Apple wants users to stop using cheap, dangerous USB-C cables and devices

“Apple wants to make it harder for its customers to use cheap USB-C cables – and it’s for your own good,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld.

“Apple has warned its users to avoid using low-quality equipment for years. It was only in 2016 that it was revealed that hundreds of chargers at that time sold on Amazon and advertised as being made by Apple were in fact dangerous fakes,” Evans writes. “These fakes were likely to cause electric shock or burst into flames if exposed to high voltage, typical in the event of a power surge… Modified cables are also sometimes used as an exploit attempt by hackers eager to install malware inside of your devices.”

“Apple and other members of the USB Implementer’s Forum (USB-IF) [have announced] plans to introduce a USB-C authentication program they hope will help protect us against these risks,” Evans writes. “The USB Type-C Authentication Program is a scheme in which computers, smartphones and other “host systems” will be able to identify USB-C cables that don’t meet the grade.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Here’s the USB-IF’s announcement, verbatim:

USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the support organization for the advancement and adoption of USB technology, today announced the launch of its USB Type-C™ Authentication Program, marking an important milestone for the optional USB security protocol. The USB Type-C Authentication specification defines cryptographic-based authentication for USB Type-C chargers and devices.

USB Type-C Authentication empowers host systems to protect against non-compliant USB chargers and to mitigate risks from malicious firmware/hardware in USB devices attempting to exploit a USB connection. Using this protocol, host systems can confirm the authenticity of a USB device, USB cable or USB charger, including such product aspects as the capabilities and certification status. All of this happens right at the moment a connection is made – before inappropriate power or data can be transferred.

“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. “As the USB Type-C ecosystem continues to grow, companies can further provide the security that consumers have come to expect from certified USB devices.”

Key characteristics of the USB Type-C Authentication solution include:

• A standard protocol for authenticating certified USB Type-C chargers, devices, cables and power sources
• Support for authenticating over either USB data bus or USB Power Delivery communications channels
• Products that use the authentication protocol retain control over the security policies to be implemented and enforced
• Relies on 128-bit security for all cryptographic methods
• Specification references existing internationally-accepted cryptographic methods for certificate format, digital signing, hash and random number generation

USB-IF selected DigiCert to manage the PKI and certificate authority services for the USB Type-C Authentication Program. For further details, read the DigiCert announcement.

“DigiCert is excited to work with USB-IF and its CA Program Participants from the industry at large to provide the technical expertise and scale needed for the USB Type-C Authentication Program, and we look forward to implementation,” said Geoffrey Noakes, Vice President, IoT Business Development at DigiCert.

Source: USB Implementers Forum

22 Comments

  1. I smell bullshit. A fake cable, at worst, will simply not work properly. It won’t explode or cause fires. A cheap power supply might, but not a cheap cable. This is just another ruse by Apple to charge premium prices for commodity items.

    1. Sadly after their behaviour in recent years I tend to believe you. Whatever is happening to the company I loved. Even if they are attempting to do good it’s difficult not to feel cynical about it.

    2. USB-C can carry up to 100 watts of power. A poorly made cable could fry you, itself OR the device. There are makers out there selling USB-C cables that are barely compliant for 12w… guess what happens when you use them with a USB Power Delivery charger capable of 100w output?

    3. USB-C …IS A POWER SUPPLY genius… Bet you are one of those folks that think vaccines are a money grab from the drug industry. Go ahead..just don’t sue when you get burned.

    4. I understand your sentiment but I would challenge it with some counter points.

      There are lots of reports of cheap cables and chargers causing fire and device damage on the internet. This is with usb chargers that are rated at much lower power ratings than usb-c chargers.

      USB-c is a power cable; you can charge a desktop replacement laptop with it. It is used for fast-charging technologies in iPhones and other devices, this means more current and more power so more heat and higher risk if stuff goes wrong. Laptop USB-C chargers are rated at 84W, that is a lot of heat that can be generated.

      The revenue and earnings Apple makes on accessories like cables is negligible. They charge a premium price because they can and its not important to their business model. There are lots of other certified cables out there that are not apple.

  2. Honestly, Apple is not making friends. But every other computer maker handles the cables. I smell BS too. And everybody here knows that Apple lost sales, definitely one from me, by not having necessary additional ports, or a SD card reader. I’m using ALL of mine right now. USB3 Thunderbolt, SD for photos, more. how f#cking stupid and obnoxious Apple is. AND, i hear NOTHING in this catastrophe of Apple fixing their product line,, Nothing other than offering a cheaper iPhone. Unacceptable. No Magsafe either. WTF.

  3. Apple has authentication chips in it’s current lightning cables, yet fake ones are still produced and sold. This won’t stop cheap unsafe cables from being made, it will just be cover for companies who get complaints from customers that their house burned down or their battery exploded or they got shocked.

    “Sorry for your loss, but the fault lies with your unapproved cable…. sooooo, take it up with the company that sold it to you. BUT, on the bright side, you saved $!0 AND you get the fun and excitement of looking for a new place to live!”

    1. Apple has authentication chips in it’s current lightning cables, yet fake ones are still produced and sold.

      …Fakes, which has in my experience has included Belkin’s that I purchased in my local Apple Store that oh-how-conveniently stopped working after an iOS update.

      Hmmmm…..

      1. Yes, just what I said. 🙂 Fakes are sold and will continue to be sold. In addition, any reputable company will replace a “good” cable that fails. They expect to. And, they will even be culpable for any damages that occur while using their cable.

        I’m sure you got your bad cable replaced (I’ve had good response from Belkin when dealing with issues). I doubt you’d get the same response from that company selling “aothorised” cables, $9.99 for a dozen.

        1. Agreed, although in the case of my Belkins, since I’d bought them at the (bleeping) Apple Store, I didn’t even bother to think that Apple may be selling fakes in their own storefront.

          Thus, I didn’t bother to keep the receipt.

          So now I just knowingly buy the cheap fake Chinese rip-offs. if they test out okay on Day 1, they’re good enough.

          And this also follows my current customer position of:

          “No new Apple purchases until the Mac Pro ships”.

          1. You don’t need to return it to the store, you can contact Belkin directly. They are likely already aware of the issue and have procedures in place to swap out the cable, no questions asked.

            If you’re charging a phone, 5w, 10w, 12w, the raw cable is likely rated for 30w, so any cheap knockoff has far less potential to cause you issues. Have at it. And if anything does ever happen, at least you saved money on the cable! What’s the worst that could happen?

  4. How many times have we heard about Apple being blamed for something catching on fire only to be revealed after the headlines died down that the cause was a counterfeit device. I’ve never seen a headline “A counterfeit Apple device sold by Amazon . . . “

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  5. Maybe if Apple made a simple cable and FAIR simple price. Maybe if they made proper IO for a “pro” machine, rather than a million dongles, we would NEED these cables. Again, POOR leadership decisions of a mis-guided, unfocused CEO

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