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USB-IF is adding authentication to USB-C to stop you frying your gadgets

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THE IMPLEMENTATION of USB-C has been, not to put too fine a point on it, an unmitigated cock-up on a Windows 10 October Update scale.

Designed to be a universal standard replacing everything from Apple's Lightning ports to HDMI, the system has been dogged by issues including a confusing specification that offers two different data transfer speeds, and non-compliant cables that overpower devices turning them into computerised calamari.

But the USB-IF working group, which represents manufacturers of products that offer the standard, aren't giving up, with plans to create an "Authentication Program" to ensure that only reliable products can be used.

It involves "cryptographic authentication" which is essentially a posh way of saying "digital rights management" - a phrase that will send shudders through the hearts of anyone who uses their computer for media.

The idea here isn't to keep rich manufacturers in clover, but rather to protect end users from the onslaught of cheap (mostly Chinese) off-brand devices that fry your prize possession.

The proposals feature 128-bit encryption triggered by connecting a device,  and blocking it if an incorrect "handshake" is received. In addition, sysadmins will be able to add their own bespoke encryption to prevent unauthorised devices from getting near corporate assets.

The USB-C Authentication Program is the second attempt to try and reign in the marshall law that has dogged the new standard. The Implementers Forum has already lent its name to a certification designed to prevent the distribution of dodgy connectors, but simply saying that your device is compliant has proved ineffective. After all - people lie.

Instead, by adding encryption similar to that already used in HDMI cables, there's a chance of getting a stable door closed, even though the horse is halfway down the paddock.

Now we just have to get our heads around the fact that the ‘standard' encompasses USB 3.0, USB 3.1, HDMI, DisplayLink and Thunderbolt for data and a bewildering array of options for how it supplies power.

It's likely to be years before this gets properly sorted, but this is a start, as long as manufacturers don't use it as an excuse to jack up the price of authenticated products. Which they probably will. μ

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