04 Apr 2024 -

Counterfeit chip threat surges, supply status irrelevant, says ERAI

counterfeit parts

A new report by ERAI reveals the continuing upward trend in counterfeit and nonconforming electronic components, with numbers rising for the second consecutive year. Contrary to common assumptions, the study indicates that active, readily available parts are actively targeted, underscoring the importance of rigorous testing regardless of a chip’s supply status.

The report highlights the enduring dominance of a handful of “usual suspects.” Analog ICs, programmable logic, and microprocessors remain the most heavily counterfeited, making up over half of all reported cases. Texas Instruments continues to be the most targeted brand.

Crucially, the 2023 data debunks ideas that active parts are inherently safer than obsolete ones. Chips with long lead times were a prime counterfeiting target, and even readily available parts were found to be compromised. “Active readily available parts contributed to 13.2% of the total parts reported in 2023. This indicates that although a part’s status is active, the part does not necessarily have a less risk of being counterfeited,” concluded ERAI. This necessitates vigilance beyond simple availability checks.

The geographical picture remains consistent. While the US and China are neck-and-neck in known supplier locations, the majority of counterfeit parts still originate in Asia. The threat remains global, with most reports coming from outside the US.

A closer look at organisations that report to ERAI shows that the largest segment of reporting is by Independent Distributors (63.5%), with Test Labs second (17.8%). Of significance in 2023 is the number of parts reported by Authorised Distributors (9.6% vs. less than 1% in 2022), demonstrating the sector’s commitment to quality processes and vigilance. For example, Astute Group’s U.S. distribution and testing laboratory achieved the landmark AS6171 certification earlier this year, strengthening the fight against counterfeit parts in aerospace.

Key takeaways from the ERAI report:

  • Counterfeiting is on the rise, even in a slowing semiconductor market.
  • Availability status DOES NOT determine counterfeit risk.
  • Testing is essential, regardless of the source or apparent scarcity.
  • The threat is global. Vigilance is needed at every stage of the supply chain.

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