Thunderspy vulnerability in Thunderbolt 3 allows hackers to steal files from Windows and Linux machines
Security researcher Björn Ruytenberg has revealed details of a vulnerability in the Thunderbolt 3 standard. The security flaw means that it is possible for a hacker with physical access to a computer to copy data even if the files are encrypted and the computer is locked.
The vulnerability affects all systems with Thunderbolt ports that shipped between 2011 and 2020, but some systems that shipped since 2019 have Kernel DMA Protection which means they are only partly at risk. Testing tools are available for both Windows and Linux so you can check to see if your computer is vulnerable.
Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C are both great interfaces, but there is a problem -- they share the same connector. While Thunderbolt 3 computers can interface with USB-C devices, computers that only have USB-C cannot interface with Thunderbolt 3 devices. While this is easy for technology enthusiasts to understand, it can cause confusion for the average consumer. When wanting to buy a docking station, for instance, a shopper may accidentally choose the wrong one. Thankfully, there are docks these days that can work with both.
Today, popular company Plugable launches its latest such product. Called "TBT3-UDC1," this docking station is optimized for both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C computers (on both Windows and macOS). This isn't just helpful to unsure consumers, but also, it can be great for businesses and families that are utilizing both computer types. Since the host port is on the front, users can very easily plug in without having to worry about compatibility. It has all the ports you need too, such as Ethernet, 3.5mm audio, USB-A, USB-C and dual DisplayPort. While it does lack an SD card reader, you can easily add a dongle such as this one.
ProGrade Digital unveils Thunderbolt 3 CFexpress+XQD reader and USB-C Dual-Slot CFexpress+SDXC reader
For most home consumers, when you need to read a card from your camera, you just insert it into the reader on your laptop. This is typically an SD card reader, although many newer computers are doing away with them. Instead, you must purchase a USB reader -- they are plentiful on sites like Amazon, and very inexpensive too. But what if you are a professional photographer? Well, then -- you might not be using SD card at all. Instead, you could be using CFexpress or XQD.
The company ProGrade Digital has a new card reader that is sure to excite professional photographers. The "PG04," as it is called reads both CFexpress and XQD cards using the super-fast Thunderbolt 3 connection. For those not yet using TB3, the company also releases the PG05.5 -- a USB-C reader for both CFexpress and SDXC.
If you own a Thunderbolt 3 computer, and you have a need for external storage, I highly recommend you buy a TB3 solid state drive. The speed provided by a Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD is simply amazing -- it puts a USB hard disk drive or external SATA SSD to shame.
Aren't sure which model to buy? You should check out our review of the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD here. The drive is fast, well-built, and very attractive. The problem? It is a bit expensive -- although worth every penny (if you can afford it). For instance, the 1TB variant costs $299, while the 2TB model is $499. If you don't need that much capacity, and would rather save some money, I have some good news. Starting today, Plugable is launching a 512GB version of its popular drive that costs less than the two aforementioned models.
If you have a laptop with Thunderbolt 3, and you like to use the computer as a makeshift desktop, a docking station is a must-buy. Whether you own a Mac or Windows 10 notebook with TB3, one of these docks can transform your portable computer into a powerful and useful desk-based workstation. A single wire from the docking station to the computer will provide you with numerous ports, plus charging. It is immensely convenient to plug in one cable and immediately have access to a mouse, keyboard, large monitor, etc.
There are many Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C docks on the market these days, but thanks to the Intel Titan Ridge chipset, there are now models that can accommodate both of those connectivity options (such as this one from StarTech). Plugable has a new such model, and it looks incredible. It has one big feature that many other docks are lacking -- an SD card reader on the front. Taking it a step further, it even has a dedicated micro SD card port! That is very cool, as it means you can read the smaller card without the need of an adapter.
PC gamers used to turn their noses up at laptops, as they weren't capable of playing top-tier games. While most gamers still prefer desktops -- which are more powerful -- there are notebooks that are capable of running modern PC games. Thanks to Thunderbolt 3, laptop owners can even expand their machines with high-end devices, such as PCIe-based storage and even graphics cards.
Today, Seagate unveils two new products that laptop gamers will want to keep an eye on -- the FireCuda Thunderbolt 3 Gaming Dock and FireCuda 520 PCIe 4.0 SSD. What is a gaming dock? Well, it is your typical TB3 docking station, but also, it houses a 4TB HDD for storing your games. It even features adjustable RGB lighting -- something many gamers love. As an added bonus, it also has a PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD expansion slot, but it is only Gen3.
Portable solid state drives are great, as they are fast and very reliable since they have no moving parts. They are particularly useful for content creators, as they often have a ton of media that they need to access quickly. Currently, the best option for those wanting fast external storage is an NVMe drive connected with Thunderbolt 3. If you own a computer with TB3 from manufacturers such as Apple, Dynabook, or Dell, you should absolutely try and get an external SSD that can maximally utilize it.
Today, Plugable is launching such a drive, and it is quite incredible. The drive comes in two capacities -- 1TB and 2TB -- and offers insane read and write speeds. How fast is it? It is rated as being able to exceed 2800 MB/s read and 1800 MB/s write. I've been testing the 2TB variant of the drive lately, and I can confirm that it is fast as heck -- but that's not all.
While 4K monitors are finally affordable these days, it is important to remember that they are not all created equally. There are varying specifications and features, plus different levels of quality. Ultimately, you should buy the 4K display that best meets your needs. If you are simply using it for computing and consuming media, you can probably get by with an inexpensive and basic monitor. Professionals, however, will need to focus on something more high-end.
Today, Dell announces an insane monitor for professionals that should make both photographers and videographers giddy. Called "UP2720Q," this 27-inch UltraSharp 4K display features Dell's 10-bit PremierColor technology and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity -- the latter can charge a laptop (up to 90 watts) over TB3 too.
Unless you are a gamer or enthusiast, owning a desktop computer these days is sort of, well... stupid. Look, even if you do most of your computing at a desk, you should still buy a laptop. Why? Think about it -- a desktop keeps you tethered to one place, while a notebook is portable. Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, you can use your laptop as a makeshift desktop by using a docking station. In other words, you can connect your notebook to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, web cam, external hard dive -- pretty much anything you need. The dock will charge and power your computer too. A traditional desktop is very limiting.
One such docking station that piqued my interest recently is a Thunderbolt 3 model by StarTech.com. Called "TB3CDK2DP," it has a very unique feature -- it is compatible with USB-C laptops that are lacking TB3. In other words, if you have a Thunderbolt 3 laptop, this dock will work in full TB3 mode. If you have another computer that only has a regular USB-C, however, it will function in a USB mode. This essentially gives you the best of both worlds. I have been testing this docking station extensively with a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3, as well as a Windows 10 laptop and Chromebook that only have USB-C and not TB3. Unfortunately, I do not have a Windows machine with Thunderbolt 3.
Dynabook Tecra X50-F is a premium 15.6-inch Windows 10 laptop with Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5
Toshiba laptops are wonderful. Well, they used to be at least. You see, Toshiba essentially sold its US laptop business to Sharp, who then renamed it to Dynabook. So, technically, Toshiba laptops no longer exist, but they live on under the Dynabook branding.
Dynabook is marching forward with new laptops, and today, it announces an absolute stunner. Called "Tecra X50-F," the business-class Windows 10 Pro notebook features a 15.6-inch screen in an incredibly thin and light package -- 17.6mm thickness and weighing just 3.13 pounds. The chassis is made of durable magnesium, and it is MIL-STD-810G rated. X50 has very modern features too, such as two Thunderbolt 3 ports and Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax). My favorite aspect, however, is the convenient privacy cover for the webcam! Sometimes it's the little things, folks...
Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C use the same connector, but the interfaces are not identical. Thunderbolt 3 is much faster than both USB 3.1 gen 1 and gen 2, for instance. And while all USB-C devices are compatible with Thunderbolt 3 computer ports, TB3 devices are not compatible with USB-only ports. Confusing, right? If you are a BetaNews reader maybe not, but think about the average consumer -- this can be very frustrating.
Shopping for docking stations in particular can be overwhelming. What if your home or business has users that want to use the same docking station at different times, but some machines are USB-C only and others are Thunderbolt 3. Sure, a USB-C dock would work, but then the TB3 machines wouldn't be reaching their full potential. Well, the folks over at StarTech.com have essentially solved this dilemma with a new product. The "TB3CDK2DP," as it is called, is a hybrid Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C dock!
Thunderbolt 3 is excellent technology -- it is fast and allows laptop users to expand the capabilities of their computers. For instance, you could add a TB3 docking station to gain additional ports, or an external GPU enclosure to add a desktop-class graphics card. So, yeah, Thunderbolt 3 rules.
Unfortunately, to get the full performance of Thunderbolt 3, it usually means using a very short cable, like 0.5m. While longer cables are available, they often provide slower transfer speeds (20Gbps) rather than the faster 40Gbps that TB3 can theoretically achieve. Not to mention, longer cables usually provide lesser charging power. Sure, there are some longer cables that provide top charging and data speeds, such as this 0.8m one from Apple, but as you can see, at $40, it is quite expensive. Today, Plugable launches a new cable (TBT3-40G80CM) that matches the performance of Apple's cable but at much more affordable price!
As the owner of a 2016 MacBook Pro, I was forced to tolerate dongles at first, but over time, I have actually come to like using them. Do I wish my Apple laptop had additional ports, such as USB-A, Ethernet, and an SD Card reader? I suppose, but to be honest, I find myself needing those connection types less and less these days -- especially on the go. I'd rather a thin and minimalist approach.
When at home, however, I do like having those ports as an option, so I typically use a Thunderbolt 3 docking station -- it's a great way to turn a notebook into a makeshift desktop. Lately, I have been testing a TB3 dock from IOGEAR called "Quantum Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station Pro 85." As the name suggests, it is designed for professional use, but it can, of course, be used by home users too.
Cloud storage is great. Seriously, folks, storing important files online is a great way to protect them from disasters, such as theft, fire, or flooding to name a few. When people tell me they have their own "cloud" at home with an internet-connected NAS, I simply sigh. Yeah, that's cool, but you are still lacking offsite redundancy. Ideally, you should be using both an online cloud service, such as Dropbox, while also storing your files locally on an encrypted drive.
Of course, the cloud isn't a realistic option for all industries. Media creators, for instance, often need fast local storage with large capacities. Especially with 4K and 8K video editing, you are looking at enormous file sizes. Today, Promise Technology unveils an excellent storage solution for the media editors. Its new Pegasus32 Series offers connectivity for both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 (aka USB 3.1 Gen 2). In other words, it is compatible with both standards (each uses USB-C). Believe it or not, its DisplayPort can push an 8K display at 60Hz!
Intel's Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector, which is sort of confusing. Basically, all TB3 ports can also handle USB, but standard USB Type C ports cannot work with Thunderbolt 3. This can lead to confusion for consumers. Intel's standard is much faster, meaning Thunderbolt 3 accessories are often superior to regular USB-C models. Of course, TB3-related things are usually more expensive too.
In an effort to make Thunderbolt ubiquitous, Intel is sharing its TB protocol with the USB Promoter Group. What does this mean? Well, the future of the Universal Serial Bus, USB4, will not only work with USB 2.0 and 3.x devices, but Thunderbolt 3 too. In other words, by having a USB4 port on your computer, you also have TB3.