Fake chips kill performance, endanger lives

Chip firms have warned that counterfeit components such as integrated circuits can reduce systems' performance and reliability, and in some cases endanger lives.

Chip firms have warned that counterfeit components such as integrated circuits can reduce systems' performance and reliability, and in some cases endanger lives.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) — whose members include Intel and AMD — has released a directory of authorised dealers to stop such components finding their way into supply chains.

The directory is part of a larger campaign being undertaken by SIA against the counterfeit industry, where the association works with customs to seize illegal products at country borders and encourages the authentication of legitimate products. So far, some 360,000 counterfeit integrated circuits were seized by US and European customs agencies assisted by SIA.

Fake chips can hit manufacturers' reputations if products' performance doesn't live up to expectations.

And it's not just the semiconductor manufacturers that suffer from counterfeit goods, the association reckons, but also consumers who do not get what they pay for. A consumer may have paid for a system with a fast chip, but if they end up with a counterfeit one, it could deliver slower performance and be more likely to fail, the association said.

When some products fail, the result could be loss of life. "Counterfeit products can create significant reliability problems for end systems," John Sullivan, chairman of the SIA anti-counterfeiting taskforce said in a statement. "If such components find their way into aircraft, automotive, or medical equipment, failures can have tragic results."

SIA is also working with Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International on a standard to encourage the use of authentication service providers who offer "licence plates" that can be attached to containers of chips to help draw buyers' attention to potential counterfeits.

According to Curt Gerrish, Founder of Rochester Electronics, electronic goods manufacturers wanting to protect themselves against counterfeit products should purchase products from the original semiconductor manufacturer or an authorised distributor.

Rochester published the 2008 Official Manufacturers' Distributor Authorisation Reference Manual with the help of SIA to create a central repository of information of manufacturers and authorised distributors.

"This will be the 'phonebook' for purchasers of components," Gerrish said in a statement.

The manual can be found at http://www.authorizedcomponents.com.