back to article Europe, US warn of fake-chip danger to national security, critical systems

Counterfeiters are making the most of the ongoing electronics supply crunch by peddling sham semiconductors to desperate buyers – and it's caught the attention of governments. In a report [PDF] out this month, the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol highlighted the dangers of knockoff semiconductors to critical …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    What goes around...

    This reminds me of the mid '80s and the solid plastic 'RAM chips'. There were also (in those days of DIL packages) quite a few instances of re-labelled cheap logic chips masquerading as more expensive devices with the same number of pins. Whenever we found varnish on the top of a chip or its part number was ink printed instead of laser engraved or sublimated, we assumed it was a fake by default.

    1. elaar

      Re: What goes around...

      It's still just as bad. Many op-amps and transistors are fake (especially from ebay/alibaba). They just repackage ones that are 10 times cheaper, so they'll often kinda work..... for a while.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What the world has come to.....

    When a policeman has to tell companies to look out for fake semiconductors. As if a policeman would even know what a semiconductor was.

    There have been cheap and poor quality parts around since the beginning of time. That's why we have audited supply chains and traceability.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: What the world has come to.....

      Auditing is great - right up to the bribe to the lowest-paid member of the auditing chain.

      There is so much money to be made from fake components now, the cost of faking the supply chain traceability has become reasonable. The only solution is to make them in a factory you can watch. Like one next door.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What the world has come to.....

      We have people calling all over the Earth to try to find enough of the 20 x $1 parts we need to make our product, paying $100+ in some cases. I’m terrified about what we’re shipping.

  3. Eyal.w

    Mass Counterfeit detection solution

    The risk of counterfeit components is growing.

    This may be a good time to introduce a visual inspection to all components during manufacturing.

    Cybord.ai inspects all components on reels before they are accepted to storage and during assembly within the SMT pick and place machines.

    The AI algorithm can detect counterfeit, defects, solderability, and tampering issues.

    1. BillM1

      Re: Mass Counterfeit detection solution

      Inspection during manufacturing will not catch the type of counterfeiting that is being performed.

      One way to counterfeit is to get any part that has gone through all of the visual inspections and testing, then rebrand the part with a different speed or commercial/industrial/military grade brand. A very simple process and can be done to any part that is integrated into any system (phone, PC, etc).

      The only way to really prevent this is to incorporate information into the chip that can be read out to verify the internally stored information matches the documentation and brand on the device. This would cause all chips to have a small one time electrically programmable ROM inside that is programmed after the device has gone through all of the testing (for speed, for temp range, etc) and then program the code and blow the fuse protecting this programmable ROM from being overwritten. This technology has existed for some time but is not embedded in all ICs....maybe the time is right for this to be a standard in all chips and a defined register address where it can be read out of the chip.

  4. BillM1

    a solution already exists...

    performing visual inspection during manufacturing would not solve the counterfeiting. Most of the counterfeiting is done well after the device has been manufactured and sent to end customers. Any chip that is taken out of a system (PC, phone, game system, etc) can be used for counterfeiting.

    A way to eliminate this is to incorporate some electrical, one time programmable ROM in the device that contains information about the part, speed bin info, temperature grade etc. This register needs to be read out from the IC with a short program to access and retrieve the data. This is a new standard that all chips should have included in their design. Then the end user can read out the information and make sure that it matches the documentation and brand on the IC.

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