program as of now. In practical terms, this means that your phone could limit charging to only authorized chargers.

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.

Initially, the program is optional for device manufacturers but with more companies adopting USB Type-C, it only makes sense for them to follow the programme. The practicality of such restrictions seems meager, though; that would be an awfully aggressive vertical integration strategy. To be certified, cables and chargers would need to properly implement the USB Power Delivery spec.

In theory, this stops the spread of malware and other unwanted software over USB-C.

For the moment, this authentication will not be a mandatory addition to USB-C devices, but this could change going forward according to the Forum. Does it have USB 3.1 Gen 2?

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