Retronix Blog

Mar 22, 2019

Why third party test houses are crucial in the fight against counterfeit components.



Things are always changing in the counterfeiting “industry”, the counterfeiters are looking at the progression in identifying and preventing counterfeit components and the emerging technology that is helping the identification, then they adapt and adjust ways around that. This is still happening and one of the new techniques is Advanced Counterfeit Cloned Devices, what this means is that they are creating their own parts rather than re-purposing Original Component Manufactured (OCM) devices. These devices can look identical and electrically perform in an identical manner to the OCM parts but are made using the counterfeiters own silicon, and the processes are not controlled in a way anywhere close to the OCM. This therefore has an affect on the long term reliability of these devices.

What is more concerning is the risk of spyware or malware being embedded in these devices or the devices being tainted to fail or disrupt operation. This raises the question of the finances to manufacture these kind of devices?

This is not the traditional view of the counterfeiters working in a small room heating old PCB’s over furnaces and removing devices to be remarked, they have not made so much money over the years that they have scaled up to producing their own silicon! This area of counterfeiting is still very prevalent and still a sizeable risk. These kind of counterfeiters are not going away anytime soon, especially while far east countries where this is prevalent turn a blind eye to this and actually offers a haven for this billion dollar industry by ignoring the IP rights.

It is extremely difficult for a test house to guarantee to identify cloned parts, the embedded spyware could only be identifiable by the OCM, and even this would take some vigorous testing.

The standard advise is  – “Only buy direct from the OCM or franchised distributors” ……but exactly how practical is this for a lot of the industry? 

  • Parts become obsolete – Aircraft electronics, for example, can be 10 years in the design and manufacture stage, then need to be supported for a further 25 years – parts will go obsolete during this time and the purchasing power in most sectors is not enticing enough to convince the component manufacturer to switch production back on. Unless you are in the smart phone industry! Recovering components from obsolete original PCBs represents less risk than buying ‘new’ components with unknown history (i.e. from someone other than a franchised distributor) as with the recovered components you know they are genuine. The only issue is how well they have been recovered but there are a few specialist companies with a track record of safe component recovery and refurbishment, Retronix being one of them.
  • Long lead-times and component allocation can force purchasers down the grey market route.
  • PCN’s (product change notices) and EOL (end of life notice)are not always released by component manufacturers, meaning an option for last time can be missed.
  • Early stage products will not practically support the ability to bulk purchase to secure the future of the product until this product is selling well enough to make this viable, but at this point it may be too late to bulk buy.
  • Historical products that need long term support many have entered service before the current understanding of counterfeit risks. So last time buys will not have been carried out to secure the future support of the product meaning non-franchised and grey market can be the only option.


Retronix IC Tests

“This is why we believe that third party test houses like Retronix have an important place in the fight against counterfeiting.”

Retronix tests exist to support the sectors of the industry that cannot do this for any number of the reasons above and more. Prevention is always better than detection – but we are here for when the need for detection arises.

For a full suite of our Test Services – Click Here

If you have any concerns about counterfeit components that you would like Retronix to help you with, please contact us.

If you have a requirement that you would like to discuss with us, please make contact via email: or use our Website Contact Us page.

Original Article published on LinkedIn by Rob Ronan (UK/Ireland Sales & Support Manager)

Another article of interest about counterfeit components – Read Article

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