September 13th, 2010 ~ by admin

The Increasing Threat of Fake IC’s

We have previously talked about the issue of fake IC’s.  The problem continues to get worse, and is making more and more press.  Almost 10,000 incidents of fake ICs were recorded by the commerce department in the US in 2008 (the most recent stats available). Each ‘incident’ is usually several thousand IC’s.  Over 2 million fake IC’s are seized per years, on average one shipment per hour of fake IC’s is caught and seized.  How many slip through is anyones guess, and likely much higher.

Some counterfeits are easy to spot

As infrastructure ages, and is kept in service well beyond its designed life, and well beyond the life of the IC’s that run it the issue of fakes gets more and more dangerous.  Normal manufacturers simply do not make these devices anymore, so brokers fill the gap. Many of which are less then reputable.

Two options exist to help alleviate this.  First there is a small few manufacturers who make new legacy components, based on the original masks of the original devices. Rochester Electronics (REI)  is perhaps the best known and largest, manufacturing over 20,000 part numbers to OEM spec. Innovasic also makes ASIC based OEM compatible devices.

The second is building a network of authorized distributors.  These are distributors that stock IC’s that are no longer made and are trustworthy.  The Authorized Directory is a site that allows searching of such distributors as well as news about the counterfeiting problem and what is being done about it.

As collectors counterfeit ICs are hard to deal with.  Museums don’t tend to purchase in quantities enough to warrant purchase from large distributors.  Collectors do however work together to help find counterfeit IC’s and determine easier ways to spot them.

More Info at Mercury News

Posted in:
Museum News

January 14th, 2010 ~ by admin

Counterfeit IC’s: A growing problem

EETimes has another article about a person being charged/convicted of selling counterfeit chips to the US navy. This has been a growing problem in the electronics industry for the last decade, but has its roots much earlier then that.

It was common in the 90’s for counterfeiters (aka remarkers) to take a processor, wipe the markings, and mark it with a higher speed. This was rather common with the Pentium era and newer, but occurred with 486’s as well. To a computer user this typically meant that their computer ran much warmer, and often times less stable.

To a collector this means you must be VERY careful when looking at processors in your museum to ensure that rare sample you have, is not in fact a clever forgery, or that Pentium 133 is not in fact a remarked 75.

Having your computer crash or having a few fake CPUs in your collection is a mere annoyance, but what about actual use? For example a part listed as mil-spec, with a wide temperature operating band, that controls a ships defensive systems? If this is in fact a fake (remarked from a commercial spec IC, which has been happening). The system could and likely WILL fail at the worst time. The result? People lose their lives.