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Counterfeit Chinese chips make military hardware crash

Posted on Saturday, October 11 2008 @ 19:46:44 CEST by

ARS Technica reports a lack of chip authorization and authentication procedures are giving the US military headaches. In the 1990s the Clinton Administration passed two bills to streamline and simplify federal purchasing procedures, as well as to allow for the use of commercial off-the-shelf hardware in certain areas. This would save costs but it's having unexpected consequences as more and more Chinese counterfeit chips are ending up in military hardware, and in some cases even in mission-critical systems:
The bad parts flowing into the military's hands now aren't being modified in clean rooms; rather, they're being stripped off old boards in China's back alleys, doctored cosmetically, and passed off as new, military-grade components. The difference between true military-grade parts and the commercial-grade chips that are actually shipping out is non-trivial. In many cases, military-grade components are exposed to prolonged environmental stressors that commercial components are not designed to deal with, including extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. It's absolutely critical that components remain durable and functional under such conditions, as having the radar on one's F-15 suddenly fail is considered slightly more hazardous than, say, the failure of one's cellular phone.

Component failure reports from defense contractors worldwide, including Boeing, Raytheon, BAE, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed, however, suggest that sufficient verification of part authenticity is no longer taking place, and investigations have turned up a significant number of counterfeit parts, sometimes installed in mission-critical systems. The culprit, in this case, is price. In the name of cost-cutting, the federal government has stripped away many of the authorization and authentication procedures that once defined federal purchasing and replaced them with a system that rewards the penny-pincher who can find the cheapest products.
Read more at ARS.



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