Are you the type to be hesitant to charge gadgets from a public charger, like the ones that come to your airplane seat? Apple’s first beta of the just-announced macOS 13 Ventura includes a feature apparently designed to address fears of tampering. It will make USB-C and Thunderbolt accessories explicitly ask your permission before you can communicate with MacBooks powered by Apple’s M1 or M2 chips.
Here’s the full description of the feature in Apple’s release notes:
On Mac laptops with Apple silicon, new USB and Thunderbolt accessories require user approval before the accessory can communicate with macOS for wired connections directly to the USB-C port. This does not apply to power adapters, standalone displays, or connections to an approved hub. Devices can still charge if you choose Don’t Allow.
You can change the security configuration in System Settings > Security & Privacy > Security. The initial configuration is Request New Accessories. Configuring Accessibility Switch Control sets the policy to always allow the use of accessories. Approved devices can connect to a locked Mac for up to three days.
Accessories attached when updating software from earlier versions of macOS are automatically allowed. New accessories attached before the Mac restarts may enumerate and work, but won’t be remembered until they’re attached to an unlocked Mac and explicitly trusted.
I’ve read it several times now, and I don’t see any obvious downside. Your MacBooks will still charge just fine, they’ll still connect to external displays, and you can turn everything off if you don’t want to be disturbed. Apple isn’t trying to create a new certification here – you’re in control. It appears to be just added protection against potentially harmful or non-compliant USB gadgets, both of which are real things and at least one of which has damaged MacBooks in the recent past.
This may be a more realistic solution than the one launched by the USB Implementers Forum in 2019 (pdf), which required companies to adopt a “USB Type-C Authentication Program” that gave each USB device an encrypted certificate to verify their identity and confirm their abilities.
Apple’s solution may not necessarily stop “USB Killer” gadgets, which attempt to fry computers by overloading their USB ports with too much electricity. “Inappropriate power” was one of the problems that the idea of USB-IF tried to combat.
Speaking of USB-C power, it’s officially ready for a big boost: the first 240W USB-C PD cables broke recently, and we’re looking forward to the chargers, laptops and power banks that could accompany them.