Magazine article National Defense

E-Waste Export Controls Key to Battling Counterfeiters

Magazine article National Defense

E-Waste Export Controls Key to Battling Counterfeiters

Article excerpt

The technology sector and government agencies have been working hard in recent years to combat electronic component counterfeiters, based primarily in China. It's a fight we must win because counterfeit components threaten the reliability of technology critical to our national security as well as our health and safety.

The risks were first documented in a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee study that identified more than 1 million individual suspected counterfeit electronic parts in weapons systems ranging from night-vision goggles to missile control systems. More than 90 percent of the counterfeits were traced to China. Adding to the national security threat, counterfeit microchips can help hackers and cyber terrorists launch attacks.

The threat extends beyond national security to include a variety of products and systems that create public health risks. Counterfeits have been found in all sectors of the electronics industry to include medical and healthcare technologies, airport landing systems, braking systems for high-speed trains and the defense and aerospace industry, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

To date, we have seen significant new initiatives to improve detection of counterfeiters as they enter the supply chain. The Defense Department has implemented many newer procurement policies and contract requirements with suppliers designed to ensure delivered raw components or components within delivered systems are authentic parts, which can be traced to an authorized distributor or manufacturer.

In the cases where obsolete electronic components are required, which are no longer in production and must be procured from non-authorized sources, there are significant requirements for both authentication and functional testing.

This is a critical initiative, but it's not perfect. Counterfeiters are a resourceful enemy adept at finding ways to subvert these measures.

Many larger U.S. companies whose products are being counterfeited within China have been hiring investigators based there to crack down on counterfeiters. Yet a recent Associated Press investigation details how fraud and corruption are undermining this approach. In some cases these investigators "were themselves manufacturing or selling counterfeit versions of their clients' own goods."

It is clear we are battling an enormous, well-funded criminal enterprise located in a country that historically has turned a blind eye to the intellectual property rights of others.

Emerging technologies will prove to be giant steps forward in detection. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the development of new technologies aimed at detecting counterfeits in the supply chain. Independently, Battelle Labs has spent the past several years and many millions of dollars developing the Battelle Barricade detection system.

Enforcement also plays an important role. The Department of Justice has recently secured convictions and/or guilty pleas of individuals knowingly trafficking in counterfeit parts aimed at U.S. military applications.

These are some of the many challenges underscoring how anti-counterfeiting measures must constantly evolve and adapt. All of these efforts are part of the solution. …

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