American security forces are facing a mass examination of their hardware, as an ongoing investigation discovers that counterfeit computer chips and other devices have been sold to the US government. According to a BusinessWeek report, recycled and fake microchips from Chinese vendors are being used – mistakenly or otherwise – in hardware distributed in America and bought, off the shelf, by the US military.
Two separate incidents involving fighter jet malfunction are being unofficially blamed on fake chips billed as Maxim and Xicor products; the two manufacturers have denied any involvement with the shipments. Yet another incident describes how fake routers, branded Cisco, were used by various military agencies, heedless to the fact that each could have a covert “back door” through which their makers could access classified information.
Over 400 such routers have been seized so far, from use in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines over the past four years. It’s believed they were part of a shipment of multiple mis-marketed routers sold to the military by a electronics distributor in Texas; the proprietors have since pleaded guilty to misrepresenting their wares.
“Counterfeit products have been linked to the crash of mission-critical networks, and may also contain hidden ‘back doors’ enabling network security to be bypassed and sensitive data accessed [by hackers, thieves, and spies]” Melissa E. Hathaway, head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
The chips are apparently sourced from Chinese vendors who remove them from obsolete hardware, re-label them to disguise their age, and sell them on with fake branding. A switch to using smaller brokers to source hardware for American projects began in the early 1990s, as a cost-saving exercise.