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:

    Counterfeit SD cards are just part of a larger problem. The Counterfeit Report also keeps an eye out for other phony items such as airbags, smartphones, including the iPhone, as well as peripherals such as chargers, because consumers aren’t aware many of these items are counterfeits, whereas high-end handbags and watches are known to have knockoffs.


  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    REELEX launches campaign against counterfeit cable packaging

    REELEX Packaging Solutions—the company that invented the REELEX cable packaging system that includes a cable coil wind pattern and payout dispenser—has embarked on an anti-counterfeiting campaign. As the company explains in several of its newly created information products, producers of counterfeit, substandard and/or non-compliant communications cable often also incorporate a “knockoff” winding pattern and payout that imitate the patented REELEX system (poorly imitate them, the company points out).

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    CCCA case studies NYC contractor’s counterfeit cable experience

    The widespread proliferation of counterfeit and non-compliant cable in the information and communications technologies (ICT) industry is illustrated in the CCCA’s latest case study of a New York City cabling contractor’s encounter.

    “Our crews showed up to do the prep work and realized that the cable the customer was supplying was not the well-known brand that had been specified for installation and warranty,” said Rewers. “We examined the box and had never heard of the brand before.”

    He added, “We couldn’t find any specifications or verification of the UL number. After a little more research, we realized that the cable was constructed with copper clad aluminum conductors, which is actually banned in New York City for use as communications cable. ”

    Rewers informed his customer that the cable they had purchased did not meet code and that they would not receive a warranty.

    “Our cable rep found several articles about copper clad aluminum cable from the CCCA, and another online article from a different source indicating that the brand in question was under investigation for UL fraud,” said Rewers. “We provided the information to the customer, and once it reached higher level executives within the company, the customer decided not to use the cable they had purchased.”

    “They bought the non-compliant cable, couldn’t use it and couldn’t sell it. They ultimately lost $30,000.”

    Report: Routine building materials test uncovers fire hazard in counterfeit cabling tubes, a journal of supply chain and brand security issues affecting global materials manufacturers, recently published the following report:

    A routine building materials sampling test has unearthed a dangerous counterfeit cabling system that could cause entire buildings to catch alight.

    purchased a series of cable tubes through a Swedish building materials wholesaler that were approved in accordance with the EN 61386 standard, something that includes tests and requirements for flame resistance

    For this [particular tube] the fire did not die out, but instead spread quickly to the rest of the tube, at the same time giving off an extreme amount of heat. Robinson said his team later discovered that it was composed of polypropylene without any form of flame inhibitor.

    The cable tubes are used to hold wiring in pipelines and walls. As was explained in the presentation, if fire breaks out in a house, the cable tubes, unless they are fire resistant, can contribute to spreading the fire more rapidly from room to room. At the same time, they also give off poisonous smoke, which is the biggest killer in most fires.

    “The common European standards mean that the manufacturers of counterfeit goods enjoy the same advantages as legitimate manufacturers. In other words, only one certificate – which in this case proved to be false – is necessary to gain access to the entire European market,” the CFPA-Europe said.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bloomberg Business:
    Xiaomi says it lost more than half of its Mi Power Bank sales to counterfeiters last year

    Xiaomi Confronts Counterfeits as Fake Products Eat Into Sales

    Xiaomi Corp., the Chinese smartphone vendor that overtook Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. in the world’s largest market, now faces another foe: counterfeiters.

    Sales of the company’s Mi Power Bank battery pack for smartphones hit 14.6 million units last year, less than half what the total should have been, Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun said at a press conference at the company’s headquarters in Beijing Thursday.

    “What is the biggest problem? There are many fakes,” Lei said. “If there were no counterfeits, our sales would be double or triple. The product has been recognized by everyone.”

    Five years since its founding in 2010, Xiaomi has grown into China’s top smartphone vendor and — at $45 billion — the world’s most valuable startup. Now, it must handle growing pains from counterfeits to perceptions that investments in smart-device startups risk compromising strategic focus, according to Lei.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Apple copycat Xiaomi complains others are copying its copies

    You know Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker which copied Apple designs en route to becoming the world’s most valuable startup?

    Well, depending on who you are, get ready to bust out a tune on the world’s smallest violin, because Xiaomi’s quest to conquer the smartphone-owning world has apparently hit a bit of a snag: people keep copying its designs.

    Yes, seriously.

    Speaking at a press conference, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun claimed that his company is currently selling way fewer of its Mi Power Bank battery pack for smartphones than it should be.

    “What is the biggest problem? There are many fakes,” Lei said. “If there were no counterfeits, our sales would be double or triple. The product has been recognized by everyone.”

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fake Cisco box pushers cuffed by Intellectual Property Police
    That’s intellectual-property police, not intellectual property-police

    A London-based criminal outfit suspected of flogging $10m (£6.6m) in counterfeit Cisco networking gear to the US has been arrested by the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).

    Three men aged 38, 36 and 35, were arrested last week by City police on suspicion of running the counterfeit business. An estimated $1m (£656m) in suspected counterfeit goods was seized.

    Between December 2012 and April this year 40 shipments of suspected counterfeit Cisco products believed to be sent from the suspects’ UK business to the US were intercepted by US Customs and Border Protection.

    “Businesses need to have confidence in their supply chains and be aware of the risks that counterfeit products can have on their networks; potentially compromising integrity and functionality including significant network outages.”

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nate Raymond / Reuters:
    Alibaba sued in US by Kering, owner of Gucci and other luxury brands, over counterfeit goods

    Alibaba sued in U.S. by luxury brands over counterfeit goods

    A group of luxury goods makers sued Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) on Friday, contending the Chinese online shopping giant had knowingly made it possible for counterfeiters to sell their products throughout the world.

    The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court by Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by Paris-based Kering SA (PRTP.PA) seeking damages and an injunction for alleged violations of trademark and racketeering laws.

    The lawsuit alleged that Alibaba had conspired to manufacture, offer for sale and traffic in counterfeit products bearing their trademarks without their permission.

    A spokesman for Alibaba, Bob Christie, said in a statement:

    “We continue to work in partnership with numerous brands to help them protect their intellectual property, and we have a strong track record of doing so. Unfortunately, Kering Group has chosen the path of wasteful litigation instead of the path of constructive cooperation. We believe this complaint has no basis and we will fight it vigorously.”

    Concerns over fake products on Alibaba’s platforms, including online marketplace Taobao, have dogged it for years, although the U.S. Trade Representative removed Taobao from its list of “notorious markets” in 2012 in light of progress made.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Beware Counterfeit Memory Cards Being Shipped From Amazon Warehouses

    Check out the two memory cards above. One of them is a counterfeit card while the other is a genuine one. Can you tell which is which? If you can’t, we don’t blame you. Japan-based photography enthusiast Damien Douxchamps couldn’t either until he popped the fake card into his camera and began shooting. The card felt a bit sluggish, so he ran some tests on his computer. Turned out the 60MB/s card was actually slower than his old 45MB/s card.

    While it’s not unusual to come across counterfeit memory cards — it’s estimated that 1/3 of “SanDisk”-labeled cards are

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Every participant in the supply chain can be a possible source of unauthorized parts and can pass them on.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fail Of The Week: The Deadliest Multimeter

    Need a good multimeter? The Fluke 17B is an excellent basic meter that will last your entire career. It’s also $100 USD. Need something cheaper? Allow me to introduce the AIMOmeter MS8217. On the outside, it’s a direct copy of the Fluke 17b, right down to the screen printing but understandably lacking the yellow enclosure. $30 USD will get you an exact copy of a Fluke 17B, it would seem. Right? Not a chance.

    You get what you pay for, and if you only ever use an AIMOmeter for measuring Arduinos and batteries, you might – might – be alright. This is not the kind of meter you want to measure line voltage, motors, or anything else with, though.

    Aimometer MS8217 Multimeter teardown: Fluke 17B Clone?

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tiny Spirals May Make Counterfeiting Impossible
    Microscopic nano-spirals could secure anything

    Counterfeiting today has become epidemic for all things valuable, from currency to credit cards to microchips. Making sure that fakes can be detected is an on-going process that researchers worldwide are developing, with many successes like the holograms on credit cards and currency. Now researchers at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee) believe they have found another technique that may work even better — embedding microscopic Archimedean spirals that return a unique signature signal when pulsed by an infrared laser.

    Their unique anti-counterfeiting property is that they can be constructed at microscopic sizes and yet still return a distinctive signature of visible light that is the second harmonic of the infrared laser that pulses them.

    “Our Archimedean spirals longest dimension is typically less than 500 nanometers. The arms are 60-to-70 nanometers wide, and the inter-arm spacing is of order 40-to-50 nanometers. For optical studies, these are typically fabricated in arrays by electron-beam lithography with mechanical perfection,”

    Haglund and Ziegler’s microscopic Archimedean spirals return a strong second-harmonic signal — easily detectible visible blue light when pulsed with an infrared laser — giving them their unique signature characteristic that enables them to be used as an anti-counterfeiting tool.

    To achieve their anti-counterfeiting goal, Haglund, Ziegler and Davidson’s Archimedean spirals can be very accurately placed in hidden locations on currency, credit card, microchips or anything else the user wants to protect from counterfeiting, then pulsed with an infrared laser to make sure they return a strong second-harmonic signal, thus revealing the authenticity of the item.

    For mass production they could be made from silver or platinum using extremely small amounts of material, and deposited on inexpensive plastic or even paper substrates for easy transfer.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Library books counterfeit cabling

    “So out of curiosity, I pulled out just a bit of wire. Didn’t feel right. Stripped it down to copper conductor. Scratched it with scissors. Aluminum.

    Had to give him the bad news.

    I feel that every once in awhile the IT profession needs to add something to the “Certification” they take and promote on the wall like, ‘I don’t know anything about structured cabling.’

    Here’s a link to the offending cable supply company:

    Related: UL calls out 1000ft Cables for lack of flame retardant, unauthorized mark

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Protecting Your Electronic Product from Copying

    We have all heard about pirated copies of electronic products. One company started to notice a larger number of returns on a particular Internet router. Upon further investigation, it found the returns were a poor copy of its product but still they kept coming in; same box, same product and same literature. Even though the company took the blame from unsatisfied customers and initiated a serial number return policy, the damage to its reputation was done. The question is: how can a company protect itself from those who attempt to copy products?

    One strategy is to use available technologies to make a product hard to copy. Most pirates do not want to spend the money to redesign a product if it costs too much. They want to make quick money by doing an easy reverse engineering job and then make a few hundred thousand cheap knockoffs. By making it difficult to copy a design you can increase the thieves’ cost and reduce their potential to make money. Time is their enemy.

    The first step in slowing down the possible theft of your product, is to customize the printed circuit board (PCB). Most PCBs have green solder mask because, in the past, it was believed people did a better job assembling green boards. However, in today’s world of machine-placement, the circuit board color does not matter. Therefore, one easy trick to prevent fraud is to request a custom blended mask color. Solder mask companies make many different colors of solder mask, allowing you to create your own spectacular color by simply supplying the PCB manufacturer with the ink. It may cost a few cents more per board, but the vividly different color may slow down potential piracy.

    On the board assembly side, it may be possible to slow down pirates by adding a tamper-proof coating to both sides of the most important chip areas. A good tamper-proof coating will be dense enough to stop x-ray examination, i.e. contain tungsten carbide ceramic nano particles. It should also be hard enough to deter easily picking it away and be opaque enough to stop easy tracing of the PCB tracks.

    To add additional speed bumps to the pirates’ progress, further techniques can be used. For example, you can have a series of resistors and capacitors made that display the wrong value. These have been used on special protected government products where the resistor clearly was printed as a 10 ohm but actually was a 47 mega-ohm resistor, put across a couple of signal lines. While this may seem easy to get around, a pirate will have no idea that the number is intentionally incorrect.

    Many companies can make PCBs with embedded components such as resistors and even capacitors. There are companies who will either embed 0201 components inside the multilayer or put them in film resistors. Again, you may know they are inside but a pirate does not. If he cannot get the prototype to reverse engineer the board working, it may slow down the pirate enough to stop the attempt. HDI boards are very hard to reverse engineer due to their complexity and small size vias.

    The circuit boards had fake traces, hidden micro-sized wire bond wires over the chip and then tamper-proof coatings

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Protecting Your Electronic Product from Copying

    We have all heard about pirated copies of electronic products. One company started to notice a larger number of returns on a particular Internet router. Upon further investigation, it found the returns were a poor copy of its product but still they kept coming in; same box, same product and same literature. Even though the company took the blame from unsatisfied customers and initiated a serial number return policy, the damage to its reputation was done. The question is: how can a company protect itself from those who attempt to copy products?

    One strategy is to use available technologies to make a product hard to copy. Most pirates do not want to spend the money to redesign a product if it costs too much. They want to make quick money by doing an easy reverse engineering job and then make a few hundred thousand cheap knockoffs. By making it difficult to copy a design you can increase the thieves’ cost and reduce their potential to make money. Time is their enemy.

    The first step in slowing down the possible theft of your product, is to customize the printed circuit board (PCB).

    On the board assembly side, it may be possible to slow down pirates by adding a tamper-proof coating to both sides of the most important chip areas. A good tamper-proof coating will be dense enough to stop x-ray examination, i.e. contain tungsten carbide ceramic nano-particles. It should also be hard enough to deter easily picking it away and be opaque enough to stop easy tracing of the PCB tracks.

    To add additional speed bumps to the pirates’ progress, further techniques can be used. For example, you can have a series of resistors and capacitors made that display the wrong value. These have been used on special protected government products

    This same remarking can be done to chips and other big parts. Remove the original marking by rubbing it with sandpaper and re-mark with a different common part number but with an extra 1 or 2 after the part number. That way, your internal parts system will recognize it as the correct part but the thief does not. If your design uses a common chip, remove the manufactures marking and re-stamp it with an uncommon chip number. This is easy to do with a white ink pad small rubber stamp.

    Many companies can make PCBs with embedded components such as resistors and even capacitors. There are companies who will either embed 0201 components inside the multilayer or put them in film resistors.

    One military agency used many tricks when an extremely secure product was required. It would have taken someone years to reverse engineer the circuit boards. The circuit boards had fake traces, hidden micro-sized wire bond wires over the chip and then tamper-proof coatings. When someone would grind off the coating, they cut the near invisible 10 micron wires, which added difficulty in tracing the signal direction. They had mislabeled parts and even had fake chips, which did nothing but add to the confusion. The PCBs sometimes featured an on-board battery that kept the memory of the chip active, with more of the very fine wire bonding wires over embedded memory chips. If you cut into or damaged the tamper-proof coating, it erased the chip program memory.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Xerox introduces printed-memory labels to fight counterfeiting
    The labels can contain encrypted data

    Xerox today announced two new printed packaging labels that can store 36 bits on rewritable memory. The labels are aimed at combating counterfeiting and helping businesses and government better secure products as they are distributed.

    The two printed electronic labels, which Xerox is also calling “printed memory,” can collect and store information about the authenticity and condition of products, storing up to 68 billion points of data, the company said.

    The labels, for example, can be used to determine if a product is genuine and to track how it’s been handled during distribution, Xerox said.

    “This makes it possible to ensure the integrity of a product from the time it leaves the factory to the time it gets into the hands of a customer,” Steve Simpson, a Xerox vice president, said in a statement.

    Other uses for the rewritable data within each tag could be to identify if a medication refill has been authorized, if a shipping tax has been paid or if a package has passed through an authorized distributor.

    The memory labels can be scanned using a simple smartphone-based reader. The key label verification features will work offline, allowing secure validation of an object or process without being bound to the Internet.

    Xerox licensed the proprietary printed memory technology from Thin Film, a Norwegian company. Xerox plans to produce printed memory at its plant in Webster, N.Y.

    One of the printed memory labels also includes cryptographic security through a unique, encrypted printed code such as a QR bar code.

    “Traditional anti-counterfeiting methods such as invisible ink, holograms and RFID tags can be easily copied and hacked, and are often expensive to implement,” Xerox said in its announcement. “This combination of printed memory with an encrypted printed code creates one of the most secure anti-counterfeit solutions on the market

    “Keeping ahead of counterfeiters is a complex challenge that requires an unprecedented level of security in a growing global market,”

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    I Bought a Fake Nikon DSLR: My Experience with Gray Market Imports

    So, the Nikon D7000 I bought, brand new in early 2014, is a fake. Unbeknownst to me until very recently, of course. Let’s start at the beginning — it being the most logical and traditional place to start.

    I settled upon a D7000 and, in February 2014, made a purchase from an online retailer who deals specifically with those mysterious and opinion-stirring items: The Gray Market Import.

    After an unbearable few weeks of waiting, my brand new pride-and-joy arrived, and I couldn’t have been happier.

    Fast forward 13 or 14 months and I noticed a focus problem slowly creeping it’s way into my shots; a seemingly common issue on the D7000. Fair enough. After an arduous AF fine-tuning process (to tell the truth, after TWO arduous fine-tuning processes, the second of which I was walked through by Nikon’s fantastic customer service center), I was still not happy with the results, so I reluctantly sent the camera off to Nikon for repair… and awaited the bill.

    Then came a phone call from Nikon’s service center.

    “Hi there, we’ve just been looking at the camera you sent us for repair… and, I don’t know if you were aware of this, but it’s… well, it’s actually a fake…”

    No. I was not aware of this.

    “Yeah, we’ve checked it over and plugged it into our system and… it’s not genuine. It’s fake. The serial number on the body doesn’t match up with the internal serial number.”

    Obviously as it wasn’t a genuine product, they weren’t going to touch it with a barge pole, and could only return it to me – free of charge, as a good will gesture. I think they felt sorry for me to be honest.

    I was immediately on the phone to the retailer I’d purchased it from and explained the situation. I was met with entirely what I suspected I would be, which was immediate denial and disbelief. After the unsuspecting staff member who’d answered the phone had consulted with his manager, we came to an arrangement whereby they would simply offer me a replacement product, no questions asked, providing I posted the suspect D7000 off to them

    They used the word “fake” but that’s not to mean it was constructed of cheap knock-off parts or a D3000 dressed up as a 7000. It was a D7000, but for whatever reason, the number had been altered.

    At the end of this whole experience, I was left questioning whether buying a gray import was worth it.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Watch out for fake Anderson connectors

    Beware of counterfeit Anderson connectors. Here’s a picture of some suspect parts that I’ve seen. Good parts are on the left – ones purchased from an authorized distributor. The suspect parts are on the right – ones that I’ve picked up at various hamfests over the years.. Note the corrosion and inconsistency on the pins and the variations in the word “POWER” stamped on the edge of the connector.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Counterfeits Jeopardize Lives & Cost Billions

    Examining the electronics global supply chain landscape, the critical nature of the problem of counterfeits and obsolete products is sobering.

    The public has heard rumors about the serious problem of electronics counterfeits for many years, but the magnitude and complexity of the challenges have only come into sharp focus over the last ten years, and in the last five years in particular. For aerospace, military, and other high tech industries, the discovery of counterfeits has ignited intense debate over how to lessen the alarming risks involved. Without a doubt, counterfeits or obsolete components can, sooner or later, fail to perform under critical circumstances. There are a number of factors which have contributed to the difficulty in under- standing what to do about obsolete and counterfeit electronics, not the least of which has been the lack of visibility of components as they travel through the supply chain.

    Many experts insist that the high prevalence of electronic counterfeits has arisen as a bi-product of the gray market, which is the unauthorized sale of new, branded products diverted from mainstream distribution channels. Some estimates state that up to 8% of total market revenue for electronics components are diverted through the gray market. For the semiconductor industry alone, which earned almost $336 billion in 2014, the gray market could account for up to $26.8 billion.

    The gray market has spawned a fraudulent and unreliable distribution system based on a marketplace clamoring for price discounts and high availability for more and more technology products. Counterfeits have crept into the gray distribution networks through rogue component design houses fronting as manufacturers, which then sell those products to independent distributors, who in turn ask the design firms to buy their products of choice from an authorized manufacturer.

    The “underground” supply chain also handles obsolete parts found in e-waste and used in remanufacturing. These obsolete parts have made their way into the hands of buyers who believe they are getting brand new products.

    In this way, counterfeit and obsolete electronics have been discovered in missile guidance systems and hundred-million-dollar aircraft, causing serious security problems for the U.S. Department of Defense and its contractors. Who made these counterfeits, and are they programmed with malicious software from terrorist organizations designed to divert flights, radars or missile controls? What about tampering with commercial aircraft electronic components?

    What happens when an obsolete component fails? Certainly lives can be at risk.

    There is understandably very little information about the sources of counterfeits.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    All ordered from foreign online stores electrical equipment do not meet European safety standards. Be careful with their advocates. For many low-labeling of the device can no longer be trusted.

    Today, it is sufficient that the manufacturer declares the equivalent of the electrical equipment requirements of the Low Voltage Directive. Compliance is expressed in the unit attached to the CE marking. However, the many cheap electrical equipment does not meet the requirements, even though the sign is attached to it.

    Even a simple reliability of the brand does not guarantee that the device should be safe.
    Manufacturer’s fault this is not: product is genuine, but the product packaging is designed to be sold in the country that does not have that strict electrical security as in EU and could be supplied with unsafe power plug adapter.


    Tukes market surveillance register, which can be found online at

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google Engineer Warns Against Perils of Buying Cheap, Third-Party USB-C Cables

    A USB-C cable is just a cable. Or is it? Google engineer Benson Leung noted today that it’s definitely not the case.

    Nonetheless, in his experience, not all cables are built alike, and in some cases, cheap out-of-spec cables could potentially cause damage to your device. It’s such a big problem, in fact, that Leung began buying cables off of Amazon and leaving his feedback on each one.

    Google Engineer Warns Against Perils Of Buying Cheap, Third-Party USB-C Cables

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Comparison of what is inside Apple charger and counterfeit:

    Macbook charger teardown: The surprising complexity inside Apple’s power adapter

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ‘Exploding’ hoverboard scare sparks mass confiscation in the UK
    Must-have toy for the holiday season, or fire hazard?

    The UK government, out to ruin every British child’s holiday, confiscated 15,000 hoverboards at the country’s ports this week, after testing showed that many of the increasingly popular self-balancing scooters were “unsafe” and potential fire hazards. The hoverboards, which are this season’s hot item, were found to have serious problems with many of the components.

    “Many of the items detained and sent for testing have been found to have noncompliant plugs without fuses, which increases the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire,” said the National Trading Standards, which is the UK’s version of the Federal Trade Commission.

    Of the 17,000 hoverboards examined, 15,000, or 88 percent, were confiscated for safety reasons.

    Hoverboards, which retail from $300 to $1,800, are the hot new toy of the season thanks to celebrities like John Legend and Kendall Jenner who Instagram themselves wobbling around on the self-balancing scooters.

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kingston microSD fakes prompt “ghost shift” investigation

    Who would’ve thought memory cards could be so full of intrigue. Andrew “bunnie” Huang – whose name you might remember from inside the chumby One – was prompted to investigate an apparent bad batch of Kingston microSD cards when the touchscreen widget device (which stores its OS on a microSD) started acting up.

    To figure that out, bunnie had to go round collecting various real and fake memory cards.

    After stripping down the various samples with nitric acid and acetone, it was revealed that several of the Kingston-branded cards were in fact fakes, and that even the authentic Kingston cards used Sandisk or Toshiba chips.

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    EE recalls all ‘Power Bar’ USB batteries due to ‘fire safety risk’
    Stop using danger dongles now, then claim £20 voucher to spend on other EE accessories

    British carrier EE has issued a recall for all “Power Bars”, the company’s name for external USB batteries.

    The company had already recalled 500,000 of the devices, after being The Register warned they posed a safety risk.

    The Register subsequently reported that the devices appear not to comply with European safety standards. EE denied that allegation, but has now taken a different tack and admitted that “we are aware of a very small number of further incidents where Power Bars have overheated in circumstances that could cause a fire safety risk.”

    “We’re asking everybody to stop using Power Bar”

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is the problem caused by counterfeit component, low quality parts, bar construction or bad design?

    Amazon tells people who bought hoverboards to get rid of them
    Something we can almost all agree on

    EVERYTHING SELLER Amazon has reportedly changed its tune on the sale of those things that people call hoverboards, but are more accurately described as idiot carriages.

    The boards, which use wheels and a platform to keep a user in the air, and do not hover at all, have become popular with people who make this kind of thing popular.

    Amazon is now contacting people who bought the plank platform and telling them to drop it after the retailer and others were warned about the potential dangers.

    The alert follows widespread warnings that some of these idiot carts might be made in a poor way and without much enthusiasm.

    UK electricity alert outfit Electrical Safety First has warned about them and a whole load of other gimmicky tat that might currently be covered in garish paper and pine needles.

    “At the risk of sounding like the Christmas Grinch, we’d like people to be aware of the potential dangers when purchasing a hoverboard as a gift. Some of the chargers that are sold with hoverboards have no fuse and no protection, so there’s a real danger of fire.”

    “If you are certain that you are buying a hoverboard, we would recommend that people shop only with reputable retailers you know and trust”

    The Telegraph reported that companies including Amazon, Tesco and John Lewis have heard this advice and have stopped sales.

    “Like most trends I think this time next year hoverboards won’t be on people’s Christmas lists.”

    Research shows that millions of Brits could be taking chances with electrical safety in their homes this Christmas

    Research recently undertaken by Electrical Safety First, revealed that one in 12 peoplei (8%) confess to leaving their Christmas lights on overnight. Unwittingly, people could be endangering their households as Christmas lights can overheat and create a fire hazard. While many of us will be skyping family abroad and charging new toys and mobile devices, it’s important to remember that overcharging can cause some adaptors to become a fire risk. Despite the risk, over half (56%)ii of Brits admit to leaving their phone charger plugged in overnight. One in four (25%)iii are guilty of overloading sockets, using extension leads and adaptors, which can also cause overheating and fire. Electrical Safety First is asking people not to take these chances with potential dangers around the home.

    The gift at the top of many wish lists is also a potential threat lurking under many Christmas trees this year. Electrical Safety First’s research reveals that an estimated 1.5 million peopleiv in the UK have bought, or are considering buying, a hoverboard (otherwise known as a Swegway) as a gift this Christmas.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Counterfeit, bad components or bad design?

    EE recalls all Power Bar chargers over fire safety risk

    British mobile network EE is recalling every one of its promotional Power Bar smartphone chargers amid safety fears that they may overheat and blow up.

    The portable blue charging tubes were released in April of this year as a way to allow customers to charge their phones on the go. Users were able to exchange depleted devices in EE shops for fully-charged Bars, or recharge them via USB. But the company is now planning to recall all of the units because of the risk of explosion.

    “If you have a Power Bar, you should stop using it straight away and hand it in to one of our stores,” EE advised in a statement.

    The mobile carrier, which also runs the Orange and T-Mobile brands, said that it had made the decision after reports of “a very small number of incidents where Power Bars have overheated in circumstances that could cause a fire safety risk.”

  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Swagway sued by customer over burning hoverboard

    The owner of a Swagway hoverboard that caught fire in his Chappaqua, New York home has filed a lawsuit against the company and the store that sold the device, Modell’s Sporting Goods.

    The lawsuit, filed as a class action complaint last week, comes as Swagway, and other hoverboards manufacturers, face intense scrutiny over safety standards.

    In November, Michael Brown bought the hoverboard online for $399 as a Hanukkah for his children, according to a report from Fortune. The lawsuit claims that just 45 minutes after Brown plugged the Swagway into an electrical outlet to give it a charge, the hoverboard burst into flames.

    “The fire was so substantial that the fire department had to respond to the scene,” the lawsuit states. “The fire destroyed the Swagway Hoverboard and damaged Plaintiff’s home.”

  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why You Should NEVER Buy Generic Chinese Laptop Power Supplies

    Don’t buy a cheap replacement power supply!

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fake DVD camcorder on eBay

    There’s a sucker born every minute… or whatever time the auction ends. Presenting the Mitsuba DV9002: a cheap Chinese camcorder with not only a fake DVD compartment, but also a fake lens and a fake Lithium Ion battery!

  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    UL warns of solid state relay with counterfeit UL Recognition Mark (Release 13PN-52)

    Note that the Model SSR-25 DA relay with the counterfeit UL Mark is similar to Model SSR-25 DA that is authorized to bear the UL Mark. The relay that is authorized to bear the UL Mark is marked “Rated: 25A max.” and “Taiwan Made” on the label, these markings do not appear on the counterfeit product.

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Teardown of an eBay 25A Solid State Relay. (SSR)

    A couple of 3D printer enthusiast including myself has purchased a few different fake FOTEK relays like this one. The build quality differs quite a lot between different sellers and some doesn’t even have any components attached on the back for proper heat displacement. Someone’s printer almost caught on fire because of a fake relay like this driving a heated printbed. UL has a warning about these fake relays

    I have considered these relays but avoided them because of safety concerns. I have no problem piling on heaps of dubious low-voltage components that are practically free, but it is a different situation when a component is to be connected to the mains. I don’t want to burn down the house or electrocute someone.

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is Your Cat 6 Ethernet Cable Cat 6? Probably Not.

    Though we’ve never used their cables, [Blue Jeans Cable] out of Seattle, WA sure does seem to take the black art of cable manufacture seriously. When they read the Cat 6 specification, they knew they couldn’t just keep building the cables the way they used to. So they did some research and purchased a Fluke certification tester for a measly 12,000 US dollars

    This is the part where [Blue Jeans Cable] earns our respect; like good scientists, they set out to replicate Fluke’s results. Sure enough, 80% of the Cat 6 cables they tested from big box stores etc. failed the specification. More surprising, many of them didn’t even pass the Cat 5e specification.

    Is Your Cat 6 Cable a Dog?
    Why Your “Cat6″ Cable Might be Cat5e — Or Not Even That

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Adafruit Interviews The CEO Of FTDI

    When it comes to electronic hobbyists and EEs, there is no company that deserves a few raised eyebrows than FTDI. They made their name with USB converter chips, namely USB to serial chips that are still very popular today. So popular, in fact, that clones of these chips are frequently found in the $2 Arduinos from China, and other very low-cost devices. A little more than a year ago, a few clever people noticed FTDI drivers were bricking these counterfeit chips by setting the USB PID to 0000. The Internet reacted to this move and FTDI quickly backed down from that position. The Windows driver was fixed, for about a year until the same shenanigans were found again.

    Adafruit recently sat down with [Fred Dart], CEO of FTDI, giving us all the first facts and figures that aren’t from people frustrated with Windows’ automatically updated drivers. The most interesting information from [Fred Dart] is how FTDI first found these counterfeit chips, what FTDI chips are being counterfeited, and how many different companies are copying these chips.

    The company first realized they were being cloned when they couldn’t reproduce results of a Chinese-made ‘FTDI’ USB to RS232 cable that behaved strangely. A sample of the cables were shipped to FTDI and after inspecting the chip inside, FTDI found it was a clone with a significantly different architecture than a genuine chip.

    Exclusive interview with Fred Dart – CEO of FTDI @FTDIChip #FTDI @adafruit

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Upgrading and Desoldering a Fake CPU

    Removing the CPU was handled relatively easily by liberal application of ChipQuik. A few quick hits with solder braid and some flux cleaned everything up, and the daughter card was ready for a new CPU.

    The new FPU-equipped CPU arrived from China, and after some very careful inspection, soldering, and testing, [quarterturn] had a new CPU for his Powerbook. Once the Powerbook was back up and running, there was a slight problem. The chip was fake. Even though the new CPU was labeled as a 68040, it didn’t have an FPU. People will counterfeit anything, including processors from the early 90s. This means no FPU, no BSD, and [quarterturn] is effectively back to square one.

  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    New Standard Supports Ongoing Efforts to Combat Counterfeit Semiconductors

    Semiconductor manufacturers recently reached agreement on a set of requirements, practices, and methods to reduce the risk of counterfeit parts entering the supply chain. The JEDEC standard (JESD243) marks an important step forward in the battle against counterfeit semiconductors, which pose a clear and immediate threat to public health and safety. JEDEC is the global leader in developing open standards for the microelectronics industry.

    Counterfeit semiconductors can end up in critical consumer, industrial, medical and military devices, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

    The new standard marks an important step forward, but it is just the latest step in a long march toward eliminating counterfeit semiconductors. The U.S. semiconductor industry—led by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA)—has undertaken a comprehensive, multi-pronged effort in recent years to root out counterfeits and assist in the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting measures. SIA’s Anti-counterfeiting Task Force released a whitepaper in 2013 outlining the threats counterfeits pose and recommending steps to reduce them. That paper was subsequently embraced by the World Semiconductor Council, an organization that represents the U.S. and the other five top chip producing regions in the world—China, Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The document’s chief recommendation was for customers to buy semiconductor products either directly from Original Component Manufacturers (OCMs, the chip companies) or their authorized distributors or resellers.

    SIA continues its focus on a range of additional anti-counterfeiting measures.

    Besides working to educate customers (including military customers) and law enforcement of the dangers of counterfeits, semiconductor manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of their distribution chain. The JEDEC standard enhances those efforts by establishing clear practices, requirements and methods for additional mitigation of the risk of counterfeit parts entering the supply chain. It addresses issues such as handling of customer returns, and suspect and counterfeit parts.

    This progress is encouraging, but more work remains.

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fluke 12E+ Multimeter Hacking Hertz So Good

    In order to find out if his Fluke 12E+ multimeter, a feature rich device with a price point of $75 that has been bought from one of the usual sources, is actually a genuine Fluke, [AvE] did exactly that – and discovered some extra features.

    teardown of the multimeter,

    BOLTR: Real or Fake? Fluke 12E Multimeter

    Is it really real? This is the sub $100 Fluke branded meter that is only available in China.

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Alibaba’s Jack Ma: The problem with counterfeits is they’re “better quality” than authentic luxury goods

    At Alibaba’s first-ever investor day since going public in 2014, Jack Ma, the Chinese e-commerce giant’s founder and CEO, addressed his company’s counterfeit problem—or sort of did. He shifted blame away from Alibaba as the platform for selling those goods by arguing the real issue is that fakes are now as good or better than the genuine article, Bloomberg reports.

    “The problem is that the fake products today, they make better quality, better prices than the real products, the real names,” he said at the event in Hangzhou, China. Ma said the “exact factories” producing for foreign brands, using the “exact raw materials,” now replicate luxury goods to the same standards, just leaving the brand name off. “It’s not the fake products that destroy them, it’s the new business models,” he said.

    Alibaba’s Jack Ma: Better-Than-Ever Fakes Worsen Piracy War

  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fuel-gauge ICs help prevent battery clones

    Maxim’s family of ModelGauge m5 standalone fuel gauges provides SHA-256 authentication with a 160-bit secret key to make it harder to clone battery packs. The ICs also implement the ModelGauge m5 algorithm, which converts raw measurements of battery voltage, current, and temperature into accurate state-of-charge (SOC%), absolute capacity (mAhr), time-to-empty, and time-to-full readings.

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Securing Chips During Manufacturing

    Can directed electron writing change the security equation?

    Lam: About three years ago we were working with some customers that were troubled by the counterfeiting problem. We became aware of that sense of urgency throughout business and government. We were doing CEBL (complementary e-beam lithography) at the time, and we still do that. And in the process we figured out a way to insert chip ID during production, with very little effort or additional time or cost. So that became part of the capability of our offering.

    SE: And where does that fit into everything?

    Lam: The IoT became very visible in the past 18 months. If you think about it, the attack surface is huge. Every Internet connecting point to the IoT could be a potential open door for cyber attacks. So we continued to work on it beyond chip ID.

    Most IoT devices rolling out are not using advanced nodes, but at about 50 nanometers.

    The key distinction here is that the directed electron writing (DEW) technology is not lithography. It’s security. The foundry, working with its customers, decides at which layer it wants to insert that information and what you want to insert. Then the DEW writer will follow the security database to determine what information to embed. A wafer will then go through one round of etching, and then back to the production line and finish.

    SE: How much space are we talking about?

    Lam: Very little. You’re talking about the chip ID, which is a number, a MAC or IP address, and privacy key encryption. The encryption key is the most important thing for secure authentication.

    SE: This cannot be done later?

    Lam: Today, it is done after the device is finished, using lasers or electrical methods to burn fuses to write security information on a chip. But there are flaws in this approach. Most of these fusing operations are outsourced. The secret information you create is exposed, and the security is compromised. Second, it can be changed by someone who is determined to change

    SE: If someone gets a batch of chips, how do they know it’s not counterfeit if you can’t see the number?

    Lam: At the test phase you can confirm it all. The chip ID can be read and you can interact with the MAC address. But you can’t change these IDs.

    If you look at an IoT device, it has a microcontroller with very little memory and very few system resources. There is no security software to fend off a cyber intrusion. But we can insert something to make it safer. The ID that enables anti-tampering and supply chain anti-counterfeiting is very valuable, but the encryption adds another level of security.

    SE: How does this compare with software security?

    Lam: It complements software security and enhances cyber defense. In a car there may be as much as 100 million lines of code.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ari Levy / CNBC:
    Sellers say Amazon’s counterfeit problem is getting worse after it made it easier for Chinese manufacturers to sell goods to US consumers

    Amazon’s Chinese counterfeit problem is getting worse is hard at work promoting next week’s Prime Day and the more than 100,000 deals available to subscribers. As with all things Amazon, it’s intended to be a major party for consumers.

    Whaley started a bedding business on Amazon that reached $700,000 in annual sales within three years.

    By mid-2015, the business was in a tailspin. Revenue plummeted by half and Whaley was forced to lay off eight employees. Her sheet fastener had been copied by a legion of mostly Chinese knockoffs that undercut BedBand on price and jumped the seller ranks by obtaining scores of reviews that watchdog site determined were inauthentic and “harmful for real consumers.”

    “Toe to toe we’ll compete with anybody,”

    “When you try to cheat or copy our products, it’s a whole different story.”

    Spend any time surveying Amazon sellers and Whaley’s narrative will start sounding like the norm. In Amazon’s quest to be the low-cost provider of everything on the planet, the website has morphed into the world’s largest flea market — a chaotic, somewhat lawless, bazaar with unlimited inventory.

    Always a problem, the counterfeiting issue has exploded this year, sellers say, following Amazon’s effort to openly court Chinese manufacturers, weaving them intimately into the company’s expansive logistics operation. Merchants are perpetually unsure of who or what may kill their sales on any given day and how much time they’ll have to spend hunting down fakers.

    While Amazon’s focus has always been on consumers, the company is plenty aware of emerging seller angst.

    Sales from Chinese-based sellers more than doubled in 2015 on Amazon’s marketplaces, while the company’s total revenue increased 20 percent.

    And recently, Amazon even registered with the Federal Maritime Commission to provide ocean freight, simplifying the process for Chinese companies to ship goods directly to Amazon fulfillment centers, cutting out costs and inefficiencies.

    That’s why you can get a box full of Chinese kitchen goods from a variety of sellers delivered in two days from a warehouse in Kentucky.

    Critics say Amazon hasn’t put the necessary checks in place to manage the influx of counterfeits.

    It’s not just niche brands like BedBand feeling the pain.

    The names of the online storefronts change all the time

    The only way to contact the sellers is by going to their storefront and clicking the “Ask a question” button. On a single day in mid-June, CNBC sent notes to seven sellers on the list, asking how they’re able to price the product so cheaply. Every response was the same: “It is a secret.”

    “As long as the logo looks legit, people assume you have that item,”

    Counterfeiting online is nothing new of course, particularly when it comes to commerce. Alibaba, the Chinese e-retail giant, has been dealing with it since launching in 1999.

    Amazon, by contrast, has tried to maintain its image as a clean venue and the trusted place for online buying.

    The Amazon story has always hinged on giving customers what they want and with top-notch service and speed. Walter Price, a portfolio manager at Allianz Global Investors, said it’s no different with counterfeiting.

    “If customers can verify that they’ve bought counterfeit goods, Amazon will push sellers to refund the purchase or they kick the sellers off the site,”

    Sellers that want to cheat have any number of tools at their disposal.

    “If you want to fight them, you won’t have time to do anything else.” -Judah Bergman, Amazon seller

    While he’s able to eventually get the hijackers removed, he loses sales in the process as customers opt for the lower priced option, and he’s spent valuable time sending in takedown notices to Amazon.

    Making matters worse, when buyers unhappy with the cheaper alternatives leave a bad review

    “The next thing you know you’ve lost sales plus your good star rating,”

    As a marketplace, Amazon isn’t legally responsible for keeping counterfeit material off the site as long as it responds to complaints and takes action when it’s brought to the company’s attention.

    “They’ve been reactive, not proactive,” said McCabe, who’s now based in the Boston area. “Amazon can’t watch everyone all the time, and they don’t pretend they can.”

    “Amazon is setting up an environment where people feel like they have to shortcut and cheat,” said Whaley. “The whole system is being manipulated, and people don’t know it.”

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Russian Decapping Madness

    It all started off innocently enough. [mretro] was curious about what was inside a sealed metal box, took a hacksaw to it and posted photographs up on the Interwebs. Over one hundred forum pages and several years later, the thread called (at least in Google Translate) “dissecting room” continues to amaze.

    Forum user [lalka] seems to have opened up one of every possible Russian oscillator circuit.

  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Top Ten Reasons Not To Buy A Fake MacBook Charger. Number Eight Will Shock You.

    [Ken Shirriff] has torn apart a number of these chargers, and his investigations allowed for an obvious pun in this post. The fake ones will make sparks thanks to the cost-saving design, and shouldn’t be used by anyone.

    Lacking safety features, cheap MacBook chargers create big sparks

    You might wonder if it’s worth spending $79 for a genuine MacBook charger when you can get a charger on eBay for under $15. You shouldn’t get a cheap charger because they are often dangerous and lack safety features. In addition, they produce poor-quality power that isn’t good for your laptop and may charge more slowly. I’ve written before about the safety problems with cheap chargers, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is why you shouldn’t buy a cheap knockoff charger

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Decapsulation Reveals Fake Chips

    A while back, [heypete] needed to get a GPS timing receiver talking to a Raspberry Pi. The receiver only spoke RS-232, and the Pi is TTL level serial. [Pete] picked up a few RS-232 to TTL conversion boards from an online vendor in China. These boards were supposedly based on the Max3232

    The converters worked fine for a few weeks, before failing, passing a bunch of current, and overheating.

    On Mouser and Digikey, the Max3232 costs about $1.80 in quantity one, and shipping is extra. You can pick up a ‘Max3232 converter board’ from the usual online marketplaces for seventy five cents with free shipping. Of course the Chinese version is fake.

    Investigating Fake MAX3232 TTL-to-RS-232 Chips

    Hobbyists like myself need to turn to the internet where such things are available in abundance for cheap from China, though one must be wary of counterfeits. Of course, I could order from legitimate Swiss distributors, but small-quantity pricing and shipping are extremely high (>$10 USD per chip!) compared to major US distributors like DigiKey and Mouser.

    In my case, I ended up buying a few boards like this one from an online vendor in China. The listing specifically states it had a MAX3232 chip. My thought was that if it was a legitimate chip, cool. If not, it’d be an interesting experiment and I’d get some cheap DE-9 connectors out of the deal.

    To the naked eye, everything seemed to be reasonable. The chip did have markings identifying it as a MAX3232 (falsely, as I later discovered; read on!). The board worked and the chip functioned within the specs in the Maxim datasheet

    However, the first board failed after a few weeks, drew significant current, and dramatically overheated. By “overheated” I mean “blister-raising burn on my fingertip”-level-hot. Also, the data-transfer LEDs were glowing faintly all the time rather than flickering on and off when data was flowing.

    I swapped it out for another board.

    it did fail after a few weeks and overheated just like the first one.

    Anyway, the markings are inconsistent and seem pretty low-quality. Definitely not something I’d expect from Maxim. For comparison, I had ordered a free MAX3232 sample directly from Maxim

    the markings of the real chip are distinctly different from the fake chips.

    Next, I decapsulated all three chips (two fake and one genuine)

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Navigation Thing: Four Days, Three Problems, and Fake Piezos

    The other interesting problems were less straightforward and were related to the digital compass, or magnetometer. The first problem was that the piezo buzzers [Jan] sourced contained no actual piezo elements. They contained magnets – which interfered with the operation of the digital compass.

    Face the Fail: Piezo or Not to Piezo?

    My board uses a pizeo to notify the user via beeping. I used the standard 12 mm piezo in a plastic housing

    However the piezos I used weren’t piezos – they were actually a small speakers with a magnet inside, as I found out after I crack opened one. It is impossible to tell the difference between piezo and a speaker in the same package.

    I learned a lesson – inspect the parts before using them in your project.

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What is inside a fake chinese Iphone ? [HD

    Fake/Clone Galaxy S7 Edge – How To Spot One Right Away – Be Careful!

  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Cree calls out counterfeit LEDs in patent infringement suit

    Cree has filed a complaint against E. Mishan & Sons, Inc. (Emson) in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts for infringement of its patented LED technology used in Emson flashlights, including the Bell & Howell Tac Light.

    It seems that Cree notified Emson regarding their claims this past August, however the products remained on the market, causing Cree to claim intentional and willful infringement.

    In the court filing, Cree identifies 5 patents that the Tac Light flashlight violates. In the letter sent to Emson in August, Cree claimed the flashlight uses an LED component that is a counterfeit of its XLamp XM-L

    Emson is also not the only company Cree is battling in court.

  47. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fake Apple chargers fail safety tests

    Investigators have warned consumers they face potentially fatal risks after 99% of fake Apple chargers failed a basic safety test.

    Trading Standards, which commissioned the checks, said counterfeit electrical goods bought online were an “unknown entity”.

    Of 400 counterfeit chargers, only three were found to have enough insulation to protect against electric shocks.

    It comes as Apple has complained of a “flood” of fakes being sold on Amazon.

    Apple revealed in October that it was suing a third-party vendor, which it said was putting customers “at risk” by selling power adapters masquerading as those sold by the Californian tech firm.

    “It might cost a few pounds more, but counterfeit and second-hand goods are an unknown entity that could cost you your home or even your life, or the life of a loved-one,”

    A separate operation found that of 3,019 electrical goods bought second hand, 15% were non-compliant.

    “Look out for tell-tale signs of counterfeiting such as mistakes in brand names or logos, and check plugs for safety marks – all genuine electrical items made in the EU should have a CE mark on them.”


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