Software helps detect bad USB-C cables before they can destroy your gadgets

It’s hard to tell the difference between a real USB-C cable and a fake, but new software from the USB standards group can spot a dud before it can damage your phone or laptop.

The USB-C connector standard promises to deliver – at long last – a universal power and data connection for all manner of devices from laptops and tablets to smartphones and headsets.

But as USB-C-enabled products start to appear, a market in non-compliant third-party cables has emerged – cables that at best will charge your devices slowly and, at worst, damage them irreparably.

After a Google engineer warned about the dangers of using cables that don’t conform to the official USB-C specification, Amazon has announced that it will refuse to sell non-compliant cables.

A further safety net is now available in the shape of a newly developed software protocol which promises to spot fake cables before they’ve had a chance to damage your equipment.

The software, announced by the USB 3.0 Promotor Group, is called USB Type-C Authentication.

When installed on USB-C devices, the utility checks that any USB-C cable or charger plugged in is genuine - and warns the user if it’s not.

Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, believes USB-C will be used more and more in the future, so it was important to find a solution to ensure the integrity of the interface.

“The new USB Type-C Authentication protocol equips product OEMs with the proper tools to defend against ‘bad’ USB cables, devices and non-compliant USB Chargers.”

The host device (such as a phone) will be able to detect if the device is genuine the moment the connection is made, before any data or power can be transferred.

The USB Promotor Group has released the software protocol to manufacturers, which they can integrate into new electrical products or use in software updates for existing USB-C devices.

USB-C is a new small connector that’s starting to appear on devices like the Google Chromebook. What makes it so interesting is that it works across different devices - from laptops to headsets. It carries data and video, meaning USB, power and HDMI port could be replaced with one small, reversible connector.

Read more about USB-C.


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