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USB Type-C protocol similar to MFi finalized, could block low-quality chargers

USB Type-C on a MacBook

Last updated

Future USB-C devices will confirm the authenticity of connected peripherals, which could lead to future iPhones, iPads, and Macs only accepting fully-compliant chargers and rejecting hazardous devices.

The introduction of the authentication protocol offers a number of safeguards to both device producers and consumers, in keeping devices using the specification safe. In development for a number of years, the system will be able to determine if the other connected hardware, and even the cable itself, supports the same standards and can be deemed safe to use.

The USB Type-C authentication can prevent maliciously embedded hardware or software installed into USB devices that could try to exploit a USB connection. For example, this could prevent similar hardware to that of the GrayKey forensics tool that could extract data from a locked iPhone from working at all, if the tool is not authenticated, or from a maliciously-configured publicly-accessible USB charging point.

In enterprise, this could limit what kinds of devices can connect to others within a facility, offering increased security for sensitive data on the corporate network. For consumers, the system's policy could also prevent cheap third-party chargers from working at all with their iPhones, or restrict uncertified chargers to slower charging while certified versions could be allowed to perform fast charging, thereby limiting the possibility of an accessory-caused fire or overheating.

As well as being able to be controlled by defined security policies, the system also relies on 128-bit cryptography for further protection. As the authentication is performed on connection before any major power or data transfers begin, the system can prevent any inappropriate activity with uncertified hardware before anything else occurs between the two devices.

Apple is a member of the USB Implementers Forum, which makes it highly likely that future iPhones, iPads, and other hardware that either uses USB Type-C now or in the future will support the standard.