Badly made USB Type-C cable fries laptop of Google engineer

Posted on Monday, February 08 2016 @ 11:04 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
While the USB Type-C standard sounds great in theory, it seems you need to be careful as there are a lot of cables out there that do not meet the official specifications. For several months now, Google engineer Benson Leung has been on a quest to review USB Type-C cables because he discovered that a lot of the cheaper cables are poorly designed and don't meet specifications, which can result in weird behaviour or make them dangerous to use.

Last week Leung tested the Surjtech 3M USB A-to-C cable and it's just unbelievable what this cable did. After plugging it in, the cable fried not only the USB controller of his Chromebook Pixel laptop but also two USB power delivery analysers. Because the laptop uses Verified Boot tech, this unfortunately also meant it could no longer boot up:
Upon further analysis, Leung found that the cable had killed the Chromebook's embedded controller, a chip that manages tasks such as keyboard initialisation, USB charging, and reading temperature sensors. Unfortunately this meant that the laptop could no longer boot up: because Chrome OS's Verified Boot tech could no longer verify the embedded controller, it would only boot into recovery mode. (As far as Verified Boot is concerned, the controller might've been compromised in some way.)
Leung investigated the cable and discovered the manufacturer made four blatant mistakes in the design of the cable. The wires were completely miswired, they used a 10k ohm resistor instead of 56k ohm resistor, the resistor was hooked up as a pull-down instead of pull-up, and they also used wires that did not meet specifications. After his review, Amazon pulled the Surjtech cable from its webshop.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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