As we welcome the new decade, we gear up for more sophisticated and more persistent security threats. But as we prepare for hackers and other outside threats, we must also recognize internal threats. Take for example counterfeit hardware, or hardware that has been tampered with or was produced through nonstandard procedures, like clones.
These fakes look and function like the real thing, and it's terrifying to think that we might be using them for critical business processes every day. Exactly because they are strategically placed in familiar environments, ubiquitous but easily overseen, counterfeit hardware is one of the biggest threats to businesses in 2020.
The rise of counterfeit hardware
Businesses all over the world are growing, triggering an unprecedented demand for electronic components. Hardware is expensive, and fake hardware provides a cheap alternative to businesses looking to cut costs. It also allows phased-out specialized machines to be repaired, as original parts can become unavailable when a machine becomes obsolete, and companies have no choice but to turn to imitation hardware.
But exactly how big is the demand for counterfeit hardware? According to the FBI, the business of counterfeit electronic components is 900% more profitable than cocaine, making it one of the most profit-driven markets worldwide. In 2017, fake parts accounted for 7% of the global ICT trade, and the percentage has steadily grown since.
How counterfeit hardware puts your business at risk
Counterfeit hardware is often comprised of cheap materials haphazardly assembled by inexperienced workers, and does not pass quality control standards. This is why it tends to have substandard quality: some pieces easily come apart, some need to be fixed often, and some stop working completely soon after they are purchased. These inconveniences directly cause downtime, decrease employee productivity, and impact your bottom line negatively. In worst-case scenarios, hardware breakdown can cause fire and other forms of physical damage to property.
On top of this, counterfeits can also compromise your business’s security. Hardware passes through many hands during manufacturing, assembly, packaging, and shipment, and it’s so easy for it to be compromised.
For instance, a worker in an assembly line located in another country can insert malicious chips into components that will allow remote access to the device. A screen replacement company may tamper with devices to allow a third party to record passwords or install snooping apps. Such acts of tampering can enable espionage, and if the compromised hardware gets into government agencies, it can even pose a threat to national security.
How to avoid counterfeit hardware
Businesses should be proactive in dealing with hardware supply chain attacks, especially because some counterfeit hardware can be bought through legitimate channels. Sometimes, vendors themselves don’t know that they are selling counterfeit products.
While small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have the resources to employ experts to oversee how hardware is manufactured, you can take these steps to protect your data and your systems:
- ☐ Strictly regulate procurement, and only get hardware from trusted vendors.
- ☐ Check original components versus new products for incorrect part numbers, misspellings on logos, suspicious markings, and other discrepancies.
- ☐ Get an audit from a third party to ensure that the hardware you own is original and untampered.
Another good place to start is to consult with an IT services provider that will help you with all your hardware needs. Kosh Solutions offers strategic IT consulting and planning, technology integration, and vendor management that will keep counterfeit hardware away from your business. We service SMBs in Farmington, Durango, Las Cruces, or Albuquerque, so if your enterprise is located in these areas, contact us today.
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