FBI Worried as DoD Sol Counterfeit Networking Gear

Leichter, Jerry leichter_jerrold at emc.com
Sun May 11 07:27:42 EDT 2008

Note the reference to recent results on "spiking" hardware.  (From some
IDG journal - I forget which.)

 							-- Jerry

---------- Forwarded message ----------
FBI Worried as DoD Sold Counterfeit Networking Gear
Stephen Lawson and Robert McMillan, IDG News Service

Friday, May 09, 2008 5:10 PM PDT
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the issue of
counterfeit Cisco equipment very seriously, according to a leaked FBI
presentation that underscores problems in the Cisco supply chain.

The presentation gives an overview of the FBI Cyber Division's effort to
crack down on counterfeit network hardware, the FBI said Friday in a
statement. "It was never intended for broad distribution across the

In late February the FBI broke up a counterfeit distribution network,
seizing an estimated US$3.5 million worth of components manufactured in
China. This two-year FBI effort, called Operation Cisco Raider, involved
15 investigations run out of nine FBI field offices.

According to the FBI presentation, the fake Cisco routers, switches and
cards were sold to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps., the U.S. Air
Force, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and even the FBI

One slide refers to the problem as a "critical infrastructure threat."

The U.S. Department of Defense is taking the issue seriously. Since
2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded a program
called Trust in IC, which does research in this area.

Last month, researcher Samuel King demonstrated how it was possible to
alter a computer chip to give attackers virtually undetectable back-door
access to a computer system.

King, an assistant professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign's computer science department, has argued that by tampering
with equipment, spies could open up a back door to sensitive military

In an interview on Friday, he said the slides show that this is clearly
something that has the FBI worried.

The Department of Defense is concerned, too. In 2005 its Science Board
cited concerns over just such an attack in a report.

Cisco believes the counterfeiting is being done to make money. The
company investigates and tests counterfeit equipment it finds and has
never found a "back door" in any counterfeit hardware or software, said
spokesman John Noh.  "Cisco is working with law enforcement agencies
around the world on this issue."

The company monitors its channel partners and will take action,
including termination of a contract, if it finds a partner selling
counterfeit equipment, he said. "Cisco Brand Protection coordinates and
collaborates with our sales organizations, including government sales,
across the world, and it's a very tight integration."

The best way for channel partners and customers to avoid counterfeit
products is to buy only from authorized channel partners and
distributors, Noh said.  They have the right to demand written proof
that a seller is authorized.

The FBI doesn't seem satisfied with this advice, however. According to
the presentation, Cisco's gold and silver partners have purchased
counterfeit equipment and sold it to the government and defense

Security researcher King believes that the government is better off
focusing on detection rather than trying to secure the IT supply chain,
because there are strong economic incentives to keep it open and
flexible -- even if this means there may be security problems. "There
are so many good reasons for this global supply chain; I just think
there's no way we can secure it."

The Cryptography Mailing List
Unsubscribe by sending "unsubscribe cryptography" to majordomo at metzdowd.com

More information about the cryptography mailing list