back to article Chinese chap in the clink for trying to swap US Navy FPGAs with fakes to beat export ban

A Chinese national starts a 15-month stretch behind bars for trying to swap reprogrammable chips destined for the US Navy with fakes, and smuggle the real gear out of the country. Xianfeng Zuo, 38, was sentenced on Friday in Connecticut after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. Zuo, of Shenzhen, …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not surprised

    The Chinese can be EXTREMELY annoying/persistent about obtaining any sort of information. Even if they are at a trade show and clearly have no clue what they are looking at they will try to take pictures of everything. Going so far as sneaking in just before closing when the stand owners have left and dismantling machines. (A company within the same "group" as the one I work for has at some point arrived at their stand in the morning to find 4 Chinese guys with cameras and a complete tool cart attempting, and failing spectacularly due to complete stupidity, to dismantle their machine and take pictures. Turns out they had bribed a security guard to get in and the rest of the stand holders just assumed they should be there... A different division has locked a particularly annoying group in the cargo hold of the touring car they were showing for 30 minutes before bothering to call over security to remove their camera from them and then them from the premises. )

    Why they would bother trying to get state of the art Xilinx devices I don't know as no company will sell them the advanced litho systems (or the support needed to run 2nd hand machines) they'd need to produce them in China.

    1. DanielN

      Re: Not surprised

      These are radiation-resistant devices. They use special materials and geometries to survive solar flares, cosmic rays, nuclear blasts, etc. They can reverse engineer them to find out what materials to use in their own designs.

      Rad-hard chips often do not use the latest fabs and processes. The goal is not to put 12 ARM cores on a low power chip for a fancy smartphone, the goal is to make a bulletproof aircraft or satellite control system.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Not surprised

          Apologies for the tangent, but your mention of Polonium reminded me of an advertisement in a 1950's hi-fi magazine I saw recently: Polonium brushes for cleaning your records. I've just had to Google more about them:

  2. Mark 85

    Why they would bother trying to get state of the art Xilinx devices I don't know as no company will sell them the advanced litho systems (or the support needed to run 2nd hand machines) they'd need to produce them in China.

    A bit (or a lot) of reverse engineering would happen. Once they have the circuits, they could create the chips. It's probable that the chips they produce wouldn't be the same size but then, if it works and does what they want, who cares. They might also just want to see the chips and tech. Once they can sort that out, they're a step closer to making their own.

  3. Brian Miller

    Buy rad-hard from the Russians?

    Instead of doing this stupid crappola, why not just by the tech from the Russians? The Russians have been putting stuff in orbit before the US, so they have to have the proper tech.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Buy rad-hard from the Russians?

      You don't need powerful computers to put stuff in orbit, and I'm not sure the Russians have kept up with the stuff NASA has used for Mars rovers and other probes. The chips on the Curiosity rover, for perspective, are rad-hardened versions of what you'd find in an Apple Mac G3 in the late nineties.

      1. Bronek Kozicki

        Re: Buy rad-hard from the Russians?

        I guess the justice for spying in Russia is ... well, dispatched more quickly. Which may make potential Chinese spies more careful.

  4. Chipist

    More likely some rogue state needs a few to build some missiles or something. They could just use Microsemi flash based devices mind, which are nothing like as prone to single event upsets as SRAM based Xilinx devices.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Eddy Ito

      Given the brief lifespan of a missile I'd expect the enclosure to do most of the radiation protection and it's unlikely to need much for brains either. It's not like it needs to sit in orbit for a year, head to the moon, or make it to Mars.

      1. DropBear

        Oh, they must be wanting it to implement their own version of LOHAN-PANTS for their cruise missiles...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be worse...

    If they'd have gotten away with it, they'd be using Vivado right about now...

  6. JaitcH

    "When told it is illegal to export the chips to China and that the components are only ...

    available to the US military ..."

    The US trade regulations are easily circumvented.

    I worked for a company that bought high-voltage switches used in nuclear devices. The thing I remember about them was the cute blue colour they had. They were very delicate.

    On occasion they were damaged and the only requirement was send a picture, and an affidavit, stating it was damaged and how, and everything was hunky-dory. A vice-president then devised a scheme whereby these switches could be sold to a country near India.

    He drove nice cars and had an impressive looking house.

    In my work sojourns in to China and the DPRK I frequently see equipment and devices made in the USA that have restrictions on their uses.

    Money drives the world and since China has a lot more than the USA, I'm not surprised what they get their hands on.

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