Logistics: Counterfeit Components Compromise Capabilities

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July 17, 2006: Counterfeit Technology is becoming a serious military matter. Counterfeiting of luxury goods�"perfume, women's accessories, music CDs, etc.�"is pretty common. While this poses a threat to the profits of some high-end businesses, it generally doesn't rise to the level of a national security issue. But that may be starting to change. Apparently some technogeeks in the United States Department of Defense have discovered that recent military purchases of replacement parts and even whole new computer equipment (CPUs, routers, etc.) have often included counterfeit components. That is, items produced by an unlicensed manufacturer, usually in Asia, that are labeled and marketed as the real thing. Generally counterfeits are superficially indistinguishable from the real thing, but tend to be of lower quality. In short, counterfeit components in critical systems could behave in ways not anticipated, or create dangerous situations by failing in unanticipated ways.
Counterfeit parts have already been involved in causing accidents in civilian aviation, and failures in other sectors as well. But there's more. Counterfeit electronic parts can have components added that make it easier for someone to take control of a network the component is part of. This is the sort of thing people at the CIA have long contemplated, but with all the counterfeit electronic components, particularly networking items like routers, coming out of China, the risk of installing "infected" components is now less theoretical.

 


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