Counterfeit parts

Watch out for well-made (counterfeit) chips. Counterfeit parts are big headache. Saelae tells that they noticed first that many more boards than normal were failing the functional test. The USB chip was running hot. It turned out that every last part was an old revision corresponding to a different (obsolete) part number – the parts had been relabeled with a modern part number.

Counterfeit Electronic Parts presentation from NASA gives examples of counterfeit ICs and information on business around counterfeit electronics.


Counterfeit components can be a a big business and safety risk. Criminal Prosecution – Who can be held liable for the sale of counterfeit parts? is an inside look at the unscrupulous business practices that plague the open market and the liability that could accompany this unethical conduct. This article is intended to serve as a warning to sales, purchasing and management representatives involved in the purchase or sale of integrated circuits in the open market. Ignorance is not a defense. It will likely be difficult, if not impossible, for any representative of the open market to argue that they were “unaware” of the risks.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Power Extension Load Test

    Today I made an (over)load test of the dodgy power extension from the last video. Most power strips may cause a fire when overloaded, but some are risky even when loaded within their rating.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Dangerous Multimeters (+ Explosion, Smoke & Fire)

    Sharing my explosive experiences with dangerous multimeters and recreating the explosion of the probe that originally exploded inside my hand. Some multimeters can’t handle mains voltage on some ranges, despite the manual claims they should. They often claim maximal voltage to be 500 to 1000V, despite the fuse is rated only 250V. The cables have very thin copper core, despite being rated 10 or even 20A. In use, they get very hot. As the cables of the multimeter are frequently used and are exposed to bending, the copper core slowly breaks, until just few hairs remain.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Authorities Crack Down on Alleged Counterfeit Laundry Detergent

    Recent raids by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department turned up more than 400 buckets of seemingly phony detergents in the L.A. area.

    Counterfeit MAC makeup prevalent in Bay area

    U.S. Homeland Security agents are seeing counterfeit versions of just about everything penetrating our borders.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Counterfeit phone chargers causing dangerous fire hazard

    Apple says some fake chargers have major design flaws that can cause overheating and fires.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tiny $2 Multimeter with 1000V Range! Test with Smoke

    Testing a tiny Chinese $2.20 analog multimeter with 1000V AC / DC range. This little thing has very small probes, thin cables and loose plugs. There are tiny SMD resistors in it, about 0.6mm spacing between PCB tracks and no fuse! And this has to handle 1000V AC / DC.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    INDUSTRY Copycats pose a serious security threat to the IoT

    Companies are bracing for the EU GDPR, which will be enforceable starting May 25. The big issue is the billions of IoT devices collecting data. While most OEMs are updating their devices and systems to comply, they will also be liable for copycat devices and components that access their systems and collect data.

    Not only do counterfeit devices and components represent a significant revenue drain for the rightful owners of technology products, they also represent a significant risk to OEMs and to end users of the technology.

    Apart from the obvious financial losses for designers and manufacturers, the security risk of poorly manufactured devices is enormous. Those components can cause malfunction and service disruptions as well as be used to tap into corporate and government networks, collecting confidential data or allowing hackers to take control of critical infrastructure.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    10 X-Ray Techniques That Identify Counterfeit Parts

    Lead times on components off all types, from passives to semiconductors, are stretching out with no end in sight. The natural consequence, as OEMs scramble to get the parts they need, they are increasingly likely to turn to less reliable sources, making a good opportunity for counterfeiters.

    “Shortages go in cycles. For years, it was tantalum capacitors, but not its many types of passives, including multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs), as well as certain semiconductors,” said Robin Gray, chief counsel of the Electronic Component Industry Association (ECIA). “A key takeaway is that when times are good, lead times are always pushed out. When that happens, it’s more of an opportunity for counterfeit to step in and [counterfeit a] product.”

    The problem of fake parts is massive. “Current estimates for the annual loss to the electronics industry due to counterfeit components is north of $5 billion,” said Bill Cardoso, CEO at Creative Electron in an article on EETimes sister publication EBN. “With rewards that high, it’s no surprise that criminal enterprises are getting more and more sophisticated in their efforts to cash in on counterfeit parts.”

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Dangerous Chinese Power Extension (+ wire maths & circuit breakers explained)

    So I managed to make a 22 minute video about a piece of wire :). Actually, I made a thorough analysis of a cheap and dangerous power extension from China for LED strings or anything else.

    And of course, the video contains some stupid and dangerous experiments with a short circuit and lots of smoke :).

    That’s one crappy bit of wire.

    Hey DiodeGoneWild, this proves that it is always necessary to buy local electrical equipment because it can cause big problems if an electrical installation is made anyhow and with poor quality material, hence the fact that Better to go up in price but be sure to have good quality material.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Megan Dollar / Reuters:
    EU signs agreement with Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and Rakuten for the removal of “dangerous” product listings within two working days’ notice from authorities

    EU in agreement with Amazon, eBay to tackle dangerous product listings

    The European Commission has signed an agreement with four major online retailers to combat the listing of dangerous products on Europe’s online shopping sites.

    Dangerous content, as defined by the Commission, includes anything from incitement to hatred and violence to child sexual abuse material, unsafe products and products infringing copyright.

    AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Rakuten-France agreed to remove dangerous product listings within two days of being notified by authorities and respond to customer notifications within five days.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ECIA Warns Industry to Look Out for Counterfeit Parts

    The Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA) has issued a warning from its Chief Counsel, Robin Gray, on the increasing threat of counterfeit parts getting into the supply chain during component shortages. ECIA encourages the electronics industry to continue to rely on the authorized channel for components, and to report any counterfeit component activity to the Department of Justice.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    4 Reasons Embedded Developers Should Avoid Cloned Hardware

    an interesting 8-Channel, 24MHz Logic Analyzer that cost less than $10 with shipping

    As interesting as this tool may be, there are four reasons why developers should avoid purchasing cloned hardware.

    Reason #1 – Code of Ethics

    The problem, as I discussed with my colleagues, was that the logic analyzer we were looking at involved cloned hardware that sold at a much lower cost than the original, but that then required the OEM’s software to run that cloned device.
    Reason #2 – Security

    One might not consider security to be a factor in purchasing cloned hardware, but hardware or software that is coming from an unknown source cannot be trusted. Developers really don’t know what it is that they are getting when they purchase a knock-off.

    Reason #3 – You get what you pay for

    While a clone may provide similar functionality to a more expensive device, the odds are that whoever cloned the device will not be able to achieve the same level of quality of the original.

    There could be noticeable differences such as sample rates and transfer bandwidths, along with many other disparities that may not be apparent at first glance, but that rear their heads once a developer digs deeper.

    Reason #4 – Encouraging intellectual property theft

    Purchasing low-cost clones encourages intellectual property theft and copycats. Just like with any business, if there is a demand and the opportunity to make a buck, then someone will do it.


    Cloned hardware can at first appear to be a steal. They can often be found for 1/50th the price of the original hardware. However, there are moral and other considerations that should be taken into account, such as security concerns that many developers or hobbyists may not initially consider. Saving a few dollars can be tempting, but when it comes to cloned hardware, the safest bet is to go with an OEM.


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