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What, Counterfeit Network Equipment?


The counterfeit detection community has spent the past several years developing techniques to determine if an electronic component is fake. Our team has done a lot of work developing x-ray machines and custom algorithms to find counterfeit electronic components. However, we have not been looking for counterfeit components already mounted on the PCB and sold as a finished piece of equipment. In this case the simple replacement of a component for a fake is not the worse case scenario. Things get really worrisome when you consider that this “fake” component can be used as a threat to our cybersecurity.

As an example, the following x-ray images show an authentic memory chip (left) and a counterfeited one (right). Note that externally, when inspecting these components under a microscope, these two devices look identical. Also, they were found in the same reel of components, sitting side by side in neighboring pockets.

Counterfeit-components-x-ray

Our recent work presented at the latest Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials shows how a TruView x-ray inspection system in conjunction with ICARUS was used to find extra parts added to a network equipment. This work also shows how these devices – and any other – can be inspected inside the box (no need to void manufacturer’s’ warranty) to determine if the device inside the box is what you expect it to be.

Check out these x-ray images, can you tell the differences between them? It’s hard to see given the complexity of these images, so we added a small red box to call your attention to the corner of the image on the right. These two pieces of equipment should look identical on the x-ray, so what is that extra circuitry doing in that corner?

counterfeit-network-equipment-x-ray

Since this topic is new and there has been a lot of interest from different agencies, we’ve been asked to keep this info under control. Therefore we decided to keep the presentation and white paper from our website. If you’d like a copy please email us at info@creativeelectron.com.