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USB "Condom" Allows You To Practice Safe Charging

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the plugging-it-in dept.

Technology 208

MojoKid writes "Yep, a USB condom. That term is mostly a dose of marketing brilliance, which is to say that grabs your attention while also serving as an apt description of the product. A little company called int3.cc has developed a product—a USB condom—that blocks the data pins in your USB device while leaving the power pins free. Thus, any time you need to plug a device such as a smartphones into a USB port to charge it—let's say at a public charging kiosk or a coworker's computer--you don't have to worry about compromising any data or contracting some nasty malware. It's one of those simple solutions that seems so obvious once someone came up with it."

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208 comments

*yawn* these have around for years? (5, Interesting)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 7 months ago | (#44860799)

My MP3 player, the nearly 10 years old Cowon D2 [amazon.com], actually came with a power-only USB cable. Maybe their goal was to save money on copper.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (5, Interesting)

tjohns (657821) | about 7 months ago | (#44860953)

If you plug your power-only USB cable into a modern charger, you'll find that your phone charges quite a bit slower than you'd expect. Modern chargers use the data pins to negotiate whether a charger supports higher currents.

You don't want a phone to try drawing 2A from a charger that's only designed for 500mA.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (5, Insightful)

aXis100 (690904) | about 7 months ago | (#44860995)

"Negotiate" is a loose term - really it's just some fixed resistances across the data pins that set USB charging mode. This can be built into the plug without any extra copper in the cable.

That said for the portable device on the other end to recognise charging mode it also needs to see some fixed resistance, which would need to be build into the far end plug too.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (5, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#44861061)

and if you don't connect the data pins, the port, if it obeys the USB standards strictly, may shut down if more than 100ma is drawn without negotiation.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861477)

Yeah, nobody does that. You'd have to measure the current and switch the power lines, not just put a fuse on them. It would cost a fraction of a cent more per device, so you're lucky if there is a fuse. And what is the benefit of doing it "right"? Your host won't work with all sorts of gadgetry that works with all other hosts. Marketing is going to tear you a new one.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#44861671)

Based on some unpleasant experiences with a USB printer that had a neat internal short, my impression is that a device has to be really nasty to just die when subjected to excessive attempted current draw by a peripheral. You actually do get a little 'host reset' message and no permanent damage, really rather civilized. I don't know whether it's something clever or just a re-settable fuse; but it doesn't seem to result in the hard-kill you'd expect from an ordinary fuse.

For compatibility purposes, though, all kinds of attempted power draws that are off-spec but below whatever the device considers dangerous are generally well tolerated. USB HDDs drawing ~800ma, or connected to the data lines of one port and the power lines of a second port, little fans and LEDs on goosenecks, all kinds of nasty stuff. Especially on desktops, where +5v is available in nigh-unlimited quantities. Laptops and routers and things, with actual power budgets, seem to be a bit pickier.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (4, Informative)

3247 (161794) | about 7 months ago | (#44861183)

"Negotiate" is a loose term - really it's just some fixed resistances across the data pins that set USB charging mode. This can be built into the plug without any extra copper in the cable.

For dump power supplies, it's "just some fixed resistances" between data pins. That's a shortcut for chargers that don't want to implement the USB protocol.
Computers, however, do use the data lines for the intended purpose. With computers, the amount of power that can be drawn is negotiated between the computer and the devices.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 7 months ago | (#44861341)

Depends upon device/manufacturer. Some use fixed-resistance, but there's no agreement upon which resistance indicates which current. Others use a true computerized negotiation, but again there is no common protocol - and some manufacturers use that negotiation as a means to lock-out third party chargers by deliberately not disclosing the protocol, or even using cryptographic authentication.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 7 months ago | (#44861577)

The "official" way is for the charger to short the data pins and then go into current limit if the device tries to draw more power than it can supply.

Which could cause problems for a charge only cable if it's used with a host port that shuts down rather than current limiting when overloaded.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (4, Informative)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 7 months ago | (#44861457)

That said for the portable device on the other end to recognise charging mode it also needs to see some fixed resistance, which would need to be build into the far end plug too.

Samsung's charger for the Galaxies simply shorts the data pins. (No, not the cable. The charger.) They do it as a way to recognize that it is a charger connected and allow drawing more power.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#44861651)

"Negotiate" is a loose term - really it's just some fixed resistances across the data pins that set USB charging mode. This can be built into the plug without any extra copper in the cable.

Sometimes a device/cable combination can work in either way. They'll have some goofy resistances-between-pins coding scheme for dumb chargers; but they'll also do the official USB SIG power negotiation dance if plugged into an actual USB host. Of course, so long as you only want to charge the device, it just has to work, not necessarily work the best or correct way.

Re:*yawn* these have around for years? (4, Informative)

Psyborgue (699890) | about 7 months ago | (#44861357)

Also there are many phones that will refuse to charge *at all* without these pins.

Not Completely Safe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860801)

Plugging in the phone would still make it vulnerable to side-channel attacks where voltage fluctuations are monitored. Also, unless you're watching the phone, someone could unplug the condom and plug it in directly in order to compromise it. I'm sure a pwning kiosk operator could come up with some excuse.

Re:Not Completely Safe (5, Insightful)

smash (1351) | about 7 months ago | (#44860839)

If someone has physical access to your phone unsupervised, ALL BETS ARE OFF.

Re:Not Completely Safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861155)

If someone has physical access to your phone unsupervised, ALL BETS ARE OFF.

And last I checked, it's alot easier to find a power outlet than it is a public USB port. I carry around a USB charger the size of an ice cube. If someone's motivated enough to swap my charger for a malicious one, imagine what they'd do with a charger that might as well be a Raspberry Pi. Hell, they might even be able to reprogram it without visibly changing anything.

Re:Not Completely Safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861327)

I carry around a USB charger the size of an ice cube.

Where do you find such small power outlets that you can plug it in? The power outlets I know are much larger than an ice cube.

Re:Not Completely Safe (5, Funny)

robthebloke (1308483) | about 7 months ago | (#44861431)

That's why I tamper-proof my phone with Windows 8, and a picture of Justin Bieber for the locked screen.

Re:Not Completely Safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861555)

You're probably joking but mounting a device running Windows Phone 8 on anything else but a Windows computer is a real PITA.

So, if I manufacture chargers.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860817)

All I have to do is feed some "connection error" kinda stuff on the screen until the guy takes off his condom.

Webmasters already do this to me all the time when they want me to enable JavaScript on my machine.

Desperate people needing to get some juice into their phone will do whatever the machine says in order to get what they want.

Its hard to deal with "typhoid Mary's" as long as Congress keeps creating all sorts of anti-reverse-engineering laws which the dispensers of bad code hide behind.

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (2)

smash (1351) | about 7 months ago | (#44860829)

You could do that. I could also not buy your broken charger.

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 7 months ago | (#44860929)

What if the charger starts making those claims after 15-37 charges?
So you start checking the connections one by one... plugging and unplugging items...

After all... if they are after your data, they should let you accumulate some data on the device first, right?

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (5, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | about 7 months ago | (#44860959)

You could do that. I could also not buy your broken charger.

But you know what you're doing. Social engineering will always work on some people though:

"My phone is flat and I really need to take a photo of my big mac to show my friends, can I borrow your charger?"

"Sure, here you go"

"It's not working"

"Try taking that adapter thing off, it's probably mucking up the charging"

Faced with the horror of eating their big mac without it first being photographed, I think you can guess how this story ends...

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (4, Insightful)

smash (1351) | about 7 months ago | (#44861423)

Well... if you're going to remove a device specifically designed for device security because some unknown third party device/person tells you to - your security problems aren't of a technical nature. As they say, there's no technical fix for stupid. Not saying it won't happen, but there's not a lot a security accessory vendor can do to protect against that.

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (2)

jamesh (87723) | about 7 months ago | (#44861503)

Well... if you're going to remove a device specifically designed for device security because some unknown third party device/person tells you to - your security problems aren't of a technical nature. As they say, there's no technical fix for stupid. Not saying it won't happen, but there's not a lot a security accessory vendor can do to protect against that.

So true. Outlook blocks links in messages it has moved to your junk mail folder. Consequently all spam now says "if links aren't working, please move this message to your inbox". Stupid will find a way.

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (2)

seebs (15766) | about 7 months ago | (#44861119)

On what screen? You don't have access to a screen. You could refuse to provide power if you don't see data pins, but you can't control how that gets displayed. And I suspect anyone who gets one of these will pretty much be suspicious of suddenly finding a charger which needs that.

Note that there's at least one sort-of-similar example: The iPhone won't charge from a USB hub if there's no computer. It'll charge from a plain charger, or from a computer, but not from a hub. In this case, it's that there's data pins but not quite enough data on them.

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (4, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | about 7 months ago | (#44861539)

All I have to do is feed some "connection error" kinda stuff on the screen until the guy takes off his condom.

For anyone new here this is a fine example of geek sexting...

Re:So, if I manufacture chargers.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861637)

How exactly do you plan on feeding connection error stuff to the screen? You're just a charger. Good luck doing anything other than just not charging the phone and getting replaced by a charger that works.

Fast charge detection (3, Interesting)

_merlin (160982) | about 7 months ago | (#44860819)

This wouldn't allow devices to detect fast charge capability, as that depends on resistances between data pins and power pins, or high-level protocol negotiation if it's an intelligent host with this capability. Devices will only charge slowly (100mA) if at all.

Re:Fast charge detection (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 7 months ago | (#44860857)

They can still try to draw 500mA and let the host cry. I don't know if they will, but wall chargers don't seem to have a complex protocol setup, I don't know how the do it.

Re:Fast charge detection (3, Interesting)

_merlin (160982) | about 7 months ago | (#44860899)

All PowerPC Macs will current limit if they try to draw more than 100mA without negotiating, not sure what other PCs will or won't do (yeah, I'm out of date on that front). If a device is properly USB compliant it won't draw more than it knows it's allowed to. My Galaxy S3 is pretty quick to go into slow charge mode if it isn't sure it's allowed to go for more. Other reputable devices do the same - don't want to lose your USB logo certification.

Re:Fast charge detection (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about 7 months ago | (#44860945)

They can still try to draw 500mA and let the host cry. I don't know if they will, but wall chargers don't seem to have a complex protocol setup, I don't know how the do it.

I had an aftermarket iPhone charger for my car that was a cigarette lighter adapter with a USB socket on it and then a USB to iPhone cable. One day I was in the office and needed to charge my iPhone and didn't have a charger so I grabbed the USB cable from my car. The moment I plugged it into my laptop, even before plugging the iPhone in, the laptop turned off. No damage. Being naturally curious I tried it again and it was repeatable.

I'd go as far to say that some are basically brain dead

Re:Fast charge detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860973)

you voltage divide the 5v pin... i've done it at home with a few resistors.

Re:Fast charge detection (3, Interesting)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#44860915)

Make the condom intelligent enough to pretend to be a phone, on one side and a charger on the other with no connection in between. I can't believe I just typed that sentence... Anyhow, I am sure you can get PICs with dual USB which would do that.

Re:Fast charge detection (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 7 months ago | (#44861289)

Some people have done this with programmable microcontrollers (ATTiny in USB host mode) for PS3 controller charging (they require negotiation to charge). Lost the link, but its pretty trivial to do.

Re:Fast charge detection (4, Insightful)

tjohns (657821) | about 7 months ago | (#44860937)

These boards have quite a bit of logic on them. If they were just cutting the data pins, that would all be unnecessary.

The product page is light on details, but I'd be surprised if that logic wasn't there precisely to negotiate charge rate.

Re:Fast charge detection (3, Funny)

dkf (304284) | about 7 months ago | (#44861687)

The product page is light on details, but I'd be surprised if that logic wasn't there precisely to negotiate charge rate.

Well something's got to send the data to the NSA...

Re:Fast charge detection (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860949)

I think the way it looks, it does exactly that; does auto negotiation on the condom itself (hiding itself as some kind of other device?), and power cleanly goes to the device being charged.

It's probably not just a single USB cord with the data wires cut out...

Re:Fast charge detection (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 months ago | (#44860951)

Well why then is this a whole PCB with chips and not just a double plug with the data pins leading to nothing? I'd hope this one is smart enough to do the power negotiation in both ends, but without the physical capability to transfer data. But hey, lets be armchair quarterbacks and assume that whoever came up with this knows nothing about USB charging...

Re:Fast charge detection (2)

TavisJohn (961472) | about 7 months ago | (#44860981)

Most phones do not care about resistance across the data pins. Just short them out and BAM fast charge!
That is how I was able to trick my Epic 4g to work with my palm pre touchstone charger.

There is no need for all the circuits and such... I made my own a while back out of a spare cable. I just opened the cable, cut the data wires. Than I shorted the data wires on the side that went to the phone. I sealed it all up and I can plug my phone into any usb port and it charges at the maximum output of the USB port. Does not matter if the port is 500 mah, or a 3rd party charger that can put out 1,000 or even 2,000.

Why do these solutions need to be soo complex?

Re:Fast charge detection (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860983)

ideally, the usb rubber would detect fast charging capabilities of the device, then offer that detection to the charging station via isolated circuitry, then pass through the higher current offered by the charging station to the device until the device says its full.

Re:Fast charge detection (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#44861001)

I don't know if they do, but the condom could negotiate the charging current itself, then provide it to the protected device. Since the condom has no other function, it can be kept simple enough to not be exploited itself while keeping the device safe.

Re:Fast charge detection (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 7 months ago | (#44861059)

Actually, all the condom needs is a switch that when open, leaves D+ and D- connected to nothing at all, and when closed, shorts D+ and D- with each other. By definition, if the phone sees that the D+ and D- pins are shorted together, the device is entitled to draw 1.7A from the power supply.

Officially, if D+ and D- are neither shorted nor able to negotiate for higher current, the device is only supposed to draw 100mA. In reality, everything I've ever seen besides Motorola's annoying phones ignores that rule and draws 500mA if there's power, but no negotiation, because anything that's GENUINELY capable of supplying only 100mA while powered up is almost guaranteed to be either a laptop running in "BIOS mode" that's capable of saying, "No!" (or cutting the power if too much gets drawn), a 99c power supply from China whose lifespan will be measured in days *anyway*, or a powered USB hub that isn't connected to a computer and can supply 500mA per port without breaking a sweat.

Re:Fast charge detection (3, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#44861127)

Actually you have been able to get "charge only" USB cables for years, and they fully support fast charging too. To enable 1000mA charging you just tie the D+ and D- lines together, so the charge only cables simple cross the over. Data comms fail but charging works fine.

I bought a couple last time I was in Japan, and assume they will become available in the west eventually.

I wanted more (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 7 months ago | (#44860831)

Damn... I wanted something that would take all kinds of measurements and then later plug into my usb port.That would be real marketing brilliance. Speed, power, duration, ect. correlated with attractiveness.. that sounds like some useful data.

You can do this with a USB extension cable... (4, Informative)

chaboud (231590) | about 7 months ago | (#44860841)

I've made my own, but you can buy them inexpensively. They're really convenient if you're, say, trying to keep devices from popping the VMWare Fusion Mac/Linux selection dialog or complaining about ejection.

So, yeah, this guy made a board, but a cut-line extension cable has been the answer to this problem for a while. Some devices may fuss or trickle charge, but it generally works.

What the unholy crap???? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860843)

An entire PCB filled with parts? This looks like an example of someone too smart for their own good. I just bought a dedicated USB charger wall-wart on eBay for 2$ and an octopus adapter cable so anyone who comes to my place can charge anything at all.

This over-engineered nonsense in the article is ridiculous.

Re:What the unholy crap???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860911)

He's better than a mere engineer, he's an over-engineer.

Re:What the unholy crap???? (3, Informative)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 7 months ago | (#44861351)

An entire PCB filled with parts? This looks like an example of someone too smart for their own good.

The photo seems to be of this thing [int3.cc], which is an entirely different device which apparently 'allows a computer (or "host") to masquerade as a USB "device" to communicate with other USB devices or USB Hosts.'

In other words, exactly the kind of device you wouldn't want to unknowingly connect things to.

Re:What the unholy crap???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861355)

I think this is not for when you want to offer charging to others, but for when others offer charging to you, but you don't trust them not to misuse the data pins to hack your device. If there's no power outlet you can/are allowed to plug into, your wall-wart will not help you in that case.

Now having said that, the device may still be over-engineered (I don't know enough about USB charging to decide). It's just your argument that doesn't work.

Huh? (3, Interesting)

juventasone (517959) | about 7 months ago | (#44860863)

Why does this require a big PCB with three ICs? Why not just simply remove pins 2 & 3?

Re:Huh? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860887)

Why does this require a big PCB with three ICs?

Obviously for the circuitry to inject its own malware into the devices connected to it.

Re:Huh? (2)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#44860927)

Power negotiation between host and device can be active. USB is only supposed to grant 100mA without proper negotiation.

Re:Huh? (3, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44861079)

I don't have specs handy, but there's power management to consider. A port can be put into a low power or suspend state, where the device is expected to put itself into lower power mode and consume less than the 100ma that's on the power pins. So a two wire cable would not be able to handle this power management and would consume the whole 100ma when charging (not very nice if on a battery powered laptop).

Additionally, I think some devices would need to actually enumerate correctly before they start charging normally. Ie, they won't consume 100ma to charge without being active. Most devices I think keep it as simple as possible so this won't matter for them.

But I think the real reason for the condom is to negotiate basic info so that it can request 500ma for devices that want it.

Re:Huh? (1, Informative)

snowgirl (978879) | about 7 months ago | (#44861493)

I had a boyfriend with a motorola phone... it absolutely REFUSED to charge if connected into an intelligent host, unless their special software were installed. It was a total pain in the butt...

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861377)

The photograph is of the Facedancer21, not the USBCondom. The author of the article mucked up by assuming all pictures on the page (including those linking to other products) are of the USDCondom.

The condom was due any time now (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 months ago | (#44860871)

After all, we've had power extensions for years!

Re:The condom was due any time now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860943)

Could you fix the extra apostrophe that somehow got in that possessive pronoun in your sig? Because it reads:

"The Government is becoming opaque, while making it is citizens completely transparent."

Thanks.

Re:The condom was due any time now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861023)

No it's the punctuation that needs to be changed.

The Government is becoming,
Opaque while making.
It is citizens?
Completely transparent.

What does the electronics do? (4, Interesting)

irp (260932) | about 7 months ago | (#44860883)

I've apparently made 'USB condoms' myself. A male and female usb connector soldered end-to-end, the data pins shorted together.

This enables my ancient HTC Desire to recognize any usb charger as a dedicated charger, and charge with up to 1 A (in reality significantly less). It is a low tech solution that works.

So why so much electronics on the board??

Re:What does the electronics do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860931)

I think the guy is too smart for his own good. He's the type of "by the book" engineer who reads datasheets and goes off in a corner to learn entire fields of electrical and software engineering and reads standards on the weekend to end up making a product like this one. He probably regulates every voltage to within a nanovolt, monitors every current, uses 0.01% resistors everywhere. Not realizing that you could just connect the power and ground pins and ignore the data pins.

An engineer that needs to be controlled at every turn, but absolutely clueless on his own. Kind of fun when you're 20, sad when you're 40.

The only saving grace in this article is that nothing was 3D printed. Thank eff!!

Re:What does the electronics do? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 7 months ago | (#44861109)

USB devices can be a bit odd. There is the actual spec, but most devices don't bother with that and instead do whatever it is that Windows expects them to do. Ie, devices in general will only respond to commands that Windows implements, so you can find that a driver that is perfectly correct according to the book won't work with some devices.

Technically, connecting just power and ground is the wrong way to do things because it bypasses power control states, but because it works most of the time that's good enough to do (and generally people would be smart enough to unplug it if charging from a laptop that's on battery).

Re:What does the electronics do? (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 7 months ago | (#44860957)

So why so much electronics on the board??

Wow, you're not kidding. I just clicked on the link, and there is a LOT. With that much stuff, I'd be afraid it'd connect to the phone itself and send the data off to a remote server. It's definitely doing more than just cutting the data lines.

Re:What does the electronics do? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 7 months ago | (#44861243)

So that when you plug your DIY USB condom into a port that was assembled with all the care that chinese typically apply to circuit protection you don't set your house on fire.

You have a specific solution that works in a specific scenario. Can't blame you I actually did the same here to get my phone to charge faster. But your solution wouldn't work with all devices and the reasons that power negotiation is such a retarded clusterfuck in the USB spec is because of the great variety of different USB ports which would end up with blown fuses or burnt out chips.

We learnt that the hard way in our EE lab at uni when the students were given an assignment that involved USB. By the middle of the semester none of the computers had working USB ports.

Re:What does the electronics do? (2)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 7 months ago | (#44861299)

Shorting together data pins prevents iDevices from charging properly. A 10nF capacitor between them is a better choice.

The real question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860901)

Safety from infection is nice, but the burning question on everyone's mind is: how effective are these at preventing unwanted cyber-pregnancies?

Condom. You keep using that word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860909)

A little company called int3.cc has developed a product—a USB condom—that blocks the data pins in your USB device while leaving the power pins free.

If you consider something that blocks the middle of the male end but leaves the sides open to be a "condom," you might want to see a doctor. Soon.

Re:Condom. You keep using that word... (5, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | about 7 months ago | (#44860975)

A little company called int3.cc has developed a product—a USB condom—that blocks the data pins in your USB device while leaving the power pins free.

If you consider something that blocks the middle of the male end but leaves the sides open to be a "condom," you might want to see a doctor. Soon.

If you consider that it allows for insertion without allowing the flow of information, the comparison might be more correct than you think.

Re:Condom. You keep using that word... (4, Funny)

drkim (1559875) | about 7 months ago | (#44861041)

A little company called int3.cc has developed a product—a USB condom—that blocks the data pins in your USB device while leaving the power pins free.

If you consider something that blocks the middle of the male end but leaves the sides open to be a "condom," you might want to see a doctor. Soon.

If you consider that it allows for insertion without allowing the flow of information, the comparison might be more correct than you think.

Yes. But I hate charging with these 'cause it just doesn't feel as good...

Re:Condom. You keep using that word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861397)

And it lasts longer before I am done ... hang on ...

Half-plugging has the same effect (3, Insightful)

enoz (1181117) | about 7 months ago | (#44860919)

In the standard A and B plugs the data pins are recessed compared to the power pins. Grab any standard cable and you can slide it in until the power makes contact, giving you charging without any data connection.

I've been doing this for years to charge a MP3 device without it being mounted by the host computer.

Re:Half-plugging has the same effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861249)

Hey, baby, I don't need a USB condom, I'll just plug it in a little bit.

Re:Half-plugging has the same effect (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 7 months ago | (#44861473)

I can't believe there's been no xkcd reference yet... something about shooting a wad of electrons all over your amour's back...

They have been used for modems for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860921)

see [flickr.com]

USB Vagina (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44860923)

can't cum soon enough, right Al Lowe?

Continuing this metaphor... (1)

klingers48 (968406) | about 7 months ago | (#44860941)

Could inductive chargers be considered a diaphragm?

Re:Continuing this metaphor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861403)

Could inductive chargers be considered a diaphragm?

"Demolition man" v-sex.

Not the only one out there (5, Interesting)

ericfitz (59316) | about 7 months ago | (#44860967)

There's a current KickStarter project called LockedUSB [kickstarter.com] which does something similar, but which also includes a power management chip in order to negotiate higher power charging levels that normally require data connectivity. LockedUSB doesn't appear as big or ugly as the one in TFA. (Full disclosure: I'm a backer)

Re:Not the only one out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861463)

TFA has the wrong photograph. It is of the Facedancer21, not the USBCondom.

Always practice Safe Hex (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861003)

Always practice Safe Hex

I can't believe nobody has posted that yet...

Howsabout fixing the braindead OS... (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | about 7 months ago | (#44861045)

...so that it doesn't automatically execute/autoplay/file-connect/whatever when the hardware is plugged in?

Re:Howsabout fixing the braindead OS... (1)

seebs (15766) | about 7 months ago | (#44861133)

Except that "automatically connect" is a primary requirement for a sync cable. And sure, in theory that doesn't mean automatically executing, but software has bugs.

The current behavior of phones is probably right for 99% of their users. Makes more sense to solve the special case specially and get the default case right, I think.

Re:Howsabout fixing the braindead OS... (1)

smash (1351) | about 7 months ago | (#44861439)

May be more difficult than that. You'd need to guarantee that the implementation of the protocol it talks to a host PC by is defect free. Which may be difficult to do.

It's probably easier and more provably secure to just "firewall" it in hardware.

But... they existed already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861053)

I have a USB extension cable that for some reason does this. It came with a one of those old all-in-one multi-type card reader I picked up in 2007. It took me hours to figure out why I couldn't read my external hard drives while using the extension cable. For the first hour I thought the drive wasn't receiving enough power (it was). It wasn't until I used the extension to charge my ipod that I realized what was going on, was that it was blocking data.

No documentation on the cable but I have to assume it wasn't a manufacturing defect, given they supplied two extension cables, and only one of them has this feature.

I've made these, but not for this purpose (2)

RocketVan (3097791) | about 7 months ago | (#44861067)

When I first got a Playstation Vita (What? Why is everyone laughing?), I had a USB battery to charge it on the go - but it wouldn't work! Of course, Sony said that it would only charge from their own Vita power bricks, but that was obviously just PR - it was just a USB A connector on the business end, after all. After some investigating, I found out that the Vita checks for shorted data pins, and if it doesn't find them, it won't charge (unless it's connected to a PS3 or computer.) Other products use different methods, such as sets of resistors to put a certain constant voltage on the data pins; said voltage varies according to how much current the adapter can safely provide. Apple is a big one for this method. The solution I went with involved getting some USB swivel adapters, cutting open the female sides, and soldering the data pins together. This tricked the Vita into thinking it was connected to its own power brick, so it drew the full 1.5A from any USB source. This could be dangerous, if you have it on a cheap charger that can't safely provide that much. Since then, I've used these devices for charging other things that use the same method of identifying fast chargers, and even for data safeguarding, as this article suggests. If you don't want to do the work yourself, such things can easily be purchased (they weren't as prevalent at the time). -- As several other people have said, I'm curious what all the intermediate stuff in this USB Condom is for. Perhaps it's to do with negotiating higher power draw from host devices, and making your device think it can pull however much it wants, for safe, fast charging? -- Sources: http://www.dannychoo.com/en/post/26419/PS+Vita+USB+Mod.html [dannychoo.com] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007Y3L5RI [amazon.com]

Appreciated (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861171)

its very useful information... the future technology is Amazing... must appreciated this.
Healty Tips Update [blogspot.com]

"int3.cc" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861181)

We need more hexadecimal top domain levels.

Re:"int3.cc" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861375)

INT 3 is the breakpoint interrupt. Somehow fitting.

Where do I send money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861189)

They're trying to sell something that does the same as this [instructables.com] for a lot more? Awesome.

Block just the data (2)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 7 months ago | (#44861265)

A capacitor connected between D+ and D- lines will block any USB negotiation and data transfer without interferring with the DC levels used to "negotiate" charger capacity.

Not exactly the same, but still (1)

geirlk (171706) | about 7 months ago | (#44861291)

From the "Same same, but (very) different" Dept. there is this little Kickstarter project:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/david-toledo/the-practical-meter-know-your-power [kickstarter.com]

Actually, it is twofold, there's the "Practical meter", which shows how much power is drawn, and then there's the three tipped charging cable with built in circuits enabling a device to draw more power from sources that supports it.

Condom Protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861303)

USB Condom ? Is this from the Science fiction series by Jeffrey A. Carver about Star Spanners and Robots that invent the Condom Protocol of Safe Communication ???
Somebody must have dozed off reading too much Sci-fi stories.

SIZE MATTERS, Enlarge SIZE You USB, +12 inches!1! (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#44861429)

Hmm, if that's a USB condom, then I guess some of my devices came with a USB ePeen enlargement.

I can't remember which ones that came with the "changing only" cable, anyhow, I also remember some of them wanting to change more for a "data cable".

I'm pretty sure one was my Garmin GPS device. It will not charge without the cable it came with: The "charging" cable has a resistor from a voltage line to one of the data lines, and refuses to charge without it (even when connected to a PC and transferring data). When I hook that "charging" cable up to another powerpins-only extension cable it doesn't charge (no data pin resistor), so I'm guessing a USB condom wouldn't work on it either.

The point is: This may not work with all devices. BTW, I vowed not to buy Garmin products anymore thanks to the headache their cabling BS has caused.

Better than a USB-ectomy (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 7 months ago | (#44861461)

I've built workstations intended for connection to library systems, and one of the airgap security measures I've employed was to cut the data conductors behind the USB port*. OK, it's permanent unless you're really handy with a soldering iron, but you'd have to get around the keybolts holding the case together first...

*Recent innovations in workstation motherboard design have done away with PS/2 ports for keyboard/mouse, the way around that is to use a quality keyboard/mouse and hardwire those suckers.

And trust that the user isn't about to alligator the data lines on one of those...

Use a cheap storage device (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44861649)

There's plenty of those batteries which you plug into a USB port to charge, and they don't have data pins. So if you plug the device you want to charge into the output of the battery you don't run any risk.

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